When man invented the wheel, it made long-distance travel a lot easier, and perhaps a bit more fun. Jack Dorsey’s creation of Twitter had a similar effect: It made talking to the world a lot easier and a whole lot more fun. With over two million subscribers to date, Twitter is forging its way as one of many social media platforms, becoming a noun, adjective, and verb in our everyday vernacular. What started out as something fun and cool, recalls Paul Greenberg, president of consultancy The 56 Group and one of this year’s Influential Leaders, soon became a tool with tremendous business value.
And it’s not just for the software vendors and other techies: Companies from Baskin-Robbins to JetBlue to Comcast have a public presence on Twitter, tracking themselves among the millions of voices, joining the conversation, and creating a convenient way to resolve disputes. Twitter also means that public announcements about the latest product launch or white paper require less overhead, cost, or noise—a PR rep’s dream come true. And Twitter allows users to build a bonding (albeit digital) relationship; a fellow Twitterer can evolve from a trusted resource to a trusted person—or “tweep,” in the parlance. (See “CRM on Twitter.”)
Perhaps what’s most appealing about Twitter is its convenience. Greenberg himself uses Twitter via products for his Outlook (OutTwit), for voice Tweets (TwitterPhone), his Apple iPhone (Hahlo 3.1), and his MacBook (Twhirl). While it may seem like a lot of disparate solutions, the appeal is actually in its wide availability and comes down to simply using the solution according to the medium.
“This is not a giant revolution that’s transformed everything in the world, but it has changed a lot,” Greenberg says. Twitter is perpetuating a conversation—one that extends to however many people you choose. “You have complete control,” he says. “The only thing interesting about technology at all is that it gives you control over things you wouldn’t have otherwise
The fact that Twitter often suffers system overloads—represented by its ironic (and iconic) mascot, the Fail Whale—is likely an indication that it’s on its way to becoming mainstream, reaching capacities the creators never expected. Frustrated users who leave for other social media solutions—FriendFeed, for one, is gaining notice—often come back, Greenberg says. But, of course, “mainstream” is a relative term as users of social media—namely the affluent, tech-savvy population—only make up a small portion of the world’s six billion. But for now, it’s enough to impact business strategy and the way people communicate; the growth doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. As Greenberg says, “Who doesn’t like to be doing cool things?”
To read about the rest of the 2008 Rising Stars, click here.
To read about the full 2008 CRM Market Awards, click here.
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