To Twitter Or Not to Twitter – Is it Sweet to Tweet?

Lastminute.com founder Brent Hoberman described it as "a fascinating zeitgeist tool. It's an excellent way of understanding trends, seeing what people are talking about and what's firing their imaginations. There is always someone out there there having a better time than you and you want a bit of it. "Brent is not alone; Barack Obama has been at it for ages … Right now it is the place to be, it's got the PR and the momentum but it does not have the revenue model at present and it's purely venture capital funded.

To the uninitiated, messages are known as tweets and people who read your messages are called followers. Then there is the particular Twitter culture and mode of behavior: sociality is enhanced by retweeting messages you find illustrating by rebroadcasting them to your followers. Among hardcore users, gratuitous self-promotion is frowned upon. Twitter has stumbled upon a formula that a whole generation of internet start ups has been searching for: a way for people to connect with friends, express themselves and find information that stands a chance of one day becoming as popular as other mass online trends such as blogging and social networking.

Three years old, the Silicon Valley company only has 29 employees while the basic service will remain free, business users as on Linked In may be charged for extra functions. Meanwhile there is a viral network effect which is giving it great growth. The Twitter phenomenon has much to do with the fundamental simplicity of the idea. Operating at a joke of blogging, texting and social networking, the service defies easy categorization. "Because it is undergoing such rapid evolution, it's hard to slap a label on it" says Peter Fenton a partner at Benchmark Capital, who has joined Twitter's board.

Businesses have been keen to tap into a rapidly growing network like Twitter. The fact that users can choose which messages they want to receive could open the way to a new "opt-in" marketing says Bob Pearson of Dell. The computer maker for instance, issues a stream of tweets about new discounts on its products. In summary Twitter's six secrets of online success:

* Immediacy: Real-time flow of comments and adaptability to mobile handsets makes it more immediate than blogging.

* Brevity: Limiting messages to 140 characters makes it easier to produce and easier to digest.

* 'Pull' not 'push': The ability of users to choose which tweets they follow makes it less random than email.

* Searchability: Messages can be searched, making the content more accessible than the comments on a social network.

* Mixing the public and the personal: A user's personal contacts are on an equal footing with public figures.

* 'Retweeting': By copying and retransmitting messages, users can turn the network into a giant echo chamber.

* This past week Twitter has been in the news several times:

* Life or death – A snowboarder was found dead but Twitter had been used in the search and kept seekers up-to-date.

Twitter has been used very effectively to raise money for Comic Relief, after the Twestival and the current hitchhike of Twitchhiker, the TwitterTitters have compiled new book of comedy all this raising well deserved funds for Comic Relief. On the commercial side-a US based IT company has developed a network of sensors that measure the amount of moisture in the soil and compares it to the optimum moisture level. This data is sent to a local network. The data is then turned into a text or Twitter message, to tell you when you need to water your plants. So how cool it is that your plants can now Twitter you to tell you they are thirsty! Give it a go ….

Find out which UK and US politicians use Twitter the most: http://www.ft.com/twitterclasses .

and some well known Twitterers ….

Will Carling, Russell Brand, Demi Moore, Chris Moyles, Britney Spears, Lance Armstrong, John Cleese, Snoop Dogg, Noel Edmonds, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver, Toby Young, Boris Johnson.

Over to you, can interim management professionals not join the tweeting classes? Inspiration for this blog from the FT, The Observer, Computing and Metro, thank you.

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