Personally, I like Twitter. I think that in the right contexts it is an amazingly useful tool for building relationships and facilitating communication. But my skin starts to bristle when I hear self-proclaimed social media experts talking about using Twitter for marketing as if it were the Holy Grail or a complete revolution in the way business will get done in the future. I find that many of these “gurus” fall into one or both of these categories:
- Younger people in their first job after college who grew up with these tools in a social context but lack traditional advertising or marketing experience.
- Traditional (perhaps older) marketers that are trying to re-brand themselves to avoid becoming obsolete.
If this describes you, my pet peeves probably apply to you.
1. Twitter is a tactic, not a strategy
Many self-proclaimed social media gurus advise clients to set up a Twitter account and start talking without considering microblogging’s role in larger business and/or marketing objectives. Twittering for business is useless (and potentially dangerous for your brand) without clearly defined objectives and a solid strategy.
2. Twitter is over-hyped
Despite what the echo chamber that is social media would have you believe, Twitter is not the marketing revolution that some people want it to be. That is, unless your target audience fits into one or more of the following categories: 1) Marketers (social media or PR folks), 2) Early Adopters/Techies, 3) Bloggers, 4) Journalists. The vast majority of internet users will never understand or want to sign up for something like Twitter. Unless you have a plan for reaching the masses through the “Twitterati”, your resources are best spent elsewhere.
3. Twitter is over-sold
It’s a shiny object that gets a lot of press. New users are still signing up in droves. But it’s still not an appropriate or useful communications channel in every situation. The old adage still applies, “When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” Not every company is equipped or ready to jump on the Twitter bandwagon. Who are the right people within a company to be Twittering? Are there processes in place to handle different types of interactions with customers or prospects such as complaints, inquiries, or negative press?
4. Twitter is just technology
Marketing is a form of communications. The underlying current in communications is relationships. Fundamental human relationships are aided and advanced by various technologies over time, but the common denominator is people. Too many people are dazzled by the technology rather than focusing the relationships it enables, enhances, or corrupts.
5. Too much noise, not enough signal
Twitter certainly opens up new communications paths for people to connect and meet up, but for general communications purposes I have a hard time justifying the commitment required to carry on meaningful conversations. If I need an answer to a specific question, I use search engines. If I need to reach somebody, I prefer email or a phone call because I know they will get my message.
Don’t get me wrong, I love learning more about people I know, and even some I don’t know. But it’s hard to derive value from several hundred concurrent conversations and still contribute value to other users. Many people are following hundreds or thousands of people, and I just keep wondering how that is sustainable if the motivation is to create and build meaningful relationships. At what point does it become more like broadcast and less like a conversation?
Am I wrong?
There are plenty of success stories of people and marketers using Twitter to create value for their followers, the internet community, and themselves. In fact, I use it to communicate with a wide variety of people about several different topics. But lately I’ve seriously been weighing the costs and benefits and I am coming to the conclusion that Twitter is simply an interesting diversion at the moment, not a useful business tool (for me).
I enjoyed a solid conversation (on Twitter, natch) with @copelandcasati about her use of Twitter to make “friends & peers [she] otherwise would not have met.” @cjuon explained her strategy of following 1,000+ twitterers as a way to duck in and out of several conversations as if it were a cocktail party. @shawnsmith put together an awesome Twitter Primer and led a great discussion at the LA2M lunch today in Ann Arbor.
All of this is well and good. In fact, I agree with all of it. These people are experienced marketers with a solid track record. But perhaps I have a different perspective on building relationships with people.