The 5 P’s of Twitter’s runaway success
~ 05 March 2009 ~
Hi there, respected Twitterer. Follow me at @cameronmoll.
Twitter, the social ______ application for which no one can accurately describe its purpose (except this video), became a runaway success last year. The San Francisco-based startup added 70% of its subscriber base in 2008 and is steadily growing in 2009, with an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 new accounts opened every day (source).
Actually, I think we enjoy claiming we can’t describe what Twitter is, yet a closer inspection of it yields not only a better understanding of it but also why it’s become so prevalent in the media lately. And when that kind of inspection occurs, it’s not surprising to the inspector why Twitter is where it’s at today.
1. Prudence. Twitter is solid proof that there is undeniable merit in doing just one thing — as a business, as a strategy, as both — and doing it really well. Users have 140 characters or less to share a thought, link up a URL, post a status update, or ask a question. That’s it. Brilliant.
If Twitter lies at one end of the spectrum doing one thing really well, Facebook lies at the opposite end attempting to do all things well: status updates, networking, photos, videos, groups, etc. In terms of subscribers, Twitter’s 6 million unique visitors lag far behind Facebook’s 68 million (source). These numbers clearly indicate many web users currently prefer the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink utility offered by Facebook, but I suspect Twitter has the potential to not only narrow the gap but even outlast its Palo Alto neighbor by merely doing one thing superbly well.
…until, of course, we’re over Twitter too and we move on to the next technology. See #3.
2. Pulse. I know of no more immediate way of gathering, monitoring, or responding to feedback about/for an idea, a question, a company, or an industry. Want to know what Twitter consumers are saying about Nike right now? How about the Lakers? Or photos for breaking news before any of the major media sources can report it? Or which shoes to purchase?
In fact, AdAge reports that Twitter is exploring even more ways of leveraging the Twitterverse for immediate feedback, enabling (from what I can gather) search.twitter.com to not only search previous tweets but also to generate new ones based on the search query.
3. Proximity. It seems with every new web trend or technology we gradually draw closer in virtual proximity to persons we admire and to the authors of the content we consume. First, it was the personal or corporate website with its distant, one-way consumption of information. Then came blogs and the ability to generate two-way conversation with the author by commenting on content. And now we have Twitter, enabling one to engage in tweets with Dave Matthews or to track down Shaq at a local diner.
4. Promotion. I’ve heard enough people complain there’s no point to Twitter to come to this conclusion: You get back from Twitter what you put into it. Spend time and effort growing a network of followers, and soon enough you’ll find Twitter to be a powerful promotion tool. For example, many of my initial letterpress poster sales back in December came as a result of my tweet, not so much because of my blog post. Additionally, I use automated tweets for Authentic Jobs as another means of fostering business.
Follow a regimen akin to Jack Humphrey’s 90-10 rule, or whatever works for you, and you’ll likely cultivate a valuable marketing resource.
5. Prominence. I’m certain I’ll get flak for this, but it’s worth not beating around the bush to just come out and say it. Twitter puts one’s
ego follower count front and center. In the heyday of blogging, one could quickly estimate and deduce — whether accurately or not, foolishly or prudently — the prominence and traffic of a blog based on the average number of comments on articles or the FeedBurner reader tally. These days it’s follower count. It’s unsurprising so many individuals and companies are sponsoring contests to drive follower count upward, whether for intrinsic gratification or for promotional purposes. See #4.
Granted, certain individuals such as celebrities will garner large quantities of followers regardless of what they tweet about, but for many Twitterers, it remains a challenge to constantly be acquiring new followers.
So, when scrutinized as we’ve done here, Twitter really isn’t such a mystery after all, is it?
Stock photography, type, and killer tees. Genuinely recommended by Authentic Boredom.
Authentic Boredom is the platitudinous web home of Cameron Moll, designer, author, and speaker. More…
Full-time and freelance job opportunities. Post a job...
A selection of fine reading, available for a limited time only:
- Recent job listings, testimonials, and 100th Kiva loan
- The ISO50 Field Guide to Color Management
- Upgrading the hard drive and memory in a refurbished 13" MacBook Pro
- Inspiring type: Libro di M. Giovambattista Palatino
- Randomness, vol. IX
CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standard Solutions A solid round-up of indispensable CSS design techniques by Andy Budd, Simon Collison, and Cameron Moll.
Mobile Web Design A guide to publishing web content beyond the desktop. Tips, methodology, and resources. Now available.
Letterpress Posters The unassuming beauty of a freshly letterpressed print.
That Wicked Worn Look. Techniques for that worn, aged, distressed look.
Mister Retro Machine Wash Filters Turn the dial to “Instaworn” with these filters.
Blinksale Dive in and enjoy shamelessly easy invoicing from Firewheel Design.
Basecamp My preferred web app for internal and client project collaboration.
HOW Conference Austin, June 24–27. Pentagram, Adobe, P&G, et al.
Web Design World Seattle, July 20–22. Practical sessions on web design.
Stimulate Salt Lake City, September 2009. Entrepreneurship and design conference.