While Twitter prepared for an IPO, the buzz got loud enough that perfectly rational people may think they need to add Twitter to their campaigns — just because everybody is doing it. But before you jump into this platform . . . there’s something you should know.
Come close so we can whisper it in your ear: Twitter can be a very scary place. (Cue spooky organ music and a howling wolf.)
Twitter messaging is immediate, and that makes it an attractive platform to include in campaigns. Broadcast television, publications and even direct mail have excruciating long timelines for production and distribution. Further more, Twitter operates on a no-cost platform, for now, which is an even more attractive attribute for some. These seductive characteristics — fast and free — are seldom a good strategy for business marketing as a rule.
The Twitter-sphere is still a rowdy place to put your message. There isn’t a review process or authoritative body to keep the dialogue polite and accurate. Anyone and everyone can voice their opinion and readers can deem it “gospel”. The lack of authority present on Twitter keeps the foundation constantly shifting and that can be hazardous to your brand.
Furthermore, Twitter messaging requires repetition to reach your audience. John Podhoretz, editor, writer, and self-described Twitter addict, calls Twitter a “rapidly moving river where messages are quickly washed away as though it never existed in the first place.” In practice, even a well-written tweet can disappear as quickly as if it were written on a sandy beach at high tide. Generally speaking, tweets don’t have much staying power. Unless they’re funny, or include a picture of a baby or puppy.
There are some pretty shady characters on Twitter, taking up valuable bandwidth and possibly sitting right next to your message in someone’s feed. No doubt, Twitter magnifies personal choices and activities, and then broadcast it to the entire world with often dramatic consequences. A handful of personalities easily illustrate how the need to tweet can devastate livelihoods and families: Anthony Weiner, Jofi Joseph, or Alec Baldwin. (Scratch that last one — that guy is bulletproof.) It’s a unique attribute for a marketing platform, and that is reason enough to carefully consider whether Twitter should be the first communication medium used to reach those valuable customers.
There are a few more creepy points to consider before you tweet — if you dare.
- 140 characters. Keep it short ’cause that’s all the space you’ve got to get your message across. Also assume that each tweet will be read as a single, independent message and avoid stringing several together in sequence to get the whole message out. For a little perspective, the outgoing message on your voice mail is probably 250 characters when written out, spaces included.
- Context doesn’t count. Relying on cultural context or current events beyond the 140 characters in your message is problematic as you can’t control when, or where, your message will be read. (This fascinating because the Library of Congress has a program to capture and catalog all the tweets sent each day. As of January, 2013, nearly 170 billion tweets sent from 2006 – 2010 have been archived. In October of 2012, the Library of Congress archived nearly 500,000,000 tweets A DAY. How do the researchers assigned to the program make sense of all those tweets?)
- Twitter has it’s own language. Not only are you limited by the number of characters used in a tweet, the message has to coexist with unique code phrases and cues. Hashtags (#), acronyms (LOL, MT, D and so on) and special characters (bit.ly web addresses) show up frequently in tweets requiring the reader to use an extra layer of comprehension to understand the message. Update: Here’s a list of 34 Twitter definitions that can help you get a grip on the language. It’s also regular practice to invent abbreviations for common phrases in the middle of thread. If the audience isn’t familiar this style of communicating, or sharp enough to comprehend the authors meaning, the message sweeps past them in a grey noise of jumbled characters.
- Twitter Quiters. Nearly 36% of new Twitter users quit using their accounts. It moves too fast, it’s too hard to follow, and some “just don’t get it.” The adoption rate for Twitter is already narrow and is hampered because of points 1,2 and 3 above.
- Bots (as in “Robots”). Nearly 24% of the accounts on Twitter are automated, digital accounts that are not tied to a person who can read your content. Some of the nonperson accounts are spam, and some are regenerative sharing your tweet with a wider audience. It’s a unique component that can further dilute your audience.
Did you jump? Get the stuffing scared out of you? It’s all in good fun for Halloween. But there is a lesson here — there’s a very narrow path where Twitter can contribute to your marketing initiative. Just know where you are headed. Don’t go in there alone. After midnight. During a full moon.