Arthur W. Page Society

Can you afford to ignore Twitter?

It has been quite a few weeks for Twitter. A $35 million funding round for a firm with 29 employees. More and more celebrities – from Lance Armstrong to Rachel Maddow and David Gregory to Britney Spears to Jamie Oliver – signing up. In the New York Times David Pogue’s glowing review, followed by last Saturday’s story on media Twitterers. A full page of the Financial Times devoted to an analysis of the phenomenon. Even Stephen Colbert had a segment on Congressmen twittering during President Obama’s State of the Nation address. This must be more than just the “tipping point” (to use another term that has been thrust into the cultural vernacular). Arguably, it’s a sign that this is more than just a fad, that it is a technology that’s here to stay. Or maybe it is just a fad, we’ll all get bored with it very soon and its demise will be as sudden as the ascendance has seemed to be. In either case, no matter how we feel about the apparent absurdity of telling the world what we are doing minute by minute 140 characters at a time, as communicators we ignore Twitter at our own peril.

The speed with which information circulates on Twitter, now coupled with the size of the Twitter user base (Pew says that as of December 11% of online Americans used Twitter or something like it) means that reputations can be won or lost even faster than before. And there are already examples – last November McNeil Laboratories, the manufacturer of Motrin, experienced the way that a reputational firestorm could explode on Twitter in less than 48 hours – as Neville Hobson describes here Motrin Moms. When US Air 1549 ditched in the Hudson the first photos from on the scene rescuers came on Twitter. Comcast uses Twitter to find unhappy customers – and proactively solve the service issue. The Tribune uses Twitter to have a dialogue with readers – and send them to its website throughout the day. (On Twitter? Follow Colonel Tribune.) As a new way for social networking and dialogue, Twitter seems to have struck a nerve and become yet another tool for communicators. The Authentic Enterprise pointed out that it’s up to us to empower employees in our organizations with new media skills, but first we need to try it for ourselves. If you’re not a Twitter user yet – join the conversation here. See you there.

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