5.05.2009

Is Twitter the soup du jour?

Funniest movie ever. Hands down. But when things are truly funny, truly memorable, it's not because they're dumb.... it's because they're smart.

There's a funny thing happening right now in public relations consulting. We've become the de facto owners of social media outreach for our clients. Which is a good thing. A smart thing.

Not only do PR professionals have the right skill subset for the job (fast typing, caffeine addicted, occasionally snarky, glued to our laptops and iPhones), but the category of "public" relations is actually the appropriate place to house strategies and tactics which engage the public.

The funny thing .... which may or may not be a smart thing, depending on your perspective ... is that social media is on a super-cycle, an accelerated timeline, a bubble of a growth curve. And we all know about bubbles, don't we?

The cornerstone of social media is blogging, aka "reverse chronological participatory web journalism", and it really hasn't changed much since it came on the scene in the late 1990s. The form and the intent has remained almost exactly the same. The only difference is in the players.

As media megabrands, paid authors, celebrities and ...yes ... advertisers have descended into the blogosphere, independent bloggers have gone deeper underground to find a more equitable place, a place where each voice actually counts as one. A place called Twitter.

I love Twitter. I'll admit it. For anyone with a sniff of marketing in their bones, it's a no-brainer. It's fast, it's effective, it's democratic, and Jesus ... who are these people?

Public relations RFPs now come with Twitter requirements as a standard part of the package. They ask for Tweet-strategies, and they beg for quantifiable numbers of the thousands of followers you'll attract .... which is a little like asking two college freshmen how much beer they think they could drink in a million years.

The funny thing about Twitter, though, is that it's the soup du jour. In the last two weeks, I've read about it in the New York Times, heard about it on Howard Stern and our local Vermont WDEV, and been asked about it by my mom.

Yes, Twitter is a natural part of public relations in May of 2009. Yes, it's an essential component of social media outreach this year. But it's only one part.

The truth is that while Twitter might be around as long as blogging, it might also be tracking like the shorter-cycled MySpace. Or it might die as fast as it has grown.

Twitter could be gone by next year, by next fall, or even by next month. And if it does go away to the great Compuserve graveyard in the IT department, what will your public relations strategy look like then?

"Mmm, I'll have that."

2 comments:

  1. Twitter as a platform might be ephemeral, but the basis for Twitter's success...storytelling + network effects will be with us forever. It's just the Iliad only with more bandwidth.

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  2. I think most people underestimate Twitter as a publishing platform. It's not necessarily social (read: friends, family, chatty) like Facebook (which of course has other applications too). What it is is an effective news feed, a way to get information out to a varied bunch of people to make it relevant. It also works well for real time conversations (as opposed to more static blog or message board comments). And who knows what other ways it can be used. The initial perception of Twitter was that it was a way to update on every mundane thing you do... that's a waste of its potential. The NY Times had a story about how Twitter only has a 30 percent retention rate (as opposed to 70 for FB). I posit that's because so many of those new users don't really get that Twitter works best as a professional tool, rather than a friends and family fun thing. They think it's going to be Facebook on speed, but it's not. Followers aren't friends.

    A big question, I think is when does social media exhaustion set in? Remember how we all went nuts over email when we first got it? Then it became work. Then we all started blogging? Then it became work. Social media will become (or already is) work too right?

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