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Twitter-dee, Twitter-dumb?

Twitter cartoonDo you twitter? It’s a question I recently posed on my facebook account. Only a handful even knew what Twitter was…only three actually admitted to having a Twitter account.

Twitter is a really neat free social utility tool – it essentially allows you to post very short messages about what you are currently doing RIGHT NOW to the Twitter website – which you can personalize. This is very similar to creating status updates on MSN messenger or facebook…or even setting up email or SMS auto-replies.

The neat thing about Twitter is that you can follow somebody’s Twitter in many ways – either through a website (by visiting their site), as an update on your IM, as a SMS alert, RSS, or email. Think of it as micro-blogging – or blogging for people who don’t have enough to say to actually blog… or for people who want to say a few things but don’t want to create an entire blog posting around it.

Twitter phrylI created my own Twitter account and admit i’m struggling to really find a use for it. After investing significant time in building my social equity on facebook, why do i need a separate social utility tool for status updates when facebook already does this automatically to my network of friends? Do i really want to tell people what i’m up to all the time? Do people even care? Will people accept my invitation to join Twitter in a lame attempt to make my twitter page more popular? I’m thinking the answer is no to all of the above.

Having said that, some people have said that Twitter has become a hot newswire – industry insight and news is sometimes available through a Twitter feed before it hits the blogs or news pages. I guess that’s important for some industry people…but does anybody else really care if they hear about industry news 3 hours before they read it in their RSS newsreader? One sign that Twitter has become a hit is the fact there are lots of imitations now available globally – like Pownce, Jaiku and Dodgeball.  Wikipedia reports that there are over 100 knock-offs of Twitter now. It seems like instant messaging 2.0 has arrived. 

As marketers, how do we leverage this channel to reach our audiences and deliver messages? If you are marketing an established personality (or trying to create one), this is an interesting space to play in. Celebrities and politicians have setup their own Twitter pages in order to connect with a younger audience. U.S. presidential candidate Obama has his own Twitter page here.

In previous blog posts I’ve discussed the idea around “Identity 2.0” or creating a way for people to manage their online profiles centrally so that they don’t need to manage multiple accounts or create new ones when they want to join new communities. I would suggest the same thing is or will be needed for micro-blogging to go mainstream.  Wouldn’t it be great if somebody created a widget that automatically updated my status on all my channels? In this scenario all I would do is create a status update on facebook and watch (or not) as the widget automatically publishes my status to Twitter, Pownce, MSN Messenger, my RSS feed, personal website, blog,  or email. I reference facebook because it’s easy, it’s already there and there is already huge social equity in the platform.  

If Twitter can build more social equity beyond the early adopter tech / celebrity / politician communities, it has a great chance of being really useful. The best way to do this will be through real integration with facebook, myspace, and all other social networking tools

UPDATE 10/07: IF you actually click on the Twitter settings within facebook, you can have Twitter automatically update your facebook status. Sweet!