TWITTER MAKES THE FRONT PAGE of the Financial Times (at left) on the last day of 2008, with two follow-up articles inside the paper. The thrust of the FT coverage is that Twitter has evolved into a channel for corporates to communicate their message through a chatter-friendly medium. If your PR team is up to the task, it means crafting "pithy communications bursts to the Twitter community."  Word of mouth marketers know this game well, because with a few clever taps on the keyboard, they can often spark conversations that go viral. Sometimes this means people "retweet" messages. Other times, it means pointing listeners to photos, video clips or blog posts that expand the message. These branded messages should not be considered "conversations" and Twitter shouldn't be confused as a conversation medium, even though banality and banter reign supreme in the Twitterverse. The millions of people who have climbed aboard Twitter are an easy audience for reverberating best offers, essential lists of things to do, and all-around fun things that often have a big sponsor's name attached to the front of the stage. When people start tweeting live events, some point to related still and video footage, incorporating that pointage in their tweets. Third party vendors are facilitating this evolution, making Twitter a channel of communications that handles inline media. As corporate communicators have discovered, Twitter is a publishing channel. Acknowledging this fact is a sure-fire way for Twitter's business team to monetise on the back of its 600% current growth.
"PepsiCo turned to Twitter this month after users began posting criticisms of a Pepsi Max advertisement," explains David Gelles. "Huw Gilbert, communications manager for PepsiCo International, tweeted a public message that apologized for the company. Gelles sees PepsiCo's response as a big win, putting out a PR fire with a simple splash of text. The most effective responses are felt as being the most human--tweets with a real voice behind them. Starbucks, Comcast, JetBlue and Home Depot use Twitter rather effectively to provide customer service.
The success of big brands moving around on Twitter points to the service's evolution from being a simple messaging pit. In fact, it's rather difficult maintaining a rational conversation on Twitter since anyone active with the service will have hundreds of followers tweeting away at the same time. Without any kind of message threading or any sort of channels where like-minded can converse without trashing the public timeline, Twitter is just a haven for Lazyweb answers. As 2009 motors on, Twitter may actually become more useful as an information channel. But that will probably happen through the development of a third party media service like Tweetree.
1. David Gelles -- "Companies chatter on Twitter to pack public relations punch" in the "Companies & Markets" section of the Financial Times, 31 December 2008.
2. Chris Nuttall -- "Twitter uses 140 characters to change the world" in the "Media" section of the Financial Times, 31 December 2008.