The headline in The Township Journal for Byram, Newton, Andover and Stanhope here in semi-rural Northern New Jersey reads, “School thinking of tweeting”. According to the article, the Byram Township Board of Education wants to use Twitter to communicate what’s going on at the schools there, including the sharing of photos and Twitter-length descriptions of events and news. Since local government rarely acts as early adopters of any kind of technology, this proposal to the Board there highlights how well inserted Twitter as a medium appears for pushed communication.
Twitter started in 2006 as a way to “micro-blog” by allowing the posting of 140-character-length “Tweets” through the free service they provide. Using a web browser, smart phone or tablet, the Tweets can be read and particular accounts and topics of interest can be followed. With HP’s combination of their iPaq PDA with a phone around 2004, the use of smartphones accelerated until today, where 90% of all cell phones sold in the world are smartphones. In a rushed world where time is ultra-compressed, the miniature notices posted with Twitter are the ultimate hyper-update.
Although Twitter is used by everyone from the most ubiquitous Kardashian to the Pope, the content of Tweets can sometimes be downright silly. “Just had the new smoked brisket sandwich at Joe’s. It was awesome.” Such Tweets are probably more interesting from President Obama than from your third-cousin Lester, unless you happen to really like smoked brisket sandwiches and Joe’s happens to be nearby. And you happen to have a spare eight bucks because Joe’s is not cheap.
The question of whether an individual should Tweet is a personal one, but for a business or non-commercial organisation, Twitter can provide not only an easy way to connect with interested parties, but can help to raise the brand by providing, for free, a very valuable commodity – information.
Twitter is a push service, which means that all an end user has to do is exist to receive Tweets. The user can configure their Twitter account to text when there are new Tweets on accounts they’re following. There are Twitter apps for Android, iOS (Apple) and Windows portable devices and desktop tools for both Macs and PCs. Your website can be configured to stream your organisation’s Tweets in a sidebar.
So, what should your organisation Tweet, if anything, and how often? A user will follow your Tweets because of a specific interest. A tech site, like signalsurfer.com, tweets new articles and since much of the content is tech-related, it’s time-sensitive, therefore, getting a Tweet allows the user to read the article before it gets stale. Gizmodo.com does the same thing and the number of Tweets they push in a day can be overwhelming for the user but, since the user can decide what’s of real interest to them and since those Tweets are available to the user until theTweet-er deletes them, the user can always go back in the timeline of Tweets and reference things of interest.
The point of any Tweet should be that it’s entertaining or useful in some way. If you’re painting your office yellow this week, that’s grand, but, really, who cares? If, on the other hand, you are painting your office this week and you have clients coming in to visit, using Twitter to alert them in the case they have sensitivities to the smell of paint or the colour yellow is worthwhile. Using Twitter to broadcast messages that should be less public are a bad plan because Twitter is a broadcasting tool. Anyone can find and read non-private Tweets.
Using Twitter as a marketing and advertising tool is an easy way of letting customers know that there’s something special going on and it’s impulse oriented. Twitter can be used to push interested users to your site. It should go without saying that pushing the same message in the same way, over and over, is a great way to get un-followed. But, if you’re church, let’s say, with interesting guest speakers coming in on a weekly basis, Twitter is a great tool to keep the congregants informed. Is there a two-for-one at your detailing shop or spa? Tweet it and push the customer to an action page on your site to download a coupon or make an appointment. Are you in the hardware business? Keeping an eye on the weather and letting customers know there’s a storm on the way not only performs a service to the community but also lets you let them know that you still have generators in stock!
In short, if your organisation has something useful to say, adding Twitter to your communication toolkit is a very good idea.