Never has the power of Twitter been more evident than in the last few weeks and months. Once known only by “techies” and early adopters, this micro-blogging site is now slowly infiltrating into the mainstream and more importantly, affecting the way many of us communicate, listen, and learn.
For those not familiar with Twitter, here’s a quick introduction: Twitter is a free social networking service that allows users to send and read each other’s updates (known as “tweets”) that are limited to 140 characters in length (think two sentences at most). At its inception in 2006, Twitter (then known as “Obvious”) was originally created as a tool to be used internally by the podcasting company, Odeo. Two years later, over 3 million individuals worldwide have Twitter accounts and the rate in which news spreads has shortened to, well, 140 characters.
Initially, the goal of Twitter was to allow users to share with their “followers” exactly what they were doing at that moment (ie: “It’s Monday morning and I’m having Cheerios for breakfast”). A common misconception among those who aren’t familiar with Twitter believe this is still the case with the micro-blogging site. In fact, Twitter has grown and expanded and its capabilities have far surpassed solely communicating the mundane details of everyday life.
For instance, take the recent Mumbai attacks in November, 2008. During the three-day battle that left more than 100 dead, social-networking services such as Twitter and Flickr were flooded with news, rumors and pictures of the tragedy by what is now termed as “citizen journalists” — users on Twitter that were tweeting breaking news faster than mainstream media could pick up the same information on the news wires. Many people now describe the situation in Mumbai as “Twitter’s moment.” As a result, major media outlets now uses Twitter to help communicate the real-time public sentiment on various issues, such as Presidential elections, natural disasters, and current events.
Gerris has been at the forefront of the Twitter phenomenon since its public offering, sucessfully leveraging the power of micro-blogging for many of its clients. One only has to take a quick look at Gerris' President and COO, Chris Abraham, who is known as one of the top Twitterers of Social Media news, having over 49.4k followers, to understand Gerris' extensive knowledge of cutting edge social media tools.
A fantastic example of Gerris' knowledge of Twitter is illustrated by our work with The Fresh Air Fund a non-profit agency providing free summer vacations in the country to more than 1.7 million New York City children from disadvantaged communities.
With Gerris' help, The Fresh Air Fund created a Twitter profile to communicate with other NPOs, current volunteers, potential families interested in The Fresh Air Fund, and donors. In just three months of tweeting, The Fresh Air Fund Twitter profile has over 600 followers and has reached thousands of individuals who they otherwise would never have been in contact with. Not only did Gerris help guide The Fresh Air Fund on how to best utilize Twitter in a respectful and value-driven way, Chris Abraham is also eager to help “retweet” The Fresh Air Fund’s Twitter content, meaning that over 3,000 users are seeing this non-profit’s messaging, creating a critical relationship with The Fresh Air Fund that results in support of the NPO. Even more impressive, The Fresh Air Fund was recently nominated to be a part of the “Top Ten List of Twitterers Who Will Change The World” — a fantastic feat for an NPO who has only been a part of the Twittosphere for three months.
Are you thinking about joining Twitter? One word of warning: You can’t become a Twitter sensation overnight. As Chris Abraham says, “Growing a social media profile is like growing a coral reef: after seeding the reef, there are so many things that need to happen before a reef blooms ‘in its own.’” With Twitter, time and commitment are key in order to position yourself as a valuable addition to the community. “You need to be generous — give more than you take — and you need to be committed to the long term,” Chris advises. And it’s not all about your follower numbers.
Twitter isn’t about just talking about yourself, accepting every follower, and never engaging in actual dialogue. Like every other social networking tool, it’s about forming relationships, providing valuable content, listening and (like Chris said), giving more than taking.
There’s an unspoken code of ethics followed by well-respected twitterers, and a strategy that can help you reach your customers and supporters on Twitter while not opening yourself up to criticism and in extreme cases, retaliation (ever heard of the Motrin Mommies?). The power of Twitter is increasing daily — do you know how to harness it? Let Gerris show you how.