headermask image

header image

What People Forget About Twitter

[Note: I've had this post in my drafts folder for seven months, and now the Motrin fiasco has prompted me to finish it.]

I sometimes hear from business people who believe Twitter isn’t that important because even the most popular people only have a few thousand followers. With so few followers you’re just wasting your time there, they say. It’s a distraction. A game. (OK, seven months after I started writing this, the most popular users have ~20,000 followers, but I still hear the same sentiment.)

And They’ll Tell Two Friends, And So On

But those people are ignoring the amplification effect. I often retweet interesting posts and so do others. Remember that annoying Breck commercial from the ’70s? “And they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on.” It’s like that, only real and more powerful.

The Motrin Flap

Motrin posted an ad babywearing moms found offensive:

One mom with about 1800 followers on Twitter posted a message:

PR hell broke out. Moms began tweeting about how angry the ad made them, and their friends tweeted, and their friends tweeted. At the peak on Sunday there were over 400 tweets PER HOUR about the “bad” Motrin ad. (And yet it was Sunday, so nobody officially with Motrin seemed to be paying attention.)

A Small Group (Even Just One Person) Can Quickly Reach Many People

My main point relates to that amazingly rapid explosion of PR: One message from one mom with ~1800 followers turned into a firestorm of posts. I’d love to see someone’s analysis of how many people these Motrin Twitter messages reached in two days. I bet it was a lot. That’s the power of Twitter. It can be bad or it can be good, and it is not to be discounted.

Constant Vigilance

A secondary point is that there are no off hours. Business — especially PR — doesn’t stop at 5:00 p.m. It doesn’t stop on Saturday and Sunday.

If you liked my post, feel free to subscribe to my rss feeds

9 Comments so far (Add 1 more)

  1. Hey!! I think “… they’ve invented.” would be better than “… they’ve come up with.” Not only does this avoid a double preposition, it also eliminates them from being at the end of a sentence.

    1. Frank Miller on December 9th, 2008 at 8:41 PM
  2. And that doesn’t include the activity via private accounts either as the content from those cannot be searched.

    Twitter’s amplification effect can be very powerful indeed. There are often more people than you think listening in and given the ‘retweet’ function is now standard on most Twitter services (Dabr, Tweetdeck, Slandr et al), it’s even easier to spread the word.

    2. Helen Keegan on November 19th, 2008 at 6:20 AM
  3. Great point! And I love all the drama crammed into a mere 140 characters.

    3. Ali Hooper on November 17th, 2008 at 4:11 PM
  4. There’s an interesting graph http://tweetip.tumblr.com/search/motrinmoms that shows the timeline of “first tweets.” It gives a real picture at the rate at which new tweeters jumped on the #motrinmom bandwagon.

    I don’t know if one can tell from that graph how many total unique tweeters there were.

    4. threeundertwo on November 17th, 2008 at 3:37 PM
  5. Oh, forgot … there’s alos a public apology on the motrin home page apologizing http://motrin.com/ and the ad is being pulled from all media forms (there’s a print version in mags right now too).

    5. Loretta on November 17th, 2008 at 3:34 PM
  6. I was afk pretty much all day Sunday, I jumped online to check twitter and my email and in just a few minutes of being online saw that there was something going on with a Motrin ad and some angry twittering mommies. I was online less than 10 minutes and got the quick jist of things.

    I was still thinking about it this morning and went looking for the Motrin to see what the hubbub was about, found it on YouTube of course, and went back to Twitter to find that it was still being talked about this morning!

    Twitter is definitely a powerful tool in many ways!

    6. Loretta on November 17th, 2008 at 3:32 PM
  7. I’m not a mom, and I don’t follow any of the people who exploded about this issue. I’m pretty far removed from the nexus of the issue. But comments about Motrin still reached me by this morning, and I looked for more information. I don’t know how I feel about the ad because I have no reason to “wear” a baby, but the information still spread amazingly far.

    7. DDog on November 17th, 2008 at 3:26 PM
  8. I’ll bet all of those PR and ad execs now have Motrin headaches.

    8. Kevin on November 17th, 2008 at 3:25 PM
  9. You bet it is. And you also have to add in the blog factor. Not only will people tweet about it, they’ll blog about it just like you did.

    9. Denise O'Berry on November 17th, 2008 at 3:21 PM