Thursday, July 17, 2008

Twitter for Business?

I've been reading posts on various business blogs exhorting readers to get smart about utilizing micro-blogs like twitter for business. Great thought ... but what the hell are these people talking about? How does one communicate anything meaningful about one's business in 140 characters? Am I supposed to cyberstalk potential customers? This article lays out the case for Twitter as a business tool. One paragraph in this article is entitled "Twitter Replaces Email". Don't be absurd! Let's put down the double espresso and be rational about this.

What makes Twitter cool to a certain segment of our society? 24/7 communication. Twits can even be made on a cellphone. Are there business applications for this mode of mobile and quick communication technology? Yeah but I think they are rather limited based upon the availability of other options. Rather than Twitter as a technology tool of business, I see it potentially as a marketing / customer relations tool of business. One interesting facet of Twitter is the ability to see in near real time the flow of twits across the Twitter universe using a keyword search--twitter search (note: if your search term is more than one word, put it in quotation-marks). Type something in there like 'iPhone' or 'Heath Ledger' and you'll get the picture. A nice market research tool or, even better, an instant business feedback tool. According to this article, major companies such as Comcast and Dell Computer have employees assigned to monitor Twitter activity regarding their company! Charter Communications, you need to get on that train as well. I'm sure other uses for micro-blogs will come along with new technology but, at present, the pickings appear slim. Anybody with a different take on the business applications for micro-blogs, feel free to drop a comment (please give specific examples if at all possible).

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Web 2.0, What's It Really About?

Here is a common definition of "Web 2.0" one finds on the web: "a trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to facilitate creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users." Link. Yadda, yadda, yadda. That's background noise. The important point is how and why are Web 2.0 companies hot traffic generators? And can this traffic be monetized? One can pontificate until blue in the face about solving the world's problems with Web 2.0 (I'm a big fan of the micro loan site kiva BTW) but business has one and only one raison d'etre--make the green stuff.

Below is a partial screen shot from a 2005 article by Tim O'Reilly.

From the list, let's focus in on Flickr, Wikipedia, and blogging sites plus (since 2005) facebook, myspace,, twitter, youtube and What's the salient difference between the companies on the left of the list and those we have highlighted? To my mind the absolute key to the success of what we now call Web 2.0 companies is user created content. Web 2.0 companies are essentially web based utility programs allowing users to post content. The users are donating free work product to these companies. Why are they successful? Because the sites generate million of free pages of content each year with very little effort per page on the part of the owner. What goes on all those user created content pages? Mostly Google ads. How do these sites get traffic? Google and Yahoo plow through the user created pages indexing them for inclusion into their search engine. Just as cool, the users who create the content often promote it to their circle of friends and family.

IMHO, the gold-plated question for web 2.0 planning is determining a strategy for encouraging users to post content. Why will users specifically wish to post information (photos, videos, articles, short posts, et alia) on your web site? What do the users get out of posting on your site that they can't get somewhere else? Answer that question correctly and you're on to something special.