Anne Holland

SherpaBlog: What to Do About Twitter: Love It, Test It or Leave It?

June 2nd, 2008

“I’m Twittered out,” one of my favorite bloggers posted last week. Like many early adopters, he got caught up on the Twitter craze, tweeting night and day for months.

And, then, the whole thing got old. Was it the inevitable cool-thing-cooled-off? Or was it just too much communication about oneself already? I’m thinking the latter.

Twitter has been around since 2006 and gained huge use among the cognoscenti in 2007. Rave reviews in The New York Times, Wired, etc., made everyone wonder if Twitter was the next big thing. Would tweets supplant email marketing? How about blogs? Or perhaps mass IMs?

To me, Twitter felt a lot like blogging in 2001 and email publishing in the mid-1990s. A text-only, uniquely personal way of publishing your thoughts and ideas to that special section of the universe that actually cared about them.

Will Twitter evolve to become a significant marketing medium just as email and blogging did? Currently the marketers I see testing it most are personality-driven gurus, the folks who use the Internet to build and maintain a fervent fan base who will buy anything with their name on it.

I suppose a few CPGs will jump in next, perhaps with celebrity tie-ins (“Sign up for Jessica Simpson’s Twitter feed sponsored by blah, blah, blah.”) And, it’s a natural for entertainment properties.

However, my advice for most marketers is to hold off from adding Twitter to your list of “must-do” tests for the time being. Don’t feel stressed out by yet another Internet marketing tactic you have to figure out on the run.

Nothing’s proven yet, and you can do a lot better with your budget and time (the latter the more important resource) by testing and optimizing any current marketing campaign online or off that’s responsible for 20% or more of your current responses or eyeballs.

Put your energy toward what’s working and what could work better before you launch tests into yet another newer Internet marketing idea. Especially in recessionary times when every response really matters.

But, before you do that, just take two minutes right now and surf over to Twitter to make sure that all your brand names (including company name and names of any celebrity execs) are signed up. You need to make that preemptive strike — take your names before some outsider decides to take them for a ride.

Also, if you haven’t already, do the same for YouTube, Flickr, Facebook product pages, etc., etc. It’s just like in 1996-7 when I used to advice companies to go get their own branded “dot-coms” before someone else bought their names out from under them.

Lastly, if you work for the type of company or boss who likes to be seen as cutting edge, consider signing up for your own personal Twitter (it’s free) and start tweeting a few friends. That way in the committee meeting or quarterly presentation when someone asks, “Hey, what are we doing with that Twitter thing?”, you can look like a humble hero, “Oh, I’ve been testing it out for a while now …”

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