Mashable and TIME’s Twitter failure

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2009/10/01 · 15 comments 38,176 views

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brand logo Time

    “As Twitter grows, it will increasingly become a place where companies build brands, do research, send information to customers, conduct e-commerce and create communities for their users. Some industries, like local retail, could be transformed by Twitter …”

Below we discuss why TIME’s predictions (see above) are just plain wrong and why Mashable may have erred as well.

1. Hyper-Local Marketing – NOT
One TIME expert states that every small business has now the chance to use Twitter for marketing purposes, thereby reaching a larger audience.

Maybe some folks would like tweets about specials from their grocer, but I prefer talking with him for five minutes when I shop at his place every Saturday. This conversation will be enriching as we have a laugh or two.

2. Making Old-World Advertising Work – NOT really
Here TIME states: “It takes only a few seconds for a Twitter user to indicate by texting that he has seen an outdoor ad or newspaper display message.”

Why would I want to take the time? Plus, the future is meta tags that work with my mobile phone. Does this mean that since it is not yet widely used in the US (it’s huge in Japan), TIME journalists have not heard about it?

Bonus Tip: Read WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell’s assessment of the advertising industry’s woes.

3. Turning Wall Street on its Head – NOT
TIME states that, “At some point, Federal Government agencies like the SEC will have to examine how Twitter users access the service to spread information about public companies.”

Twitter has been, and continues to be, used for sharing information about stocks and investing. But, so are newsboards, email newsletters, blogs and chat rooms. Just another technology… and yes, either the SEC or another agency may want to monitor it.

Surely, this will not turn Wall Street on its head?

4. Making Blogs Count – NOT because of Twitter
“… and Twitter will give content operations with limited numbers of employees and small distribution budgets access to hundreds of thousands of Twitter users based on the community’s views of the merit of their content.”

Twitter works if your network is impressive and people really want to read your top notch tweets. More likely is that your content will end with just a couple of votes or re-tweets, if that.

It is far more effective to have your customers subscribe to your blog‘s feed via email (by the way, 80 percent of corporate types still prefer email) or RSS

So please keep ahead of the trends and sign up with your email address right now for our weekly news:

5. The Future of Twitter – NOT improving margins
image - list of 10 celebrity accounts according to TIME staffYes, ever more Fortune 500 companies have Twitter accounts followed by many, such as @DellSMbizoffers.

Dell will likely send its followers a discount offer or code for some of its products over the weeks. But, does this increase sales or just cannibalize Dell’s full price channel?

Bonus Tip: Corporate Twitter – how it works.

Lessons to be learned
Our 60-second response to the above is:

Lesson 1 => Twitter is not scalable – I don’t care what people say, if you follow more than 150 people you cannot possibly be

    – reading all tweets carefully,
    – responding while also,
    – getting your work done, and
    – having a rich social life.

Bonus Tip: Our benchmark @ComMetrics = getting 10 percent click-through rates for our links.

Lesson 2 => Twitter neither allows you to have a conversation nor a relationship with all your followers – Just because Jeff Swartz (CEO, Timberland Company) is tweeting about his life and the social issues he is passionate about does not mean his customers have a conversation or a relationship with him.

Bonus Tip:  Deutsche Bank’s Josef Ackermann and UBS’ Oswald Grübel decided not to tweet but instead continue improving their bank’s risk management.

Bottom line
Twitter can help with customer service, as @comcastcares successfully demonstrates, but the root of the customer-care problem lies elsewhere and is not necessarily dealt with through Twitter.

Twitter does offer opportunities,  BUT the TIME magazine folks are wrong by claiming it will revolutionize American business. In his post 4 Ways Social Media is Changing Business, Mashable’s expert Soren Gordhamer may have erred as well. The fundamentals, such as better value for money, remain constant, with or without Twitter.

We believe that the corporate blog is a great tool for developing a listening strategy that is actionable. Even better is that it allows for integrating social and virtual events, while copyright and control over content stays with the company, in contrast to Facebook, Ning and Twitter.

Of course, benchmarking and comparing your corporate blog’s performance to successful competitors is critical.

More resources on Twitter, benchmarking and scalability for corporate users:

Got an idea? Leave a comment! We love to hear your thoughts: how do you think Twitter will change how companies do business? Here is a chance for anyone with first-hand knowledge (this means you!) to share any lessons learned.

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