It is always amusing to me the way Hollywood studio executives regard advances in digital technology.
Witness the most recent statements about Twitter, a micro-blogging service whose user base has exploded over the past year.
Just a few months ago, the sages of Hollywood were saying that Twitter was killing the movie business when BRUNO dropped like a rock. This past weekend PARANORMAL ACTIVITY did well at the box office and was a top trending topic on Twitter. Now, many will surely conclude that Twitter is saving Hollywood.
In a recent Patrick Goldstein column in the LA Times (“Is the ‘TwitterEffect on box office just big media hype?”) an unnamed studio marketing chief gives his words of wisdom on Twitter with the following pronouncement: “Twitter isn’t a marketing tool, it’s an observational tool. What it is really useful for is to eavesdrop in on a number of private conversations about a movie.”
Here is what is most striking about this statement: his unnamed studio marketing chief does not even understand how Twitter actually works. There are no PRIVATE conversations on Twitter, because all conversations on Twitter are PUBLIC. And that makes all the difference about whether or not you regard Twitter as a marketing tool.
SO WHAT IS TWITTER?
Twitter is a free service that enables its users to send and read messages called tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters that appear on the creator's profile page and are sent to his/her subscribers, known as followers.
These posts also appear on a public timeline and are available through search. Users can post to Twitter using its website,via SMS or by using any number of applications such as TweetDeck or Seesmic. Users can post tweets by using any computer, any phone, from anywhere and at any time.
Many Twitter users also employ free URL shortening services such as bit.ly. This allows them to stay within the 140 character limit while sending text and a link to a video, a photo, a blog or a website. Twitter employs what is called an asymmetric follower system. This creates four kinds of potential follow relationships.
1. I follow you.
2. You follow me.
3. We follow each other.
4. Neither one of us follows the other.
Under each follow relationship (even the non-follow ones), I am able to read your posts and you are able to read mine. As a result Twitter is a network where one user publishes to many, which in the grand old days of television was known was a BROADCAST network.
HOW DO PEOPLE USE TWITTER?
Currently I follow 278 people and 309 follow me at @chrisdorr. I have tweeted 545 times. My Twitter use is much less than many and much more than some in all three categories. I follow people who
inform me about topics that interest me, who entertain me and some who just fascinate me: @TedHope, @akstanwyck, @nickdemartino, who keep me informed about independent film,
@fredwilson, @techcrunch, @gigaom, who keep me up to date on the bleeding edges of technology, @mitchjoel, @chrisbrogan, @mashable, who follow trends in social media, @nytimeskristof, whose commentaries on the world I find insightful and @arjunbasu, who regularly writes short stories with no more than 140 characters that are often hilarious.
Though I know some of these people, I do not know most of them. I feel a sense of obligation to those who follow me, most of whom I also do not know. I try to provide them with something of value. Much of what I tweet is re-tweeted from someone else, to whom I always give an attribution by using RT@ followed by their username. Most people do the same. It is highly likely that you are reading this blog because someone sent you a tweet or a re-tweet with a ink to this page.
Many blogs actually allow you to tweet a link directly from the blog itself with one easy click. 75% of my tweets contain a URL and point to a video, a blog or a website. I am RECOMMENDING something or someone with each tweet I send. Every tweet I send is PUBLIC, not PRIVATE. It is a message that is BROADCAST to whomever wishes to receive it.
My Twitter behavior is not unique.
It is in fact very widespread throughout the world of Twitter. Think of Twitter as a powerful, quickly evolving, ever-growing recommendation engine. Sounds like a marketing tool to me.
What do you think?