As the Twitter craze finally hits Europe, I’ve come across a few posts such as this one questioning its value. My first response would be that Twitter can perform a really simple function that any web user would appreciate: finding content that interests them. If you invest a bit of time in finding the right people to follow i.e. people who are clever and are interested in the same things as you, they can point you to content you simply wouldn’t have found yourself. That’s enough justification in my book already. However, as Laurent rightly points out, Twitter is not mainstream enough to actually make this viable for anyone who isn’t into social media, marketing, technology or a few other niches: ‘If you want to target doctors, if you need information because you’re a fireman, if you just want to find interesting links if you’re “just” a normal citizen, you don’t find them on Twitter.’
Valid points for personal use of Twitter. As for the professional use of Twitter, I still think there is “hidden” value in using Twitter, even though it isn’t going to allow you to find reams of useful content or reach huge numbers of people immediately:
- Being proactive rather than reactive i.e. understanding how it works while it’s still relatively unknown, rather than hopping on the bandwagon in two years time. It doesn’t have to be a drain on resources: set up an account now, play around, figure out how to build relationships, not annoy people, and who the smart people worth following are (even if they’re few and far between for now). A few minutes a day on your PC or your iPhone and you’ll be a bonafide Twitter expert in no time.
- Impress people. Yeah, so it’s shallow, but frankly showing your boss, client, stakeholder etc. that you’re an early adopter of new technologies that can, in time, help you reach and engage with relevant people is valuable, even though you might not prove its worth immediately (but do spend 99% of your time on things that have a slightly higher proven ROI though.)
- Quality over quantity. So your target audiences may not all be on Twitter, but maybe some of the brightest people in your sector are. Why not build relationships with them now rather than than when they have 3,000 followers?
- Added value on key activities. The nature of the format (short, quick, updates from anywhere) can make it ideal for certain types of interaction, such as live-updating from an event or a Q & A on breaking news.
And a last point: it’s not all in the numbers! You can add a feed from Twitter to a blog or a site, where people will be able to read your updates. You may only have 10 followers, but if the webpage your tweets appear on have 10,000 visits a day with people spending half an hour on that page, you can be pretty sure they’re seeing them.