I found an article late last night entitled “Bye Bye Birdie: Why Twitter is on the Outs” that really sparked my interested in writing this article. The question of
“Should your business use Twitter?”
has come up more than once and it’s mostly been lumped in with social networking. In general I feel, and this is entirely my personal opinion, the answer is simple – it’s a NO.
SHOULD YOUR BUSINESS USE TWITTER?
But, such a huge conclusion requires some back story and justification. First what is Twitter?
What is Twitter?
Twitter’s mission, or explanation of their service has changed over the years. It started out as a “micro-blogging” service, that allowed you to answer the question, “what are you doing right now?” They have since updated this mantra to read “Discover what’s happening right now, anywhere in the world.” Although each is relevant, the term “micro blog” might be the best answer to what exactly is twitter. It allows you to setup a page and immediately begin broadcasting content (small messages). Those that follow you are immediately notified when you post something. And alternatively you can read what others are writing and be notified when someone you are following makes a post.
My history with Twitter: I was initially introduced to the service and started using it lightly in 2007 at a web application developers conference in Miami. Back then no one had heard of it (I feel like I should be wearing this T-Shirt). It was hot in the web development community, mostly because of its creator Evan Williams, who also created Blogger. It was hyped as the next big thing… and guess what, it’s become the next big thing. But, I personally feel it is a trend, a site that, while allowing a valuable conversation to be discussed, is being ousted by similar features on more relevant, and better aligned tools (ala Google Buzz or Facebook’s status tool). I remember being introduced to the tool at the conference and literally thinking “what the f@#! is this? who is going to use it? and how will it make money?” To me it always seemed like a cool little tool, but one that the masses would never fully adopt.
And they haven’t.
Here’s the problem with Twitter:
Twitter introduced the masses to the idea of a “status.” Allowing all of us to tell everyone we found necessary, or everyone that was curious, exactly what we were up to, what we were thinking, doing, etc. But, unfortunately I think others are taking the reigns and soon Twitter will be no more. Let me explain.
As outlined in the terrific article Bye Bye Birdie: Why Twitter is on the Outs… very few people actively use twitter. Here are the stats from the article, broken out from the linked video regarding social media from Edison Research.
- only 5% of people in the US knew what Twitter was in 2008
- Nearly 90% of people in the US know what Twitter is in 2010! (That’s an 1800% increase!)
- in 2008 less than 1% of people in the U.S. were using Twitter
- in 2010 approximately 7% of people use Twitter
- Only 1/3 of twitter users use it daily
- in 2010 roughly 41% of the population has a Facebook profile, making Twitter, relatively speaking, very well known, but not widely used.
Considering the ubiquity of twitter, the fact that it is here is undeniable. But, the numbers speak for themselves. As the video referenced above highlights towards the end, traditional media has been responsible for the explosion of the KNOWLEDGE of twitter.
I remember it was being referenced daily during the elections in Iran as a source by CNN and others on what was happening on the ground at that time.
But, awareness is NOT the same as use, and relatively speaking very few Americans actually use Twitter. And this makes sense. In comparison to similarly released tools from Facebook (which has a MUCH larger national and International audience) Twitter is confusing and requires one to duplicate their efforts (IE, why would I use twitter when I’m already connected to those that are important and can broadcast what I need on Facebook?).
The answer is simple – Twitter is more public – but your average user may not want that and even if they do, explaining the difference is difficult.
Finally, there’s the matter of simple business sustainability. How will Twitter stay afloat against juggernauts like Google? Google is already making money from AdSense/AdWords, monetizing their newly released Google Buzz through their network of small text ads. Twitter has yet to find a way to make money.
For all of these reasons I believe that although Twitter can and does provide value, it will not generally be the best use of your time as a person or company looking to market your business online. It should definitely fall to the wayside at this time in terms of priority. And I hesitate to say this trend (twitter) will continue to be around in the next 2 years.