Last week at a conference in Munich, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey confirmed what many have been saying for quite some time: Twitter is more valuable for monitoring and collecting information than a social conversation platform:
“We definitely see social as just one part of what people do on Twitter,” Dorsey said. “We think of it as an information utility and a communications network.”
On a weekly basis, I run into Twitter skeptics who still view Twitter as a microblogging tool that people use to post updates about mundane aspects of their lives. Part of that may be due to the fact that Twitter did largely start out that way. In fact, Twitter even initially asked the question: “What are you doing?” as the universal prompt on how to use the service. And millions of users responded in kind with tweets on the coffee they just purchased.
But as Twitter has evolved, so has its utility. I often counsel clients – especially those in the political and advocacy realm – that it is one of the most powerful real-time (and free) monitoring tools available. Depending on how your organization uses their Twitter account and the bevy of Twitter management tools out there, it can place a thumb directly on the pulse of your target community.
A contemporary example is how the current candidates for the GOP presidential nomination are using Twitter to monitor public discourse, opponents, as well as instant reaction during live events from the public and the media alike. They are using Twitter to shape news stories virtually as they are written. There is no longer a news “cycle”; events and reaction to those events are now instantaneous.
But before you can use Twitter effectively, if it important to shift how you view the platform. It is important that your entire approach – how you set up your account, who you follow, what software you use, your notification set up – is adjusted to reflect this reality.
At the same time, it is important to remember that Twitter is still a two-way platform. Your organization (and you) still have a role to play in terms of what you add to the at-large Twitter community and your target audience. You must ask yourself:
What kind of information do we want to put out on Twitter?
How does that help to achieve our internal goals and strategies?
Who is the voice that speaks on behalf of our organization?
Do we have the resources to monitor and respond to the conversation?
Who is responsible? What are their responsibilities?
In many cases, Twitter has such a small barrier to entry – all it takes is an e-mail address to set up an account and get started – that little forethought is given to how the account will be managed. So, if you are going to jump into the Twitterverse, it is important to define what you plan to get out of such an effort and how it aligns with your wider organizational objectives. You truly get out what you put in.
Twitter offers a river of information and insight on any number of topics. But to truly take advantage, you must recognize that Twitter has changed.