Twitter backlash begins?

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From via Sean Prescott on the ASP members forum.

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.

5 thoughts on “Twitter backlash begins?

  1. Chuck Brooks

    Even doctors have ADD, using Twitter during surgeries. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Tort lawyers, who are cranking up their e-discovery engines. All that traffic will be put into the public domain, like the Microsoft antitrust case, which is still supporting armies of lawyers and analysts and graduate students. Should be interesting.
    Chuck Brooks
    FutureWare SCG

  2. George

    My backlash began about 5 minutes after I started using it. 99.9% of tweets are totally inane. I just stick to blogs and Google Reader stay informed of _useful_ information.

  3. Vendetta

    We just recently started using Twitter. Since than, we launched a new version of our product and had good experience with people re-tweeting information about the launch, posting suggesting and comments etc.

    Most of the time we just use search to find mentions and reply. Sometimes we tweet about something that we find interesting, but not too often. Most of the time, we just reply to other people’s questions, say thanks when they purchase our product and share that with their friends etc.

    Basically, we use it:

    1. To be approachable
    2. To answer questions and help when people need assistance

    We don’t search for our competitors or recommend our product when competitor is mentioned, we don’t spam (still have more followers than tweets) etc. It’s just another communication change that you can use to get in touch with your customers.

  4. Steve McLeod

    After some months of avid twittering, I had a sudden moment when I realised it was just bothersome noise. A few weeks ago I gave up on it for good, not even bothering with a farewell tweet. I haven’t missed it at all.

  5. Joshua Clanton

    Twitter is useful for certain things. (For instance, as a status system should your web app go offline unexpectedly.)

    The problem isn’t Twitter, but the hype thereof.

    PS: If you find your stream filled with inane tweets, that’s because you’ve chosen to follow inane tweeters. :-)

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