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.

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