Twitter – Critical Social Networking App or Next Big Nothing?

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The guys over at the Blog Herald have a nice big headline saying that Top Tech Brand’s Don’t Get Twitter.  Then, they say nothing, and point to a “study” at Pingdom which notes that 67 of the top tech companies don’t have a “main” Twitter account registered in their name.  Shocking!

Or is it?

Sometimes, it seems as though bloggers and other semi-media types have a vested interest in Twitter being a big deal.  Actually, they have a very big interest in Twitter being a big deal because they have spent valuable time and resources developing and “perfecting” a Twitter strategy that includes getting tons of followers, pitching their articles via links to their Twitter followers, and so on.

What Can Twitter Do For You Today

I follow Starbucks Coffee on Twitter.  I don’t have any idea what any of their tweets have said.  I simply don’t have time to read all of the Tweets every day, and the first ones I skip are the corporate ones, and I’m not alone.  The thing is, I’m very Internet savvy and spend almost my entire work day online and at a PC.  But, I’m busy.  Chatting, PMing, webcams, and so on, don’t have a big place in my schedule.

What the echo chamber that has become the blogosphere or Web 2.0, or whatever you want to call it has forgotten is that the vast majority of life and business in this country is not done via the Internet. While online shopping has become a big point of commerce, that is less about people shopping BECAUSE of the Internet, and more about people USING the Internet to do a specific task.  The average guy heading to Amazon.com doesn’t necessarily stop by Twitter first.

Just because a freelance designer spends 14 hours a day in front of a computer screen doesn’t mean everyone does.  In fact, there are millions of people who spend less than an hour a day at a computer (GASP!).  Do they bother to Tweet and Twitter?  Do they have Facebook accounts?  The reality is that they do email, news, shopping, and maybe porn.  The rest, they don’t know or care about.

And, while it may seem that everyone does Twitter and that Twitter is everywhere, it is still, for the most part, a community of younger people and technology people.  Ask yourself, how many new accounts come from Oprah announcing that she would be starting Twitter.  The number will be huge, and most of those people will never end up following anyone but Oprah. 

What that should show you, is that no matter how big you think Twitter is right now, it is nothing compared to the truly big media out there. 

What would a similar list look like for the top 100 law firms, the top 100 agricultural companies, or the top 100 manufacturing companies?  Would even 20% of those companies have a Twitter account?

The point that Blog Herald and Pingdom are trying to make is that Twitter is a big up-and-coming technology right now, and that as tech companies, these particular entities should be out in front with their own Twitter accounts.  But, the question is, to what end?

In the non-Internet based media, articles about Twitter focus on how it can be an effective tool for customer service, with everyone finding some case study where an employee defended his company’s brand via Tweets and responses to critical Tweets.  This is a good thing and can be considered a good effort.

On the other hand, companies spend millions of dollars a year on customer service departments, dedicated phone lines, and numerous other types of dedicated support infrastructure.  Is chasing down every unflattering Tweet the best use of a company’s resources?

Certainly, some level of monitoring and responding is desirable, but where does it end?  Should there also be someone monitoring Facebook?  What about LinkedIn?  Google Groups? Yahoo Buzz? Digg?

The list is practically endless.  While the authors of these articles can point to the large number of Twitter users to justify their arguments, the fact remains that the majority of Twitter users do attempt to create mass-follower lists, nor do they follow corporations or pseudo-celebrities of the Internet.  They have 5, 10, or even 25 followers representing, wait for it…their actual friends!

Can a company be blamed then for not spending any resources on the latest Internet phenomenon?  Actually, shouldn’t they be commended?  Don’t forget, it wasn’t long ago when all of the same Internet influenced media and money people were convinced that content was worthless and portals would be king.  That kind of thinking led Time Warner to sell itself to AOL, perhaps one of the most disastrous corporate deals in history.

The authors at Pingdom raise the specter of Twitter name squatting as though that were a critical motivator.  IF Twitter were to ever become something important on that large of scale, there would obviously be ways to worry about that when the time came.  Look no further than the former domain name squatters who were kicked off via copyrights, trademarks, new policies, and even new laws when the Internet itself actually became big enough to be truly important to business.  The same can be expected if Twitter rises to such a level.

In the meantime, there is little a major company can hope to achieve on Twitter other than some positive PR and with most companies already waging all out assaults on many fronts in the name of public relations would can only wonder how incremental any improvement made via Twitter would be. Considering the many loud mouthed hot air factories that insist their way is the only way and deride any comments made to the contrary, ESPECIALLY those from an official company account, Twitter might actually only be able to hurt a company’s image, not help it.

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Technorati Tags: ,Oprah Twitter,Twitter Overrated,

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