Twitter is not going to go away. So far it has been very successful on two fronts.
1) attracting users to its 140 character broadcast micro blogging platform
2) enabling others to create applications that enable you to interact with Twitter using the rich APIs that are available.
It has also captured the imagination of brands both in the UK and abroad and along with Facebook in 2009 and 2010 has managed to obtain many column inches in both traditional print and on-line mediums.
Therefore, since Twitter is not going to disappear anytime soon what does the future hold for the company and their investors? The Twitter CEO Evan Williams offered a view on the Future of Twitter; below I offer 4 suggestions regarding key next steps for Twitter.
Platform – the Twitter API is the strongest feature of Twitter and becoming a true platform is also a logical and natural progression. Twitter is well placed to do this by extending the already strong APIs and enabling new services and applications to be built on top of Twitter. Microsoft’s ExecTweets is a great example of this. Monetisation of Twitter could be enabled as businesses pay for the use of the Platform and APIs in their transactions with customers. As more and more brands use Twitter as a channel for communication with their customers and finding out about their customers using the rich meta data that contains information about the conversations people are having about products and brands, the Platform and APIs will become the business model.
News – if you want to know what is going on where are you likely to find it first. I heard on Twitter first about many events this year from the deaths of celebrities such as Michael Jackson, news of earthquakes, political unrest, or just plain old gossip, the news always seems to hit Twitter before anywhere else, will traditional media be able to keep up with the wisdom of the crowds?
Content – could be enriched to allow different types such as images, videos, widgets directly in the status update. Content is “King” and it is what keeps users in a particular environment (whether that be a website or a television channel). It could be argued that Facebook already has these features and so are they innovative? However, if they are enabled from a platform perspective then the results could be far more powerful than is currently seen today on Facebook.
Search – another area that Twitter could extend and be more prominent in. Currently Google is the leader in web search, with Microsoft hot on the heels with Bing. However, Twitter offers a unique way of searching what people are actually talking about and therefore what matters to them. It also offers near real-time results that are human filtered and can be saved. In addition the use of Trending Topics means that users can always find what’s hot. Twitter have been extending that recently by providing users with options to show local trends and suggesting people they might like to “follow”. Therefore personalising the user experience by making it more localised and even potentially location specific.
Companies and Brands will start to use Twitter and will integrate Twitter with both their traditional e-channels and their applications such as CRM. Before we move on, let’s just be 100% clear that Twitter per se is not Social CRM it is another channel that enables dialogue. There is much to write about regarding Social CRM and that is another subject all together.
Twitter will become part of the corporate eco-system. However, brands must be aware that it is not a megaphone to shout about their products and services and that they must use it to listen to and interact with their customers. It would be a crying shame if Twitter became the modern day equivalent of an IVR or an outbound dialler. Today techniques are available that make it easy for brands to get into Twitter listen to the conversation, learn how to use it and take some measured and calculated risks to learn about what could be useful for their business. Over the past couple of years @capgemini has certainly been experimenting with this and has created a good presence and some encouraging results.
Companies must remember that Twitter enables favourable conditions for making sales and that it is not actually a place for making a sale itself. It enables brands to present themselves in an open and interesting way to its customers and its community.
Customer Service, Brand Management, Education and Awareness, Product Innovation, and having a sense of fun are all entirely possible with Twitter. Obviously the use of Twitter is not without its own challenges. There are terms of service to accept, what if it is not working, what if the functionality changes and does not suit your business processes, what if the Twitter platform or your account is hacked by someone (just because they can), how do you make sure that people are Tweeting in a way that you would want and expect them to (on behalf of your brand). Business needs to think about all of these challenges as well as others.
As presented here Twitter is likely to bend, adapt, and morph and currently with most users age ranging between 18 and 50 and there being a reasonably even split of males and females, it is fair to assume that the audience is attractive to businesses. Therefore, if you are planning to use Twitter as a brand take a look at a lot of the free advice that is available on the internet. I include some key points below.
• Devise a strategy that is linked to specific business outcomes and desires
• Listen to conversation that is happening around you
• Engage with your audience using the right brand voice
• Measure what you have done and the success you have achieved
A final thought, will Twitter be acquired and who will acquire it? There have been as many column inches on this subject as there are on the value of Twitter as a business. Let’s hope Twitter and Social xyz does not become the .com story of the 10’s. I don’t think anyone knows the answer to these 2 questions. However, in the meantime there is no reason not to follow some of the advice provided here and to try it out in order to see if both you and your company/brand learn to love Twitter.
Mark Walton-Hayfield is an Enterprise Architect working in the Outsourcing CTO Team in the UK. You can folllow markw_h and the osukcto team on Twitter as well as capgemini