Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Holy Tweet!

C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

“Follow the tweets of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophesy.” 1 Tweeters 14:1

I’ve gotten a few questions and requests recently to elaborate on a post from a couple weeks back. Thus I’m returning to my blasphemous ways to comment further on the thoughts and ideas introduced in “If God Used Twitter.”

Essentially I had postulated Twitter specifically, and social media in general, is most often used commercially for informational and promotional purposes. Information such as sports scores, news headlines, etc. And promotion such as press release announcements, event appearances, concert information, etc. Throw in entertainment – which is really just a derivation of information and promotion - like jokes or other humorous musings, or celebrity efforts to gain professional exposure by tweeting about mundane personal happenings, and you’ve got the current state of commercial Twitter use.

To thrive and be sustained as a commercial tool however, Twitter and our conception of it will need to evolve beyond informational and promotional. If God used Twitter I imagine he’d utilize it for inspirational and spiritual purposes. And to do this most effectively in my estimation, tweets must become personal, situational, and directional.

Before I go further I want to take a conceptual step back. When evaluating the potential value of tools like Twitter for marketing purposes, we most often ask ourselves “how can I use this tool to help market my products and services?” Essentially we’re asking, “what can this tool do for me and my company?” This is perhaps semantics, and many (if anybody is actually reading this) might not see the nuance. But we should ask ourselves, as JFK might have done, not “what can the tool do for me and my company, but rather how can the tool be used to help our customers?” Commercial social media activity cannot simply be self-serving or it will ultimately be ignored and die.

With that said…

Even in its relative infancy, Twitter has evolved substantially. Third-party apps have been created to do a variety of things - the most valuable of which I think is the ability to filter tweets in various ways. Ideally such apps would be made more user-friendly and be incorporated directly into the Twitter interface rather than being a third-party option. Theoretically tweeters should be able to tag tweets so “followers” could filter the noise and be guaranteed only beneficial or applicable communications find their way through the electronic ether. “I rejoice in following your statutes, as one rejoices in great riches” (Psalm 119:14). For those of us following multiple tweeters, there might be more rejoicing if we weren’t forced to receive the universe of tweets.

Twitter also recently added GPS latitude and longitude information to its tweets. There may be some limited potential in this for followers. I think it would be more useful though to have the latitude and longitude of the follower themselves. This would actually enable the partial realization of situational and personal communication via Twitter. Imagine for a moment receiving mobile coupon tweets based on your location, or traffic updates based on your location, or emergency tweets based on your location, etc. Or imagine as a parent, receiving a tweet based on your child’s location. Hmmm. This would be interesting. There are lots of factors and technological considerations needed to make all these things possible. But theoretically they should be possible. But of course privacy concerns might curtail acceptance. But that’s beside the point.

Early in my career I remember being on the phone with my then boss, the General Manager of our division, reviewing quarter-end shipment information. We were dealing with large commercial equipment in a relatively small division. Each and every deal seemed to matter tremendously. I happened to be in the office. My boss was by himself on the road. As I explained over the phone what had and was transpiring in those final days leading up to the financial close, I sensed my boss was getting more and more agitated and increasingly upset. The quarter wasn’t shaping up great because of what seemed like some stupid mishaps. I took comfort in the fact that he wasn’t getting upset at me. I just happened to be the messenger.

To ensure sound decision-making in that moment, and to strategize effectively, I knew our heads needed to be clear from the tension of the moment. Knowing his blood pressure was likely getting way out of hand on the other end of the phone, I simply asked at some point in a nonchalant tone “Do you happen to have your nitro tablets on you?” (as in nitroglycerin tablets used to thwart off heart attacks). There was a moment of silence. I think he was momentarily shocked to hear this twenty-something kid ask such a thing in that (or any) situation. But it worked. He bust out laughing and we got down to some productive discussion.

Do you think a tool like Twitter might someday be able to ask such a question? Or at least send a note to inform you of your immediate health status? Could a personalized note be sent via Twitter that simply encourages you to take a deep breath and calm down? Might I receive a personalized note some day that directs me to enter the convenience store on the upcoming corner because my body is dangerously dehydrated?

Maybe my perspective is way off base. Maybe these personalized tweets I speak of are simply biometric-GPS-filtered “alerts” in disguise and shouldn’t be talked about as tweets at all.

In any case, it seems Twitter is all about the Tweeters, not the Followers. If Twitter is to be an effective, sustainable marketing tool though, I think this needs to change. Our perspective needs to change. Ask not what Twitter can do for me and my company, but rather what can Twitter do for my customers.

In the name of the personal, situational, directional, inspirational, and spiritual.

Amen.

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