What’s In Store For Twitter?


I’ve recently signed up to Twitter – friends had been encouraging me to do this for a while but I was in two minds as my current digital distractions were already very effective!

As always it’s getting the balance right between sharing information and insights and actually doing the work/being creative (see here).

There are lots of views and analysis on where this is all going – probably all wrong too, but everyone knows that already!

Twitter, the current darling of the Internet, was, you may remember, originally set up to answer the question ‘What are you doing right now?’ in 140 characters or fewer. Part of the reason for its popularity, if you eliminate the self-obsessed celebrities and their fawning followers (and how I wish someone would), is its simplicity. Twitterers can tweet from a web interface or by SMS from a mobile phone. Messages are short and to the point, and tweets vary from mundane literal answers to the central question, to, very occasionally, genuinely insightful comments from locations or events that are closed to most of us and from which we only usually glean information through the prism of the news journalist or TV reporter.

Like every new social networking platform, Twitter has also been hijacked by Internet marketers who see it as a cheap and easy way to drive traffic to their blogs and websites, and to remind followers to subscribe to their email newsletter. As such, just like the web, Twitter has its share of junk, worthless and shameless money-grabbing content. And, just as they have done with the web, some bright spark will come up with a clever way of filtering the junk and ‘recommending’ tweets and Twitterers in which you may, based on a carefully constructed profile of your Twittering habits, be interested. And once you and everyone else in the Twittersphere has been profiled, tagged, vetted and assigned the appropriate socio-economic demographic label, Twitter will helpfully display messages from its sponsors about whose products you will, of course, be eager to find out more. More here

However some innovations are appearing:

Let’s look at a few innovative ways that companies are sharing information and delivering value to customers via Twitter. The best example I’ve come across so far is BakerTweet – a simple IT solution implemented by a small bakery in Shoreditch in London to let their Twitter followers know when fresh hot pastries and baked goods come out of the oven (mmm-tasty).

A couple of my other favorite uses of Twitter so far include:

  • Alaska Airlines‘ use of Twitter to announce their current series of 24 hour 30% off promotions to different destinations
  • Twitter Baby – a device that an expectant mother can wear that tweets every time the baby kicks

And there are obvious (and somewhat timeless) business uses (see eg here):

The prototypical Twitter scenario is simple: you’ve got a team of colleagues developing a Web site. They’re scattered all over the city, or all over the world, because that’s the way we work now. Add a deadline: the client wants a proposal for a huge new project, and they want it on their desk by 5pm tomorrow. And so one person works on a logo and one person works on a framework and two people starts prototyping code and you know that someone is going to have to write some sample copy — when anyone is free. And so you use Twitter to keep track of who is working on what, who might have a free moment, who can lend a hand, who needs help. It’s got nothing to do with identity: it’s about coordination and presence and knowing the rest of your team is pitching in.

This is obvious.

You used to do this by walking around the office. You’d stop by everybody’s desk, see who was working, who left early, who was stressing out. You didn’t ask people, “Hey, are you working?” You said, “How about them Cubs?” That didn’t mean you were more worried about the Cubs than the account.

Now, you can’t walk around the office because parts of your team are in different offices, and some may be half way ’round the world. So you use AIM or groupware or git or you use Twitter. People have been doing research on this for twenty years, but all the popular reporters act as if the whole thing was invented by a crazed teenager who ought either to be disciplined or showered with money.

Interesting and clear description of how to use Twitter in (business) research here (the why, how and some case studies).

Business background: Twitter was funded initially by Obvious, a creative environment in San Francisco, CA. The first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Obvious. In May 2007, Twitter Incorporated was founded.

Above picture credit here plus the comic author’s own tweet admissions!


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