Twitter is dominating the news lately—possibly even more since its 2013 IPO at a whopping $24 billion valuation. The sudden surge of interest is largely related to two factors getting significant media exposure: First, discussions in the financial and business world over whether the company will reach profitability by monetizing its 317 million active users worldwide. Second, whether this microblogging platform may have been instrumental in helping a well-known New York-born businessman become the most powerful person in the world.
Since its inception, Twitter has sparked debates, discussions, laughter and skepticism. The idea of cofounder Jack Dorsey—to launch a social media platform that only allowed 140 characters, including the letters and spaces, while naming these mini-news bleeps “tweets”—was, by any standard, a reach. Yet doubt as we might have, Twitter and tweeting were quickly adopted by people around the world. For many, it became, and still is, their go-to source for quick, searchable headline news, whether global, regional or local. It’s been credited with starting social revolutions—both literally and figuratively.
Twitter is the originator of the hashtag, that “#” sign in front of a phrase, word or acronym. The conceptual value of a hashtag is priceless in that it can be used to search for news about anything. This can include world events, gatherings, topics of personal interest, corporate developments, financial news, celebrity-watching, entertainment and more. The hashtag truly holds a “sky’s the limit” potential. There are hashtags for anything and everything imaginable, and people use them to find what interests them. For example, there was #Election2016 and there’s still #PokemonGo, #Brexit and #MotivationMonday along with #MondayBlues—plus things like #GameofThrones and #SelfieSunday! Many brands launch by attempting to create a trending hashtag and often this strategy aids their success.
When I started a Twitter account in 2007 as the platform first launched, it was due to the hard sell by my head of IT, who was confident that this would be “big.” What started out as a one-follower-at-a-time process for my companies and myself has grown into our own mini-news outlet that benefits me personally as well as our clients and friends, whom we often highlight in our tweets. But still I often wondered: Is the audience real?
I could see that our followers included some high-profile reporters from big news outlets. We also have “personalities” following us—ranging from none other than Mad Money’s Jim Cramer to Little Steven of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band! Then, of course, there are my friends, coworkers and clients—and recently, my 88-year-old mom. But who were the other multiple thousands of “followers” who keep adding daily to our growing cumulative audience? To answer this, we conducted TwitterAudits of my personal and multiple corporate accounts. I was pleasantly surprised—shocked, really—to learn that 93 percent of our more than 106,000 followers were “real” people! This is outstanding in a world where “followers”—albeit fake ones—can be purchased just to make someone feel or appear relevant (although this is not at all a recommended strategy).
While questions might abound regarding Twitter’s ultimate viability—the platform seems to be trailing in popularity with millennials behind Instagram and Snapchat—there is still a lot of value for those savvy enough to understand its worth.
Here are my five main takeaways for your consideration along with a last piece of advice regarding Twitter:
1) Twitter allows a direct line of communication. Anyone can see your tweets, and more of the people you seek to reach will find them if you learn to use hashtags together with your main messages. Think of the hashtag as a way you can categorize news in a noisy universe of more than 6,000 tweets per second; 350,000 per minute; and 500 million tweets per day.
2) You can directly reach your exact audience by searching their names to find their Twitter handle which looks like this: @X and is otherwise known as their Twitter address. For example, my Twitter “handle” is @DianGriesel. You can “tag” those you want to reach and fill the Tweet with a link to your content or send them direct messages. Either way, the followers of @DianGriesel (as per this example) will also see what you tagged me with.
3) The 140-character limit in the Twitter world aligns with overall attention spans. Did you know the average television commercial is only 15 seconds long? The point is: Learn to get to the point.
4) Choose your words carefully. Your audience will be trying to assess your mood. Speech experts have been able to determine whether a tweet came from the boss (or the President himself…) or from a social media manager assigned the job.
5) Overhauls—and overthrows—can occur in days versus years. Think about how quickly we are watching management teams at companies comply with or concede the need to listen not only to their customers but to the “CEO” of the United States as well. An unhappy online crowd or a single powerful voice—whether known as POTUS or advocate or influencer—can get resoundingly loud rapidly, if related counterparties aren’t carefully listening to the complaints and responding.
Now for my parting advice: Think very carefully before tweeting. Although you might be able to delete a hasty, ill-considered tweet from your feed…a strong likelihood remains—due to #RT (re-tweet) and #MT (modified tweet)—that it is still roaming around the Twittersphere.
The Twitter platform has G-Force potential, which helps explain why it still seems to be the preferred communication platform of that same New Yorker who harnessed its power to win the most powerful position on Earth.
May the Twitter force be with you. Use it wisely.
Dian Griesel, Ph.D. is an author, strategic visibility expert and President of DGI Comm a public relations firm that can help build corporate and/or personal thought leadership status.