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Twitter has had its share of validating moments. CNN and Ashton Kutcher competing to be the first Twitter account with 1 million followers. Or Oprah making her Twittersphere debut with an all-caps shout-out to, as she called them, her fellow “twitters.” Or the twittering of the first image of the downed US Airways jet in New York’s Hudson River.
By the June debut of the 140 Character Conference (#140Conf) in New York, few were surprised to see a two-day event devoted solely to Twitter, highlighting its “disruptive nature” and how it’s revolutionizing interactions with consumers.
Every speaker was an active twitterer—more important, they were using it to better their businesses. Even the music and sports industries—neither one considered a typical business—are facing marketplace challenges: Music lovers no longer want to pay for music; sports fans can no longer afford to attend every game.
The Internet may have allowed people to disconnect, said Xavier Jernigan (@xjernigan), director of digital marketing and strategy at Universal Motown Republic Group, but Twitter is helping them reconnect on a personal level. The record labels—if not the musicians themselves—have been in a decade-long spiral thanks to the digital-music revolution led by Napster. When music can be free, why pay for CDs? (They were soon rendered obsolete anyway by the digital transportability of MP3 players.) Musicians have had to change their strategies—beginning with the creation and development of a relationship with their fans.
Recording artist Jim Jones credits mobile technology for empowering musicians who are often touring from city to city. “Adoption,” he admitted, “wouldn’t have been as high if it wasn’t [mobile].”
Musicians are expected to be engaging and authentic; not all are. Jernigan cited one client who constantly twitters a hard sell in all capital letters. “Even I want to unfollow him,” he said, “and he’s my artist!”
When Ted Cohen, managing partner of digital-entertainment consultancy Tag Strategic (@TAGStrategic), wanted to get Norah Jones into blogging, he joked that the firm went as far as asking one of Jones’ truck drivers to be the ghostwriter for her blog before giving up on the effort. The moral? Don’t force it, but if you’re going to connect on social media, commit. “To brand the band,” Jernigan said, “each member should be on it.”
The sports industry echoed much the same sentiment. “Passion and community are what makes sports live,” said Kathleen Hessert (@kathleenhessert), president of Sports Media Challenge, a firm specializing in media-and-communications training. “Twitter is close to re-creating that passion.” Hessert should know: She’s the one responsible for bringing National Basketball Association (NBA) star Shaquille O’Neal (@The_Real_Shaq) and professional racecar driver Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) into the Twittersphere.
Though they cater to the pleasure zones of their consumers, the sports and entertainment industries are challenged to maintain relevance. “Our business does get its energy from our fan’s passion—however, passion doesn’t pay for tickets,” says Robert Rowell, president and general manager of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, in an interview with CRM. “We have to be as creative as any other industry when it comes to ways to get you to commit your time and money.”
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