Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tweeting the future

When the telephone was invented, no one really knew what to do with it. It was thought that it might be a great way to broadcast useful information, and perhaps, music. The thought of one person talking to another was not even considered a possibility. There were sensible reasons (also known as prejudices) for that, of course. Speaking to someone without first having been properly introduced was considered poor form, as was talking to people below you on the social pecking order. Such unfortunate events were frighteningly possible if the telephone was unleashed. However, The People stepped in and everything changed. Before long, the telephone found its true purpose: making connections.

Technologies often take a while to find their feet. The Internet, which was started to protect military information from attack, is now a worldwide network connecting billions of people. The phone is transforming, through mobility, into a powerful life support center – communications, organization, name it, the mobile phone can do it. So what’s going to happen to Twitter? This remarkable phenomenon born out of the status bar on Facebook (now called 'What’s on Your Mind?') sends millions of short (less than 140 characters, and that includes spaces and punctuation) messages each day. Something about the Twitter format has proved irresistible to us. Like texting, it keeps you in the flow. You don’t have to make a lot of effort, and you can truly reach out and touch somebody.

Now businesses are becoming tweet-friendly. I’ve heard that the attendance at some meetings have been slashed (that’s got to be a good thing) with a small core team meeting and tweeting about what’s happening. Good-bye meetings for catch-up, background, or holding territory. Maybe Twitter is the ideal form for Winning Ugly – fast, focused, and functional.

Last week, I visited a site that provided a glimpse into another possible future for Twitter. Open Brands calls itself a social brand monitor. By combing through the globe’s tweets, it finds and gathers comments on specific brands. What you get is a real time look into what people are thinking about a brand, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. If you want to know what people are thinking about Oprah after a particular show, just scroll through the tweets. I was riveted by the Toyota tweets. It was like dipping into a stream of authentic engagement with a mix of commentary, opinion, pointers to interesting articles, and responses to other tweets. Fascinating. It felt like people were inventing the future.


Jean-Philippe DIEL said...

So Mr Roberts when will we have the pleasure to follow your comments on twitter ? unless I have missed your profile somewhere... It's a great prolongation of your Blog, you'll see.


Jean-Philippe DIEL


Nick Robinson said...


Do you have a twitter feed yourself?

Mine is:

Charlotte said...

I'm loving Twitter. I can dip in at anytime and find out what the world is talking about in that moment. It's been a wonderful way to tell the world about my business, to get to know the NZ business community - who's doing what - and simply to meet amazing people.

Ryan @openbrands said...

Thanks for checking out OpenBrands. I've learned a bunch just by watching these channels.

This one's for you:


Anonymous said...

Great article, my friend. Are you tweeting? I mean like really you tweeting? And 2 u and readers, follow me! :-) @joller - base camp in CR.

Chris Simon said...

Hey KR: Interesting POV on Twitter. Fundamentally, my opinion unchanged since this article in UK coming up for a year ago. I was asked to write in London, when it was gaining popularity and had been allowing its original 160 characters:

I agree with a great deal of what you say, but I would hardly call Twitter new any more.

Fundamentally, it’s what you call irresistible tweet-friendliness that keeps you in the flow and, indeed, that has been around forever,(as you pointed out with texting).

Your FFF,(fast, focused and functional) principle is – of course – spot on, but I think there are many ‘layers’ to how you will dip in and ACT to authentic engagement with Twitter, as I predicted in my article last year.

Even being riveted by tweets, I think it will be hard for all of us to bolt those rivets into a real invention of the future. But it-or something like it-is already part of that future. However, instant messaging or IM has always been a part and I am not convinced that current ‘experts’ know how to properly position DPP over SAA. That’s my initials for ‘dinner party pratter’ over ‘story ambience appeal’.

Slicing into simultaneous tweets from friends, colleagues, acquaintances and strangers is absolutely no different to IM. It’s the bunches of ‘kind strangers’ that make the real difference. Like being ‘kind enough’ to solve a seemingly unsolvable problem or providing a useful link. And that’s just normal or standard micro-blogging.

But its here that makes Twitter or future versions of, the most integral for me. There are potentially millions of ‘kind strangers’ that can help with ‘real’ marketing. But of its other future, more personally, I’m interested in how Twitter is going to live on the corner of art and commerce. I’m not interested in people with 24 hrs a day spare to be petty, self involved and neurotic…..But boy, I’m interested in how to ‘entertain’ those people.

I think we all have different reasons for ‘being there’ and, currently, a very large part of the population are still caught up in its ‘celebrity’. A lot of those guys have inordinate slabs of time, literally with their fingers, just in a race for “Followers”….Any “Follower”.

To be honest-when I think Twitter-I think of millions of handsets and what millions of handsets have been capable of for a few years. What I’m really interested in right now is just one Tweet that rather than being disposable, makes history and becomes the one the whole world goes back to. A Tweet that remains defiantly popular even if Twitter were dead.

Your FFF of fast, focused and functional is accurate to a degree, but giving Twitter what it deserves with updates and any new APP contributions is very much like Facebook and that can almost be like a full time job. I think Open Brands and Social Brand Monitoring will become the norm and is, to a degree, already the norm across many spaces.

But, as you so rightly say, the mix of commentary, opinion, pointers and responses cannot and should not be ignored, just sorted out…

andrew weir said...

I've been playing around with Twitter.

It's fascinating.

I'm not sure precisely what role it will play in my life yet, but I'm enjoying watching it grow and evolve.