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I’ve been using Twitter for a while now. I’m not a die-hard convert, and I’m probably only connected for an hour or so a day. On most days, I don’t Tweet at all. Truth be told, I’ve only been dabbling in it for two reasons: the first is that I’m thrilled by the 140 character limit. I’m a big fan of any device that forces people to get to the point. The second reason is that I want to see the purpose Twitter eventually finds for itself. As a medium, it’s still pretty young, and it hasn’t yet found its purpose.
I know there are many of you out there that will tell me that Twitter is a Great Business Tool. In response, I’m inclined to say: Crap. ‘It’s a great business tool’ is one of the Two Great Technological Justifications. The other is ‘It has many educational applications’. Again, crap. These are things we say when we’re afraid to say that we like something simply because it’s cool. And make no mistake – technology is cool. The ‘wow’ factor is probably the second most powerful force behind technological development (the first, of course, being money).
But I must admit that there is some merit to the Twitter-as-business-tool argument. As a Map Dork, I follow many other Map Dorks on Twitter, and I often learn pertinent, valuable and (above all) timely tidbits of information about the goings-on in the Map Dork world (Mapocron Dorkia IV). To be honest, though, I read far more about food and booze than I do about maps. But maybe that applies to all disciplines, on one level or another.
There is one particular area, though, where Twitter can really shine as a business tool. On two separate occasions, I have tweeted my frustration over my failure to use an application in the manner that suited my fancy. On both of those occasions, my tweet generated an unsolicited response from one of the people closely associated with the application in question. Both scenarios happened out of the blue, and both led to a protracted session of tech support, supplied courtesy of Twitter.
Twitter happens in near-realtime, and its API makes it possible to track any subject being tweeted about (yes, folks – I hear about it every time you talk about me). In both of these situations, the people I talked to took advantage of these aspects of Twitter to provide swift and active (I loathe the so-called word ‘proactive’. It’s jargon, pure and simple, and it’s almost always used to mean ‘active’) support for a product. Granted – in one of these cases the support was supplied for love of the applications and out of simple common decency (thanks, Steve), but that just serves to make it more valuable and appreciated.
So this is where I think Twitter really can be a Great Business Tool. The ability to supply customer support BEFORE IT’S EVEN ASKED FOR is the kind of public relations that can move mountains. It’s like having Jedi Knights arrive to lend a hand just because they felt a disturbance in the Force.