Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Twitter: Network Builder Extraordinaire

A few weeks back I posted an article on StumbleUpon; one of the greatest social bookmarking sites available at present. I'd like to take this opportunity to discuss another of my favourite platforms. This post will examine Twitter, network builder extraordinaire.

I recently found myself discussing Twitter, the microblogging platform, with an acquintance of mine. The conversation came across more as a defence of the platform rather than as a mutual agreement of the benefits thereof; a position in which I have often found myself of late. Although the individual was eventually able to see the capacity for Twitter to facilitate network building, they suggested that it would invariably fail to recognize its primary function - as a marketing tool. Whilst anyone that follows this blog will recognize that I dispute any marketer ownership over any of the social media platforms I left the conversation with the realization that Twitter still has much to prove...

As usual, to those who would suggest that Twitter is a marketing tool, I say No! Twitter like the other social media tools is a platform for connecting consumers. Whilst the platform unquestionably has the capacity to promote one's product offerings, unashamed promotion is akin to entering someone else's conversation, blurting a point, and then leaving. This would be incredibly poorly received in reality; why should the online environment be treated any differently? Whilst self promotion is not the only way to ruin a Twitter relationship, it is important to remember that the route to success in any social media application is to actively engage with the community. In order to draw value from the platform, it is important to provide value back to the community.

Twitter's value is two-fold; specifically, value is drawn from both the capacity to create networks and the ability to identify customer needs in real time. The platform operates under a 'following' model; community members choose to follow one another having identified shared interests. The introduction of Twitter Search has greatly facilitated the user's ability to identify members with similar interests. Whilst this tool is conducive to building subject specific networks, its greatest strength lies in its ability to highlight online brand perceptions in real time. It is truly surprising how much can be said in 140 characters... As such, it is imperative that organisations recognise the necessity to constantly monitor Twitter Chatter. Negative comments concerning a product offering can be easily identified; it is down to the organisation to address these concerns as it feels fit. In any case, it is important to remember that the community will be watching...

For organisations that are on the ball, Twitter offers an unparalleled opportunity to identify consumer concerns, and to resolve them in real time within the public sphere. Such positive publicity is likely to prove difficult to replicate outside of the social media.

Show the Rogue some Stumble love

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