Twhere do we go from here

Twitter, it’s fair to say, has seen its profile soar in the UK media in the last couple of weeks, thanks, in no small part, to a growing band of celebrities who’ve joined the site.

Now, if you’re a celeb, you’re no one if you’re not on Twitter (ok, not quite. Don’t take this statement literally). Jamie Oliver swung by today. Phil Schofield has been Tweeting away from the set of This Morning [1]. The Daily Mail has started republishing assorted celebrity Tweets as articles. And swathes of new users have started signing up to the site, prompted by the celebrity Twitterers and the media coverage.

All of which is great. After us early adopters banging on for God knows how long, journalists are starting to pick up on its usage and PR and marketing are starting to realise there’s a lot of potential for transparently run Twitter accounts that engage with other users (as opposed to just having a twitterfeed account set up).

Twitter has always been a site that had the potential to tip towards the mainstream and it finally appears to have done so (or at least taking huge strides towards getting there).

But while the attention and new users are great, it’s left the old users – the early adopters – a little confused and, in some cases, uncomfortable.

At the ever-excellent London Bloggers Meetup last night, I was chatting to Steven Waddington (@Wadds) about this. As he’s republished on his blog, my analogy was that Twitter now is a bit like your favourite hidden gem of a pub that’s suddenly become ridiculously popular. All of a sudden, your secret boozer, where you know the names and faces of most people, has become filled with all kinds.

At this point, it all becomes a bit unsettling. Some of the early adopters are now considering whether to stay propping up the bar, or try and find another pub to drink in. Or find a corner of the current pub and ignore the new drinkers. It’s an understandable reaction. Who wouldn’t feel a little put out that their favourite pub that they’ve been raving about to everyone has suddenly become popular.

It’s a balancing act that any new Twitter-related PR activity has to be mindful of. On one hand, the more followers you have, the more you can spread the word of your brand. On the other hand, it’s still many of the early adopters who have the influence, not to mention the ability, to help push, or kill, whatever it is your PR-ing.

In other words, it’s a fine line between making the most of Twitter’s newly found fans and not getting up the noses of those who are already on there.

One thing is certain though: Twitter has now reached the point where it is starting to change (not that it was particularly easy to define in the first place – and it’s even harder now). The slew of celebrities and new users means that the nature of the site and its usage is starting to become a bit different. That isn’t a good or a bad thing. It’s just a difference.

From a work point of view, the emergence of Twitter is very helpful for my area and department. We’ve already used Twitter a bit for campaigns – it’s now going to be a lot more fun, and a lot more easier, to ask celebs and shows to get a Twitter presence.

From a personal point of view, it is a bit strange to see the site explode in popularity. And, yes, it does take a little bit of adjusting to. I guess this must be what Facebook was like when suddenly the floodgates opened and everybody you knew appeared to be joining. And MySpace before that. And so on.

As Wadds says, it’ll be interesting to see what happens once this initial flurry of activity following all the coverage dies down a bit (if, indeed, it dies down at all). It will be interesting to see how many use it as a fad and how many stick with it.

It’s not inconceivable that Twitter becomes a key part of everyday use in the UK. It’s also not inconceivable [2] that everybody will give up on it in a few months. We shall see.

What is does mean is that companies and PRs – both the early adopters and the new wave – will have to adjust their thinking on their use of the microblogging site. Those who tap into the right aspect at the right time will do well. And will probably be followed by a host of imitators who’ll do it not so well.

The next few months will be fascinating. Twitter will be different and we need to embrace this. Let’s grab ourselves a table, pull another beer, and get chatting to the newcomers into our virtual pub. Just as long as they don’t hog the quiz machine all night long.

[1] And is a brilliant example of somebody who ‘gets’ the site. If you were going to pick a perfect Twitter user, @Schofe would be it. 

[2] This has nothing to do with Twitter. I just realised I typed inconceivable twice. And now I’ve got that scene from The Princess Bride stuck in my head.


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January 2009

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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com

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