Social media is the rage on the Internet these days. Facebook, MySpace, Linked In, Digg, etc. are some of the most talked-about services on the Web. And what they all have in common is that they epitomize Web 2.0 Ė where the consumer provides the content, and the service simply provides the ingenious platform that delivers it in a compelling, cohesive manner.
Perhaps the hottest of all these services today is Twitter. Just this week, Twitter raised $35 million in a second round of venture funding, bringing the total investment in the company so far to $55 million. Not bad for a service that has no revenue, and is only now promising to reveal its revenue model for the future. (Seems like deja vu for those of us old enough to remember the late 90s dot-com bubble.)
What is so special about Twitter to generate such investor confidence? Itís hard to say. So hard that New York Times technology columnist David Pogue needed more than 1,000 words to explain it last week in "Twitter? Itís What You Make It". Itís a Web site that letís users broadcast very short messages Ė 140 characters max Ė to anyone who has signed up to receive them. And the people who receive them can write back. Itís like a cross between a blog and a chat room, with some whimsical design and marketing, i.e., the 140-character messages are called Tweets.
Individuals sign up and post, and others sign up to ďfollow them,Ē which means receive their posts. And your screen fills up in a long scroll of posts from those that you follow, in chronological order. And in addition to your Twitter page, the messages can be delivered to your cell phone or to an independent desktop application on your PC.
The key to what Twitter might do for your business is this: not every Twitterer (my name for a broadcaster) is an individual. In fact, many of the most interesting are not. Businesses have accounts. Causes have accounts. Publications have accounts. Brands have accounts. Rock Bands have accounts. Even The Office of the President of the United States has an account. And they pump out regular messages of interest to their followers, and try to encourage a dialog.
So hereís my quick advice: if you think your audience might be on Twitter (users increased 10-fold last year), and if they are (or could be) passionate about some aspect of your business, then Twitter might be a tool to use to connect with them, share information with them, and get their feedback. Right now itís all free, so your only cost is the time and attention it takes to write interesting 140-character messages several times a day.
If you think this is something that might work for your business, and would like to discuss further, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.