In January 2010, nearly 75 million people visited Twitter according to comScore. While that number seems remarkable, it represents only a fraction of what's realistically attainable. I believe that Twitter's growth, to date, is hindered not by its ambition nor potential, but by the company's ongoing focus on competing priorities rather than showcasing how users can effectively communicate and excel on this unique platform. But that's all about to change...
Every day, millions of potential people are introduced to Twitter through traditional media, online dialogue in other social networks, as well as the content and marketing campaigns of local, national, and global businesses and media properties.
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Ok, but then what...?
The problem isn't publicity when it comes to user acquisition or retention. Twitter certainly enjoys equal if not greater billing over Facebook across the board and has become a cultural phenomenon in its own right. The challenge Twitter has and continues to face, is its ability to connect the dots and surface the elements and examples strewn across or hidden within the network to showcase why Twitter is important for a variety of mainstream, vertical, contextualized and localized user groups who represent a countless myriad of personal and professional applications.
Twitter has become nothing short of a cultural catalyst that transforms how people communicate as well as how information is distributed and disseminated. Twitter as a platform has also emerged as a social OS for many of its loyal and enthusiastic users, with the Twitter stream serving as our dashboard for introducing insight, direction, and connections. If anything, the Twitterverse represents a sliver of what Tim O'Reilly envisions for the greater Internet operating system.
In the middle of 2009, Twitter embarked upon two promising projects, each designed to increase user retention, simplify adoption and engagement, and unlock the imagination for sharing and learning as well as building communities, one follow and one tweet at a time. First, Twitter redesigned its home page to convey the ease and demonstrate the value of a new forum for micro communication. Second, Twitter introduced a 101 series of lessons aimed at businesses to help them embrace Twitter as a tool to establish good will with customers and prospects and also increase brand awareness and potentially demand and sales overall. On March 30th, Twitter rolled out a new home page to showcase trends and real-time search results. Twitter.com now also features the top tweets at any moment as well as friends, industry peers, celebrities, and relevant businesses to provide a sample flavor of Twitter.
The willful and centralized demonstration of capabilities and potential is the key that unlocks creativity and personalization. To continue the momentum, Twitter's Sean Garrett and Jenna Sampson created @cleveraccounts along with a companion Posterous blog to showcase the clever use of Twitter accounts across a variety of applications that illustrate possibilities and hopefully spark imagination.
Twitter's @CleverAccounts is perhaps best described by its own bio, "Follow us to learn about interesting uses of Twitter from across the world. @mention us if you have your own use case!"
Of course, use cases require more than 140 characters to convey the challenge and results. The Clever Twitter Accounts blog on Posterous dives in a bit deeper with each post dedicated to a particular example of how Twitter saved the day.
The Michigan Department of Transportation turned to Twitter for sharing construction updates with commuters.
Sears and Kmart took to Twitter to share more than 7,000 job openings.
New York food trucks that use Twitter to create demand were spotlighted to share best practices.
Dunkin Donuts uses Twitter to turn Tweets into sales.
Charity Water shares what is learned through their work.
Lance Armstrong includes his fans and supporters by actively sharing experiences and updates.
The list will only continue to grow.
I reached out to Sean Garrett to share with us his and Jenna's inspiration behind Clever Accounts. His response was as refreshing as it was revealing of Twitter's dedication to humanizing and personalizing the experience:
We were inspired to do it for two reasons. One is to simply demonstrate through living examples how people, organizations and businesses are getting the most out of Twitter and, likewise, the value of the information that they provide to others across the network. Even something as simple as Twitter is difficult to explain without tangible use examples that are relevant to the many, many niche audiences that are looking to gain a better understanding of it. Of course, being armed with such examples also helps quickly disarm the "it's about what people are having for lunch" myth, too. If we can do this, we can do a better job of explaining the distinctions between an "information network" and a social network.
Secondly, we frankly weren't doing a good job at real-time cataloging of exemplar uses of Twitter at Twitter. This provides a simple tool to capture and categorize examples. We could have just done this privately, but we figured (for the reasons above) to share it with the world.
As far as where we see it going over time: It will hopefully extend into uses from all corners of the globe and far away from familiar examples that are told and retold in most media stories and conferences. We want people to feel the same level of surprise (and happiness) that we feel on a regular basis when a really new and clever use of Twitter is exposed to us.
We'd love input from the community far and wide on what we should include. And, to be honest, we have barely gotten off the ground with it.
Well done, Sean and Jenna. Keep up the great work.
In order for Twitter to symbolize the true pulse of the human algorithm and scale with human behavior online, it needs to capture what "is" transpiring within the center and deliver it to those on the sidelines to demonstrate what's "possible."
Twitter is poised to connect the dots and in doing so, it will eventually earn and captivate the audiences who will embrace the stream and platform and make it their own. This is how abandonment is not only vanquished, but transformed into retention and dedication.
Hat tip to Louis Gray.
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