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Twitter update: heading for a tipping point

Is Twitter reaching a tipping point in terms of its use as a legit communications medium? While out and about in London yesterday, I found that I actually dealt with more messages via direct Twitter than via email. And of course Twitter's 140 character limit does ensure that correspondence is kept to the minimum with zero waffle.

For the record, I'm now using an app called Seesmic to handle Twitter on a Blackberry.

13 replies on “Twitter update: heading for a tipping point”

That's all very well but Twitter is seen as a social networking tool by many firms and is therefore blocked/banned.

Given law firms were also remarkably slow in taking up email, websites and providing online legal services, this is hardly surprising – and those firms that ban it merely provide yet an another opportunity for the firms that do embrace modern technologies. …CC

Those who choose to block/ban sites such as Twitter leave themselves vunerable in an ever changing industry. Even with long standing relationships with existing clients/suppliers and proven marketing strategies for developing new ones, does this mean firms are prepared to allow their competitors to build communication channels with these clients/suppliers just because the site carries the brand 'social networking'? For those using an iPhone, Blackberry or similar device I have one piece of advice… fight back and get an 'App'. If it's proven to work with ROI of time and money then why is it still not being embraced?

Well Charles, I started responding to this via my Twitter app on an iPhone, only for it to die on me. I suppose it is hard wired to crash if there is criticism about the medium it is using 🙂
The underlying principle of Twitter (IMHO) is that you follow people who are worthy of that “honour”. It is a group text messaging mechanism for Americans who never “got” text messaging and used messages on pagers whilst the rest of the world was embracing SMS.
So while a revered individual such as yourself has got a crowd of acolytes following and responding to your tweets, thus giving you a good alternative to email, the average Jo Blogs will not have that environment, thus rendering the circuit usless as an email killer.
Case rests.

It is all well and good talking about firm’s not embracing modern technology but there has to be a modicum of common sense applied to decisions surrounding whether such technologies should be embraced. Do they really provide true business value? Just because some people use Twitter now, does it have a future – is it standards based or will something slightly better come along in the not to distant future which will render Twitter accounts useless, written by another party with no backwards compatibility?
Taking Twitter as an example (and I use it), it is not very secure, it’s entirely hosted by a 3rd party, doesn’t integrate with any other line of legal business apps and is open to enormous amounts of abuse. If you wish to communicate short sharp messages back and forth why not simply use a far more mature standards based technology like email which does fully integrate with other office systems for automation, can auto-time record, auto-history, can be monitored for compliance, can be stored securely in matter centric repositories to comply with Law Soc guidelines and is far more flexible etc. Is that not what a business should require?
As it stands at the moment I have to check my post, my email, my tweets, my facebook acc, my SMS account just to ensure I haven’t missed anything. Is this not technology for technologies sake?

I'm sure if you dig back far enough you'll find some Victorian era president of the Law Society making similar comments about the telephone – and I know when I first started out as a technology journalist, there were endless reservations about fax machines – entirely hosted by a third party, totally unsecure, didn't integrate, open to abuse – but that didn't stop everyone using them …CC

I recall those days well but when fax was introduced it was groundbreaking – nothing else could achieve what it could. What I think you are failing to grasp is that email is actually a far more enhanced and efficient offering insofar as business communication is concerned. It can achieve far more with much less effort, it is already here and is already widely used – some technologies deliver less but differently and something new and shiny is always going to appeal to some.

“A crowd of acolytes following and responding to [CC's] tweets” a.k.a “Charlettes”??

Charles Christian writes… Benji Massarin just left a comment on my LinkedIn network update:
“I find it interesting that someone responding in favour of why lawyers are not adopting the platform, posts as anonymous. Hmmm…”
Personally I'm just grateful no-one has suggested my Twitter fan-base should be called Proper Charlies

Twitter: a replacement for email? No.
Twitter: as a valuable method of getting a message out to many people with no cost? Hell yes. Opt in client acceptance, ability to search for terms of interest, messages much shorter than the average email disclaimer and embedded URLs … very useful, very quick and relatively inobtrusive. I follow people who interest me, entertain me or from whom I can get something. It has nothing at all to do with honour.
Even as the average Jo Bloggs I'm tempted to update the 20 or so members of my sporting club with a change of training session time using Twitter. I can use any of the two full (working) tweet clients on my iPhone as soon as I find out the change. And it costs me nothing to let them know. Twitter or their chosen Twitter client handles how they get informed. They can even elect to receive their messages as SMS (although I assume it rules out the American who plays centre for my team).
If I'm a law firm who wants to inform my client base of 2000 SME's about a series of seminars on proposed changes to employment legislation then it represents a very cheap way of passing on the message. I hit the ones who have already subscribed to me and have the opportunity of others finding me on a search. The cost for that: the time it takes to type 140 characters.
As for standards … 55 million tweets per day by thousands of individuals and companies all bound up with a wealth of software integrations. It sounds something approaching a de facto standard.
Will it replace email. No. Would I want to use it for anything matter centric. Not at all.
Where it scores is as another means of keeping in touch with clients using a method that some of them like at a very limited cost. Somewhere in our client facing literature will be something about “driven by our clients” or “responsive to their needs.”
Twitter is JUST another tool in trying to live up to those words.

Well there's always “Charlie's Angels” or “Chuck's Chicks”…

Excellent points well made, and on re-reading my posting I was unduly harsh on the rest of the US (and your centre). What I was trying to communicate in a limited time I had available was that (as I understood it) texting never really took off per se in the States as much as it did in Europe, and that therefore Twitter embodied text like elements that were more familiar over here than they are the other side of the Atlantic. I used to have people I wanted to communicate with as a stored list on my phone and I could send them a group text. Now (as you say) I can get them to follow me on Twitter and I can easily send out the message (and it is indeed free rather than a chargeable text).
(Provided the app works!. Bug fix for Echofon due in the Apple store real soon now according to the support desk email I got last night.)
Anyway, before we got drawn into the debate on how best to use Twitter, and I think you gave some very cogent examples of how it could be deployed, the questions was could it replace email and the answer we both agree is no.
However, having lost the ability to tweet for 24 hours, and gone back to seeing messages come in and not being able to respond or re-tweet, I'm quietly intrigued as to how much I'm missing the interaction.
So, is Twitter a viable tool and one we should embrace, is a question to which I now quite unreservedly say, Yes.

Andrew, if the Americans never really got SMS I think they have the better position. Given my son's predilection for using SMS whenever possible I do fear that English is now but a second language for him. I offer as an example:
can u pik me up coz bike tire flat. Let me no wen u near. Bring food.
Perhaps a modern day equivalent of “Let's parler franglais”

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