If Only Twitter Worked (Better)

In October, I’ll be at Forum CU’s Partnership Symposium — not as a speaker, but as host. My role will be to conduct and facilitate Q&A with the speakers (each speaker gets 40 min. max presentation time, with 20 min. Q&A). Truth be told, I’m more nervous about pulling this off than if I had to do a speech or presentation myself.

Part of the reason for my fear is that facilitating group Q&A with 100+ people is tough. In too many conferences, someone is trying to run around with a microphone. Not only does s/he never get there in time, but — to be blunt, here — some people just can’t seem to get to the point when asking their question (I’m not saying that they ask a question just to hear themselves talk, but…).

Forrester pulls it off nicely at their conferences by having attendees write their questions on 3×5 cards and passing them to analysts who (select and) read the questions from the back of the room. This isn’t a viable option for the Forum Symposium.

So here’s the brilliant idea I came up with. I’d create a twitter ID that attendees could send tweets to during the speaker’s presentation (nearly everyone there will either be familiar with Twitter or sitting next to someone who is).

After I opened with a few questions, we’d project the questions that attendees tweeted onto the screen, and I’d pick the best ones (and I’m sure some attendees won’t be shy about suggesting which ones I choose). We’d not only avoid the awkwardness of someone running around with a mike, but avoid excluding that really great question that could get excluded when Q&A is done the old-fashioned way.

After taking a few minutes to pat myself on the back for coming up with such a great idea, reality set in. Is Twitter reliable enough to pull this off? No. In fact, NFW (and to think that Twitter’s CEO has the gall to talk about monetization — get your product working first, bud, then you can worry about monetization).

Oh well, for me it’s back to the drawing board.

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The Importance Of Setting — And Understanding — Customer Expectations

A while back I wrote about how understanding customers’ expectations and how well those expectations are met are among the most important things marketers can know.

The importance of customer expectations has reared it’s head again. Listen to what my Twitter-buddy Mike Templeton had to say on his blog recently in a post titled Twitter Is Taking Too Long To Respond:

It sounds like more and more people are getting frustrated these days. I’ve been spending more time on Plurk as a result. I’ve given up on using twhirl right now because the limit on requests is so low it just takes too long to stay up to date.”

My take: First off, I think Mike’s hunch that he’s not alone in his “frustration” is right on. But, based on the rest of his comment, I can’t help but think: My, how quickly we forget!

Do we not remember what is was like before Twitter? When we didn’t have any way of conducting real-time group communication?

But now, Mike — and presumably many other people — aren’t satisfied because, as Mike puts it, “twhirl threw off their auto-leveling requests to the Twitter API.” What’s really driving their frustration is that Twitter isn’t working as they expect it to.

Expectations have changed. If we had never experienced near real-time updates, 60 second updates might seem like a miracle.

And this is why I get skeptical when I see marketing campaigns like Berkshire Bancorp’s “most exciting bank” and WaMu’s “Whoo hoo!”

They set expectations that those firms might not be able to live up to. And I can’t think of a worse marketing sin than not living up to the expectations set by your advertising and marketing efforts.

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What The Social Media World Needs Now

Twitter is slowly collapsing under the weight of the growing social media world. That this should happen is no surprise. What will happen next shouldn’t come as a surprise either. The history of business repeats itself over and over: General, all-purpose products and services slowly give way to targeted, segmented offerings.

That’s why I see a migration away from Twitter to a number of new highly specialized “micro-blogging” platforms. The platforms won’t be oriented along traditional segmentation lines — i.e., type of customer — instead, they will specialize by type of message.

Expect to see the following micro-blogging platforms emerge in the near future:

  • Bitter: For those whiny, emo messages where you just have to complain about something.
  • Mutter: For those incoherent messages that no one can understand.
  • Jitter: For those useless, caffeine-induced “I’m at Starbucks” messages.
  • Quitter: For those messages that say “OK, I’m heading home now.”
  • Gutter: For messages that contain curse words.

I imagine that there will be a few more, but my strategy will be to hang around Twitter and wait for everybody else to leave.

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Used to be, if you had a question about etiquette, you turned to Emily Post. But who do you turn to for expertise on Twitter etiquette?

I have some Twitter etiquette questions that I need answered. For starters:

How do you tell Twitter friends that their tweets are irksome, vexatious, nettlesome, and sometimes just plain irritating?

Maybe that’s not the right question. Maybe it’s “should” I tell these Twitter friends about how I feel in the first place? After all, they may have other Twitter friends who want to know that they’re currently spreading butter on their toast.

I know what you’re thinking: Just unfollow this person.

But it isn’t that just as offensive as telling them that their tweets are annoying? After all, for those of us who use Twitter to have conversations (as opposed to those Twits who seem to just want run up the total number of people that they follow, or worse — be followed by), the mutual act of following each other creates a kind of bond between two Twits.

In one regard, Twitter is a form of “permission” communication. By following you, I am permitting you to interrupt what I’m doing with your Tweets. And it’s the same when you follow me. Before I tweet, the unwritten/unspoken criteria for determining if a thought is tweet-worthy is “will this add to, or start, a conversation?”

I recognize that not everybody is going to use that criteria, and that I may have to compromise. But really, what’s going through someone’s head that makes them tweet every damn thing they do during the day? Are they that self-centered to think that somebody cares? Or just clueless?

And where is Emily Post when we need her?

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Tase Me, Bro

I’m hardly one to be on the leading edge of things. My favorite music is 35 years old. I heard someone mention the word “emo” the other day, and I assumed they were talking about Emo Phillips.

So it’s pretty amazing that I’m on the leading edge in that I not only know what Twitter is, and that I not only use Twitter, but that I’m among the first people on the planet to suffer from a new Twitter-related affliction called TASTE (Twitter Addiction Syndrome for the Technology Enabled).

Like cholesterol, there’s Good Taste and Bad Taste. Good Taste is very rare, and tends to be found only among us Twitterers over the age of 40. Afflicted Gen Yers pretty much all have Bad Taste. Gen Xers, many of whom are paranoid that they suffer from Bad Taste (not to mention from paranoias regarding government conspiracies), generally have no Taste at all.

How do you know if you have Bad Taste? Here are some of the warning signs:

  • You’ve downloaded Tweetr, Snitter, Twhirl, and two other Twitter client apps, to your desktop — and run all at the same time to see which performs betters and keeps you from missing any tweets from your Twitter peeps.
  • You say good morning and good night more often to your Twitter friends than to your spouse and/or children.
  • Putting milk in your coffee is tweet-worthy.
  • You spend 5 minutes editing a tweet to fit it into the 140-character limit.
  • You announce your new Twitter friends to your existing ones so they can welcome to the new Twit to the twitosphere.
  • You think there’s a single person on the planet who gives a rat’ s ass that you’re [at the airport/in a hotel/at Starbucks]. (Unless you’re one of my daughters, in which case I want to know where you are every freaking second of the day).

Because scientists believe that Bad Taste will become a widespread affliction among the Twitterati, I’m pleased to announce the formation of TASE (Twitter Affliction Support Environment). Simply tweet “Tase Me, Bro” to @tasemebro, and a trained team of Twitter-trained counselors will rush to your aid to help you come down off the ledge, and help you cope with your Twitter addiction.

Together, we can cure Bad Taste in our lifetimes. And remember, I’m not just the President of TASE — I’m also a patient.

(Personal note to my Twitter friends: Any resemblance of the behaviors described above to any of your behaviors is purely coincidental).

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If I Ran Twitter

If I ran Twitter, the prompt wouldn’t be “What are you doing?”

Because, honestly, and with no offense to my Twitter friends, I don’t care what they’re doing. I don’t care that they’re at a Starbucks working, I don’t care that they’re eating oatmeal for breakfast, I don’t care that they’re at an airport, I don’t care that they’re playing soccer, and I don’t care if they’re playing Xbox.

If I ran Twitter, the prompt would be “What are you thinking?”

That’s what I want to know from my Twitter friends. What did you just read that sparked your interest, or ticked you off? What nugget of data crossed your desk today that you found surprising? What’s your reaction to the latest news about … whatever? What’s your mood right now? Why?

That’s what I would do if I ran Twitter — change the prompt. Because what my Twitter friends are doing doesn’t generate conversation. How am I supposed to respond to “I’m at a Starbucks working”? With “Oh wow! I once worked from a Starbucks, too!”? I don’t think so.

What my Twitter friends are thinking and feeling generates conversation. And that is — by far and away — the most valuable thing about what Twitter does.

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