Twitter Plays its Cards Close to the Chest

Two companies are in the news lately — Apple (how we love to root for the underdog to then look to tear them down), and Twitter. After the brief announcement on the social network, the headlines# about the Twitter's IPO started flying is all kinds of directions.

Of course, given we're talking about the market, the main consideration is profit. I do like Twitter Cards# for Web and mobile clients, the new way to attach media experiences to Tweets that link to your content. It will be available in 7 flavors.

Twitter is not for everyone

When we polled the audience about personal participation in social networks at a recent event on the future of social, most of the hands went up at the mention of Facebook (qualifiers came immediately after: it's because my family and old friends use it was the most common). Twitter was a distant second, and mostly for monitoring brand conversations.

Outside of this blog, I do like and use Twitter most to connect with people and share what I'm thinking about. In fact, I pulled together many of the posts written over the years for the social network's 7-year anniversary.

They might provide some context for those of you still on the fence about Twitter's usefulness.


After waiting a respectable period of time to see if it would survive, I
created my first account on Twitter at the beginning of October 2007.

I was going to write a long-ish post about Twitter 7-year anniversary. Then I thought of all the posts I have written about the social network over the years.

The highlights for your enjoyment, in chronological order.

Twitter for Business

Is it Time for Corporations to get a Twitter Presence (November 2007)

Twitter is an interesting tool. Imagine you have an advisory council who will give you feedback on things that are of interest to them (note the emphasis on *them*). Then wrap around that concept the thought of community. And voila', you have some sense of what the advantage could be. How you employ this force is up to you.

My advice (see if it stands the test of time):

  1. Stay relevant
  2. Speed counts
  3. Facilitate conversation
  4. Get your idea out simply
  5. "Relative" anonymity can be good for business to build relationships
  6. Nobody "makes" you share
  7. Get the pulse of what is going on

Your customers are becoming more and more comfortable sharing more than
just their opinions online. They've been researching products and
services and are now happily finding alternatives that fit their needs.
Do you really want to ignore the ways in which they may express their
opinions about what you offer?


Business Uses for Twitter (August 2008)

1. Have a presence in a channel where your customers could be
2. Try new ideas in a space where you will likely receive feedback
3. Give the community of other users a way to see your business personality

Still very much applicable. 


You're on Twitter, Now What? (February 2009)

Social_twitterThis post got a lot of play as it was tweeted by Mashable at the time. It's still one of the top searches at Conversation Agent.

Companies and organizations generally join for slightly different reasons. Some of which are:

  • competitors are there
  • agency said it was a good idea
  • everyone is talking about it
  • opened an account to reserve company name
  • and more…

However, once people sign up as representatives of an organization,
especially if that company does not have a clear idea of what they are
trying to accomplish, people tend not to participate actively. One of
the reasons might be that Twitter does not scale well in commercial
terms before your stream becomes a string of commerce.


A couple of posts where I track content on Twitter, complete with charts:

Twitter: Macro Insights from Micro Interactions (April 2009)

The Twitter @ConversationAge Effect (February 2010)


Twitter as Customer Service Channel

The Other Story on Twitter Tuesday: Best Buy and Laughing Squid (December 2007)

Laughing_squid_logoAnother storm was brewing on Twitter Tuesday, and it was courtesy of
Best Buy. Although the company later apologized in writing, their legal
department took the initiative to send Scott Beale of Laughing Squid a cease and desist letter for running a picture of a t-shirt which parodied their brand. Scott had been Tweeting the whole affair…

I concluded the post peppered with screen shots with a parting question:

If those tools are available to customers, why wouldn't companies use
them as well? Conversation is always preferable to taking positions.


Comcast Cares on Twitter (May 2008)


It looks like Comcast is learning to have customer conversations. That is extremely good news. I found Frank Eliason (yes, he is real) on Twitter
last night as I was catching up with my network. I added Frank's stream
to the ones I follow because I was curious to find out more.

What I have seen so far is pretty bold:

  • specific troubleshooting
  • email resources – helping people with some changes they've made in the way their servers handle mail
  • live modem diagnostics
  • information on new features
  • a human voice, apologizing for snafus, even admitting "I do not know" and hopefully going to find out

Last August I wrote a post at Fast Company
expert blogs about Comcast that got a lot of comments. The post was
voicing how a huge organization has tremendous difficulty dealing with
customers, even through the channels they designated – namely a simple address and name change request and inquiries about pricing.

The company's recent (looks like April 6, 2008) move on Twitter is a step in the right direction – that of customer conversations.


And that it was… soon to be followed by many more.


Top Customer Service Accounts on Twitter (August 2010)

Based on execution, not (self)promotion, I took a closer look at how
many of the customer service accounts on Twitter are doing to share the
top examples with you. The criteria for vetting were:

  1. answering customer questions in real time — in
    other words, they have the support of the organization to be problem
    solvers, and not just to point to policies and disclaimers
  2. thinking about customers first — which means,
    navigating the line between company rules and customer needs with skill.
    It will come as a shocker to many of you, putting a "customers first"
    tagline is a tiny step if you don't walk the talk
  3. orienting customers on what the account is about — often you can tell the level of thoughtfulness from the bio alone

customers want is a reliable and responsive contact for when things are
not going so well. However, to work as part of an integrated marketing program, customer service in social should be fair.


Twitter, the Social Network

Twitter is a Social Network (November 2008)

Twitter encourages and engages certain features of our nature that are essential to our social lives. It also helps visualize social patterns and regularities, which humans are very good at picking up.

  • the adaptive
  • the imitative
  • the cooperative

People cannot be understood in isolation, and then summed together.
Social reality emerges inherently from the collective patterns
born of their interactions. Twitter is a map of several social networks
that intersect and overlap long enough to give us a glimpse of threads
appearing in other quasi conversations.


Twitter Brings Interactions to Events (March 2009)

Or the famous live tweeting.

Benefits to having a back channel:

(1) listeners tend to focus more if they want to share it;
(2) they will share more content with attendees and non attendees;
(3) so that many more can participate not just with questions, but by bringing new information to the conversation.

Perhaps the sweet spot for me would be to share information with those who could not attend.

As a keynote speaker and conference attendee, Twitter has been part of the experience for years.


Twitter and Google Aren't at War (November 2009)

To me, it's not a choice between one and the other – it's about integration.

  • Twitter is great for discovering what people are talking about.
  • Google Reader is great for discovering what they think.

Using Google Reader and Twitter together frees you from using Twitter's
clunky search tools or having to watch your stream in real time.

Look at the date — same discussion, different year.


Twitter and Community

Kaizen and Blogging (July 2009)

The Twitter chat I founded, among the first ones. Still going strong as #kaizenbiz.

The principles that guided me:

  • Micro productivity can lead to macro results when applied persistently and patiently.
  • Focus on the people – readers are your customers, be in service to them.
  • Focus on the process and not the results.
  • Doing the right thing.


Also see My Twitter Interview on Conversation and Community (July 2009).


Twittertales, the eBook (November 2009)

would have been a terrific opportunity for Twitter to embrace the
community, instead of trying to launch an initiative with the very same
name I had already done.

Instead, Twitter never acknowledged the crowdsourced connection stories.


Twitter and TV

Twitter is the Modern TV (April 2010)

What's a valuable tweet? In the client they built, PARC and MIT address topic-based browsing:

  • Topic relevance: Users particularly appreciated tweets
    relevant to their interests. They empowered this approach in the Eddi
    prototype, described in the paper.
  • Tie strength: Users made sure to read tweets by
    strong ties and individuals of particular interest. This approach lends
    credence to the tie-strength design taken by Eric Gilbert in WeMeddle
  •  Serendipity: Some users followed accounts that were
    far from their usual social circles or interests, simply because the
    person’s tweets were interesting. These users deliberately increased the
    amount of “noise” in their feed for the reciprocal opportunity to find a
    needle in the haystack.

I concluded that integration was the best approach.


Twitter and Media

Twitter Lists Reveal Interests of Followers (July 2010)

Where I talked about how mainstream media was starting to use lists to break news, aggregate content, etc.


The Stream Comes First (March 2011)

I provided an example of citizens as media during the Japan Earthquakes
and Tsunami as well as the community fundraising initiative at

It is about both/and — watching and doing. That is the future of news — and of business.


There were at least 7 things that could have killed Twitter and didn't. Infrastructure was one of them — remember the Twitter Fail whale?

Many of us laughed together about it.


[edited from archives]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover
the value of promises and its effect on relationships and
. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.