Twitter has barely hit the radar of most South Africans.First, lets look at Twitter's social media competitors.
FACEBOOK pulls you in by insisting you MUST have an account before you can see that cute baby picture from your friend. And your friend will be devastated if you admit you haven't seen the picture, so you join under a fake name and "friend" 6 old school-buddies. For most users, Facebook is less about sharing and more like friendly stalking.
I was forced into a Facebook account 3 years ago. I notice that my female friends post daily (usually cats, dogs, crime, inspirational sayings and jokes). My male friends in professional jobs have often posted less than 5 times in their lives.
LINKEDIN is a necessity if you are a consultant, project worker, in IT or ever want to get promoted or headhunted. Basically my "mommy" friends and family are on Facebook, my workmates and clients are on LinkedIn.
Google+ isn't really "social media" - it's used to improve SEO since Google gives their own Google+ updates priority in searching.
So what use is Twitter when the home/work :: male/female demographic has been covered with the other two big players in social media?
First the objections
When Twitter is mentioned, most of my clients have a long list of objections:
1. It's Too limiting:
You can't communicate or market meaningfully in 140 characters or less. Come on!
2. It's Too Self-Absorbed.
Yes, Jason, I loved reading that your rusk just broke off into your coffee! Relentless self-promotion is boring. Who cares what my company has to say, and it might even be dangerous to have a permanent, public record of it?
3. It Encourages Self-Deception
Twitter is for celebrities - it allows the reader to enjoy pleasant hallucinations that they know famous people. Why would anyone care what my company is doing?
4. It's Just Another Fad
South Africans are slow adopters for technology (although they don't like to admit it). Do we really want to invest in ANOTHER social medium, only to see it vanish into obscurity in a year or two.
Now the Truths
In the past 2 years, I've grown fond of Twitter. It might be partially due to cognitive dissonance (you don't want to admit you are wasting time on something without value). But it's also due to seven benefits that no one mentions.
1. It's public
Most social media platforms require you to first sign-up with your personal details, THEN create relationships THEN only then allow you to communicate. How are people supposed to find out that you have something worth listening to? How do you know that someone is worth listening to, or if they will spam you with advertising about their latest business venture. Twitter "shows a little leg" without expecting you to sign up first. It lets the general public read a person's tweets and get a sense of them, before you follow them.
2. It understands multiple personas
Platforms like Facebook and Google+ demand that you are one known individual, and track and monitor everything you say and who you follow. Try to friend too many people on one day, or have friend requests rejected, and you can be "banned" from friending anyone new for the rest of the month!
Twitter doesn't mind if you're a consultant, a business or a person. It doesn't mind if you have multiple accounts - one in your personal name for tweeting about your hobbies, and one in your business name with information suited to prospective clients and current customers. It loves that fact that one great article you tweet creates 2000 followers in a day, or that you follow 500 people at once.
3. It lets you share without spamming
Before Twitter, when I read an article or watched a video that I liked, I never knew how widely to share it. I was loath to add more clutter to everyone's inbox, let alone leave them feeling obligated to reply. What use is putting a productivity tip on Facebook where my housewife friends will be the only ones to read it? I am not sure I want my linked-in clients to think I have nothing better to do than browse the internet? As my network grew, it became more difficult to keep track of everyone's interests so I ended up doing nothing at all.
Twitter solved this problem for me. It is "one-to-many" broadcasting with no expectation of a response. When I share something, I know it will be accessible to anyone who searches for that work, as well as all people who have opted in to see my tweets. I am not burdening or annoying anyone - they can freely ignore my tweets without guilt or relationship repercussions.
4. Record Keeping
I used to waste time searching my saved and sent email folders, and then my libraries of PDFs, books, and articles. Now, I look to Twitter. It's where I share many of the things that I find worth remembering, so the odds are good that a quick search of my tweets will return the reference that I'm hunting to find. Twitter often has the most efficient retrieval cues.
5. "Pay it forward" in 5 seconds
Social media gets a bad rap for fueling narcissism - most accounts are pure megalomania. I believe in "paying it forward" - on Twitter you can repay some 5-second favours by sharing an article from a friend, acknowledging a great idea, congratulating a success. I've had fun spreading the word about new books and other intriguing discoveries.
6. Tailored Content & News
I used to rely on friends for advice on what to read and watch. On Twitter, I can access what interesting strangers are finding interesting. Their search is amazing - I can quickly find news about my suburb, local traffic conditions and sports scores. If there is a topic I want to research, one search will immediately bring up dozens of great, recent articles.
As a copywriter I am used to synthesizing and precising down to the bone. Tweeting challenges me. In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, "perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." It's an art to express a thought in 140 characters, and doing it daily is one way to build a habit.
Should you consider Twitter for your business?
Twitter is not an appropriate platform for everyone. The following gives a good indication of strategic alignment with your business.
- You often have news, photos, new products, specials and announcements (e.g. retailing or event-based businesses)
- You already build credibility for your company through press releases, blogs and informational articles (or are prepared to do so)
- You are an expert in a niche field or want to be seen as an authority on a specific subject (e.g. consulting)
- You have a website with pages that are worth sharing
- Your prospective customers are the general public (rather than repeat business from from a known sector)
- Your prospective customers have internet access, especially cell phones.
- You want introduce a new product or service to a new market