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Is Twitter an Effective Marketing Channel?

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    A few years back I first caught wind of a new social media platform known as “Twitter”. It was explained to me as follows:

    “Twitter – it’s like Facebook, with only the status updates.”

    And I thought to myself, “What a silly idea, with an even sillier name!”

    And then Twitter took off in a big way, it seemed like everyone had jumped on the Twitter band wagon, from shoe companies to celebrities to your next door neighbour. But after the first couple of months, I discovered that Twitter’s business value was negligible.

    Remember Cuil’s launch? Remember Wolfram Alpha? Yeah, neither does anyone else – and Twitter may be only marginally more memorable in a couple of years. Ok, right now every blog post that offers the option to Sphinn, Digg, Like and offers the option to Retweet. Then again, remember when Alta Vista was the big kahune in the online world? I predict that in five years, Twitter will go the way of the digital watch – lots of people may have one, but, ya know…who cares.

    So what happened to relegate this explosive technology to the annals of history in the future?

    Functionality
    It has none! I’ve never seen so many people use such nonfunctional software and get so excited about it. The amount of time that I’ve signed in and found out that Twitter is down is disproportionate to the extreme. And thus were born Tweetdeck and Seesmic and a whole slew of platforms dedicated solely to tweeting. Amazing. Something the good folks at Twitter should consider – if you really want it to take off long-term, make sure that it’s usable. Maybe some small-time high tech tycoons are using it, and maybe even some tech-savvy businessmen. And maybe some SEO geek is bantering happily with his SEO geek buddy on Twitter. (Like me.) But just try and get Warren Buffet to tweet. Just try.

    Fraudulent accounts
    No, I’m not talking about spam here. Do you know how long it took me to find Stephen Colbert’s real Twitter account? A long, long time. Days. And in internet speak, that’s quite a while. So why would any reputable business want to use a platform that can so easily be used to damage its reputation? That, my friends, is a double-edged sword if I ever saw one.

    Spam
    Ok, now I’m talking about spam. There are five gadzillion spammy Twitter accounts out there. Given that only people who follow you will see what you have to say (with the unlikely exception that your tweet gets randomly retweeted), and given that if you have enough followers to constitute a solid constituency, a good third of them will be spammers/fake accounts, then what value is Twitter really providing as a marketing platform?

    Even if you did build a decent size following on Twitter, users need to be active to see your messages, and the stats may be another telling factor in why most of your followers may never even notice.

    Unfortunately, since Twitter is all the rage lately, many small business owners get caught up in the hype, jumping in without a plan of action, actually believe that spending a lot of time “connecting” online will result in a big increase in awareness and sales. This is the problem, especially with Twitter, because it can become a thief that steals time from effective marketing practices. “Effective” meaning strategies that are known to result in sales.

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