What’s All the Tweet About Twitter?

What is Twitter? It’s a PR tool, it’s a marketing tool, it’s an advertising tool, it’s a networking tool, it’s all things to all men (sorry ladies). It’s the new WOM gadget that’s getting lots of attention. It’s a new kind of instant messaging that gives you the opportunity to follow anyone. Yes, anyone. Why wouldn’t you want to use this networking tool to your advantage?

I recently worked in an office downtown near Queen and Spadina and every time a Tweet came in, my boss’s computer would ping and then twit like a bird, as if someone had just poked Tweety. I got used to it after a while, but at first, it felt like I was working in an aviary.

And I remember one day, we were in a meeting and there were messages coming in about a fire and we looked at each other puzzled, not knowing what they were talking about. Until I left and drove past the last remaining buildings being pulled down on Queen Street. So it made me wonder how effective is it really? Is the 140-character limitation stunting the level of communication? Are users adept enough to master that kind of brevity? And why do I need to know it’s bathtime for junior?

I decided to put my search engines to the test and see what they could tell me about Twitter and how it’s revolutionizing the world of PR.

Press releases now include Twitter links in the contact line so you can follow the progress of campaigns and stay up-to-date on the activities of PR firms. There’s an example on PR Press Release Newswire

Austin News out of Texas mentions a few advantages of Twitter: AMD Public Relations Manager Scott Carroll says, “‘It’s instant messaging on steroids, so instead of me just talking to you, it’s me talking to my entire community at once.’ AMD uses Twitter as a way to stay connected to its customers. ‘It’s very easy, sort of on the fly. Call it jazz marketing, if you will. We start twittering, and people are finding out about this,’ said Carroll.”

For Edelman PR’s Senior Vice-President, Steve Rubel, the easy, quick, simplicity of the Twitter tool got the better of him and he word-of-mouthed off about PC magazine. His tweet, I have a free sub but it goes in the trash sparked a rebuttle from PC Magazine’s Editor in Chief, Jim Louderback and whether or not he should boycott Edelman. Despite its size and its 140-character limitation, this Twitter tool has power and is a potential danger. It’s as if some PR agency specializing in crisis communications or reputation management put this tool on the market just to boost their client roster.

NYU Journalism Professor and columnist for the Guardian, UK, Jeff Jarvis says he sees Twitter as “an important evolutionary step in the rise of blogging.” He mentions Ana Marie Cox, “the former Wonkette blogger and queen of the snarky political post, has been using Twitter to cover the US primaries for Time.com.” She refers to Twitter as a “hack’s haiku.” I can see myself months from now, sitting at a news conference tweeting my boss every time one of our key messages are used.

Web strategist and Forrester Senior Analyst Jeremiah Owyang describes Twitter as “like blogging, just on a miniature scale. Twitter is a next-generation instant messaging tool, where users can blast messages to their network, send private messages, or search.”

He lists these advantages for Twitter users:

Event Integration
Savvy brands and individuals are using Twitter to keep event attendees up to date on virtual and real life events. Use for events that use live streaming, live blogging, or attention to speeches are helpful. For example, during the Web 2.0 expo, I was live streaming the event via Ustream. I used Twitter to tell my network who and where I was, keeping them up to date. There are many other use cases that have not been documented such as using Twitter for project management, global travel, and even financial alerts.

Pebble Strategy
Recently, I announced my job change on Twitter, I dropped a series of “pebbles” (tweets) explaining my move, why I’m leaving. Dozens of users responded back to me, “congrats @jowyang” which promoted their network to see what I was talking about (they could visit my profile page to see what I said), building more interest. Finally, I linked to the blog post URL of my announcement in Twitter, and I received 91 comments on the first day. For more information, read Want Waves? Drop a pebble.

And offers this advice: 

Best Practices
The savvy Twitter user realizes that the effective communications aren’t just “pushing” content to readers, but they will also dialogue and converse with others by replying to them. I use this tool as a global chat room, responding to others, building relationships, and listening in. Like blogging, the rule of anti-marketing marketing is required for success, engage your community. Unlike traditional forms of advertising and marketing, Twitter is “opt-in” meaning that users will “follow” a twitter account, abuse will result in a user unsubscribing. For rules of engagement read Brian Oberkirch’s Advanced Twitter: Dont Tweet Like a n00b.

The geeks are going crazy with this Twitter and hundreds of tools and mashups are being generated. FranticIndustries, a blog written by Stan Schroeder, a pro journalist and web entrepreneur, lists dozens of links to Twitter tools and mashups, such as Twitter maps, FickrMixr, TwitterEarth, Twitterer, Twitteroo, Twitterlicious, Twitteriffic, Twitterbuzz, Twitterfeed and Twitterholic.

So, there you have it — lots of information about Twitter. If you want to investigate some more, check out the links. These guys really know what they’re talking about.

For more information on how to use Twitter, visit Webware and a Newbie’s guide to Twitter, How to Use Twitter on YouTube orHubspot’s How to Use Twitter for Marketing and PR.

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