It didn’t take long for Twitter to move from hype to backlash (although blaming Twitter for the current recession is perhaps a little unfair). Dave Collins offered a $100 Amazon voucher to anyone who could convince him there was a business case for spending his time on Twitter. None of the responses convinced me it was a good use of my time. My favourite was from Mark Roseman:
I find myself sometimes drifting back towards improving my software, answering email (email! can you believe it?) from customers, or other arcane activities, but I know these are just procrastination techniques, dragging me away from the truly important work of Twittering.
To me the real question isn’t whether Twitter has any value, but whether it is the most useful thing you can be doing with your time. What business value does Twitter have?:
- Updating your customers: What is wrong with a newsletter? I would like to think a lot of my customers love my software, but surely even its most ardent fans don’t need updates several times per day? Only a stalker needs to know what you are doing in real time.
- Following others: I tried using Twitter to follow a few people who write excellent blogs. This experiment only proved that even intelligent and articulate people can’t write anything useful in 140 characters. Following the links posted can be entertaining, but is a black hole for productivity.
- Monitoring conversations: I can set up a search and appear, genie like, every time someone types the relevant phrase. But this sort of 1:1 marketing doesn’t scale very well and it can come across as creepy/spammy.
- Increasing your online presence: Twitter is touted as another way to increase your online ‘foot print’. I can see some value to ‘tweeting’ a link to each post you write for Twitter searches to find, but I doubt it would lead to much additional traffic.
Isn’t Twitter just ICQ for “web 2.0″? How long before Twitter is overrun with spam from bots? Will they ever fix their scaling issues (I saw the ‘fail whale’ a fair number of times in my limited dabblings)? Can Twitter save us from swine flu?
Perhaps the real business value of Twitter is that it distracts your competitors while you get on with improving your product, improving your marketing and giving great support.