Just today I was told my brother was working on a Twitter project for his company. They are trying to leverage the recent popularity of the service to have yet another opportunity to announce what otherwise would be newsworthy content – in this case really good deals on really good stuff. However, from what I heard from him, they’re hindered by the fact that Twitter is a completely public service, with no restrictions on who reads and consumes the information people post to it. I’ve heard lots of disdain for Twitter’s lack of groups or some other sort of tool to manage access to messages meant for a specific demographic. However, the real question is, what exactly is Twitter meant to be – a megaphone or a private line to a certain group of people?
The answer of course is that its already a megaphone. There are competitors or perhaps you could call them “co-habitants” of the same vertical, or whatever you like. There’s a few companies creating offerings for businesses that allow employees to “tweet” only to the ears of their co-workers. And Twitter seems content to remain the megaphone desipite this competition. Honestly, I’d like to say Good For Them. They’re focused on what they’re trying to accomplish, and despite the complete lack of success in trying to monetize this impetus besides venture capital, at least they’re doing what they like and what they want to do.
The reason people are talking about Twitter so much recently is that they are realizing that its a tool to reach a broad spectrum of loyal listeners. The reason the listeners are so loyal is the mechanics of the service – you can’t force users to listen the same way you can with an email address. You can’t send promotial emails to a follower on Twitter – if they don’t want to listen, they can cut off that relationship relatively quickly. Additionally, the way Twitter works respects the way people want to regulate the bandwidth of their attention span. If they are getting too much info, they’ll stop following, that’s all there is to it.
So what Twitter has is a megaphone that only people that want to hear have to put up with. That’s genius. Facebook has recently tried to achieve the same kind of ubiquitous streaming “Nirvana” if you will. But thats not what the site is meant for. A social network is meant to bind friends, aquaintances, and the like together. Twitter is meant to bind people that say things and people that want to hear those things. While the two audiences may sometimes overlap, they are probably never the same. I follow TechCrunch on Twitter, but wouldn’t think of adding anybody that works there as friends on Facebook. I guess that won’t stop Facebook from trying to employ the same dynamic that Twitter has achieved, and so be it.
Regardless of all that, the reason I am using Twitter now is because I can broadcast to everybody that wants to listen a stream of remarks, links and the like, with relative ease. Additionally the Twitter Facebook app allows me to do the same to my Facebook friends without any hassle. And the Twitter Tools plugin for Wordpress allows me to store my Tweets in a persistent format of my choosing in my blog. Best of all worlds so to speak. I’m sure Ashton Kutcher and Oprah Winfrey give a lot of validation to everybody for their attention to Twitter, but the important part is that it serves a need and does it relatively well at this point in time. I’ll use it till I find something bettter at doing what I want to do. Hopefully they’ll figure out how to monetize their business before then – right now its really swell of them to provide this service without expecting anything in return.