Trust Us … We’re Not That Into Her, Him, Them

“If I don’t have a personality of my own, so what? I’m an actress! I can put on as many personalities as I want!” – Doris Finsecker, “Fame,” (1980) MGM

Do it Everywhere – If you read a lot of the news, you’d swear people are dancing in the street and everyone everywhere is Tweeting every bit of information/news they can. It is somewhat true but for every ten that sign up today, six will have abandon Twitter next week. So much for Dancing with the Stars! Oprah is undoubtedly a very nice lady. So (we assume) are Ashon Kutcher, Jason Calacanis, Justin Beiber, Shaq and millions of others. All of these people are climbing aboard Twitter so rapidly we’re running low on Kool-Aid.

Hockey Stick – Looking an awful lot like most startups’ growth/sales projections, Twitter registrations have grown rapidly–both in the U.S. and around the globe. The only problem is that the growth in the number of drop-outs after a few weeks would appear to be just as bullish. It takes more than stars to keep people connected. At first you would believe that we simply have to get closer to each other and that the old six-degrees of separation rule no longer applies. Tweeters can’t be any further apart than 140 characters. They love to Tweet. They love to follow other Tweeters. But they don’t really care if people follow their Tweets.

So What? – It turns out that most people don’t care if others on the iNet pay any attention to their Twitter activity or not. Rather like my Tweets are so Tweet!!! Sorta like…I Tweet…therefore I am! Twitter sends us little notes saying people are following our updates. All we have is an account. The anticipation of our first Tweet must be killing them!!! Folks claim there is a growing Twitter population. The problem is there is a constant turn of users. Month-to-month though, only about 40 percent stick around. Of course, with seven billion people on the planet and billions in the bank … they have time. According to Pew Research, Twitter will grow to more than one billion by the end of this year.

More Plus than Minus – While Twitter management hasn’t yet figured out how to keep people active with their service, most still project aggressive growth. Now they have to determine how to begin making money. Of course, they still have roughly $55 million in the bank. That didn’t work in the Web 1.0 period, but maybe this time it will succeed. Twitter received a lot of attention during the elections, the U.S. Air water landing and the takeover of the hotel in India. A growing number of companies such as SAP, Salesforce, Dell, Wal-Mart, Target and Nordstrom’s have begun using the service to work more closely with their customers. Then there are Domino’s Pizza, Amazon, McDonalds and others that found that the 140 characters can produce a mob mentality, complete with pitchforks and torches. Today, people can’t seem to stand the vacuum of silence. Folks rush to take advantage of every personal and social networking tool available (our weapon of choice continues to be email).

My Playground
Unlike most social networking tools, Twitter is a place where older users (35+) have their say.

Adult Playpen – Unlike so many of the social networking opportunities that exist, Twitter is populated mostly by adults. Perhaps the kids have more to say or they didn’t think much of Tweeting. The 35- to 44-year-olds also spend more time (20 minutes per visit) Tweeting than the younger crowd.
- 18-24 spend 5.3 minutes
- 25-34 spend 5.8 minutes
- 45 – 54 spend 7 minutes
- 55-64 spend 9.3 minutes

Worldwide Twitter, Yammer and other microblogging services have become valuable tools for people to get in touch, stay in touch and work together.

Connective Tools – With computers, mobile and smartphones becoming so ubiquitous, people can Tweet everywhere today. And they do. For people who want to get work done rather than chat at the world, services like Yammer are much better. They aren’t as sexy, but you can work on a project or activity “in house.” Leaving your egos at the door, you’re able to exchange information, ideas and concepts in a virtual/conversational manner. Yammer is much more efficient and effective than email because people can have near real-time conversations with fellow employees, consultants and suppliers. Groups set up their specific profile and group list and change it as teams/projects change.  The great thing is you can post to and check with your computer, tablet or phone. Heck, you can even add photos, documents and videos to keep business moving; and all of the work stays inside your firewall.

Company Microblogs
Firms like Cisco, HP, Dell, Xerox and other companies large and small have found that instant messaging is a valuable work tool. A countless number of companies around the globe have taken the Twitter plunge to talk with customers, sell products and improve customer support. Dell earned several million last year selling used equipment from their Tweet corner.FedEx, JetBlue, Virgin Airways and others — including Whole Foods Markets — have climbed aboard the microblog wagon because it is another-ubercheap-way to improve and enhance customer relations activities.

Direct Touch – Customer-centric firms around the globe have quickly come to realize that social networking tools are the ideal way to quickly and cost-effectively support and engage customers. Many executives believe that direct contact establishes a stronger bond for the company. Yeah, there are sound business practice reasons for having and using Twitter accounts. But following recent events the best reason seems to be … defense! Dominos was like a deer in the oncoming car headlights when a couple of really dumb employees posted their “filthy, rotten food” video on YouTube. Amazon had a “mislocation” of book titles. A wanna’-be claimed he had hacked Amazon’s system and eliminated the books (so much BS but…). Amazon had to correct the programming error, show that they weren’t prejudice to any sexual orientation and prove their system was still sound.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Both firms had to work in a reactive rather than proactive mode because every area of social media is just too new and there is no past to base the present/future on. In both instances, individuals were eager to claim their 15 minutes of righteous Fame! The difference between them and the movie was the cost of entry was nothing but free time for the microbloggers. It didn’t matter that in these instances (and similar “consumer guardian” events that will occur) the stories were false.  The Internet and Web 2.0 social networking tools have produced a mob mentality that feeds the monster bent on damaging individuals, companies, brands. People have no problem Tweeting again and again what they wouldn’t say to you face to face (at least, we hope they wouldn’t). In our net-driven world, companies don’t have to make a wrong move or make a wrong decision to get people fanning the flames. As Mark Twain said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”

Damage Control
And with the tools available today, you have to constantly worry that someone, somewhere is making an innocent or malicious statement and … BAM!!!! As Andy Grove was fond of repeating, “Only the paranoid survive.” Organizations that are involved in social media at least have a community foundation they can leverage to correct things as quickly as possible. Management won’t know exactly when, where or why the “challenge” will occur. But developing a plan of action while folks are lobbing Tweets is a helluva’ strategy. Even with its huge user base churn, Twitter has attracted the introduction of a number of Tweet tools (we know, we made that up!). The tools allow you to keep track of what people are saying about your company, your products, your friends, family and heck, even you.

Then again, sometimes you just don’t want to know what people are saying about you… True, as with Ms Finsecker – “I’m about as flamboyant as a bagel.” You may not get people Tweeting about your company/products but … Don’t worry, we’ll Tweet you back on that. Right now, it’s time you-or someone in the organization-learned about and became involved with every social networking tool out there! On the Internet, thoughts, statements, claims and counterclaims will live forever … somewhere. Who said Fame is fleeting ?

About the author:
Andy has worked in front of and behind the TV camera and radio mike. Unlike most PR people he listens to and understands the consumer’s perspective on the actual use of products. He has written more than 100 articles in the business and trade press. During this time he has also addressed industry issues and technologies not as corporate wishlists but how they can be used by normal people. Unable to hold a regular 9-5 job, he has been a marketing and communications consultant for more than ...


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