Technology & Social Media

Twitter: Business tool or waste of time?

TwitterAre you using Twitter yet?

Judging from personal experience, I'm guessing your answer is either, "Yeah, isn't it great?" or "You've got to be kidding me."

Twitter is one of the most popular tools for "micro-blogging" -- a form of blogging that allows for brief, text-only posts. And when I say brief, I mean brief. Twitter's posts are limited to 140 characters.

When it comes to opinions, there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground: The people I've talked to think Twitter is either (a) the second coming, or (b) a useless time-waster for geeks.

And make no mistake: You can waste lots of time on Twitter. Two of today's posts, for example, read: "Watching Cloverfield," and "Watching American Idol." As if I need to know that.

But I joined Twitter anyway, mostly to see if it has any useful business applications. So far, I'm cautiously optimistic. I love the fact that you can communicate with many people almost instantly across multiple networks. (Twitter posts can be accessed online, on mobile devices, through instant messaging or via third-party social networks like Facebook. There's even a widget that will post your latest Twitter entries on your blog via an RSS feed.)

I wanted to find out how other people are using Twitter for business, so I posed the question on my LinkedIn network. Here are just a few of the responses:

  • "(It can be used) as an emergency / important message beacon. (It) allows you to distribute emergency or important messages to a list of Twitter users."
  • "Twitter can be an ingenious tool for team collaboration, especially when they are in disparate locations. Say, for example, you have teams in the (Pacific Rim) and America working collaboratively on a project. Having the ability to ‘chat’ via Twitter can prove valuable in maintaining real-time communications."
  • "I often describe Twitter as a cafe or pub, but lately I've come to see it as a non-stop, 24/7 'networking event.' In that context, the business application is clear: relationship-building."
  • "It does take some time to immerse yourself in Twitter to come to terms with how powerful it can be. In my case, I only started 'unlocking' these ideas once I began using the third-party tools built around the Twitter platform, such as Tweet Scan. This way, it is very easy to search for a brand or product name and join conversations according to subject matter. There seem to be new customer service examples every day, but this recent one by Mario Sundar about Comcast is also particularly relevant."
  • "Primarily, as a marketer / community guy, it's an interesting tool on three fronts: (1) Global focus group. (2) Real-time responses (3) Stay in touch with users. All of these center around the need for companies to better communicate with their users. A caveat, though, is that you shouldn't be too liberal in your connections, or you'll be drowned in noise."

ProBlogger's Darren Rowse takes it a step further in this blog post. He sees Twitter's potential in research, branding, content promotion and networking, among others.

On the other hand, here are some practical thoughts from Seth Godin, who has chosen to NOT use Twitter: "I don't want to use a tool unless I'm going to use it really well. Doing any of these things halfway is worse than not at all."

What do you think? Does Twitter have any real business value?

Here are some other Twitter-related resources:


Bill Sheridan