Twitter – why bother?

A new week, a new rant. (Except it’s my turn this time!) Times columnist Sathnam Sanghera has written another piece which will undoubtedly attract the attention of many businesses and tweeters. It was only a few weeks ago that the HR community was up in arms over his article entitled “Human resources departments – what’s the point?” and I expect that he’ll create controversy once again with a piece that (in a nutshell) says that Twitter is a waste of time for businesses.

Let’s look at his 5 main reasons why businesses shouldn’t bother with Twitter:

  • Twitter relies on people having realtime conversations and companies are incapable of doing anything on a realtime basis. Corporate Twitter accounts read like a stream of press releases: There’s nothing like a great sweeping generalisation is there?! Yes, these points may apply to some, but those organisations that are using Twitter successfully are having conversations with their followers, they are sharing relevant information and they are doing it on a regular and ongoing basis.
  • Large organisations are institutionally incapable of getting to the point: Again, another lovely generalisation. Plus, when did “businesses” = “large organisations”?  
  • Corporations are not open: OK, so businesses aren’t going to share their financial projections with you via Twitter, but why would they? That’s not what Twitter is about. It’s all about sharing interesting information, not company secrets.
  • The tone of Twitter is altruistic and reciprocal, whereas businesses are not – their essential mission in life being to flog stuff.  At its best, Twitter is about sharing interesting and amusing ideas and helping people. And I’m not sure how businesses can fit into this: Organisations would not be on Twitter if it didn’t help their business – that much is true. But those companies whose tweets are all shameless self promotion aren’t going to get very far. Why can’t businesses share interesting ideas? Doesn’t seem that impossible a feat. Share ideas, news and advice, position the business as a thought leader and boost your brand and business – everyone’s a winner.
  • The best Twitter-users are those with distinct voices and personalities, and corporations don’t have distinct voices or personalities. And this is the thing about the handful of corporate Twitter accounts that are engaging, such as @zappos, and Ford’s @ScottMonty. They’re not really company Twitter accounts. They are accounts belonging to individuals who happen to run or work for a company: This last line has to be my favourite. Twitter accounts are run by people who work for the company? No way! If its employees can’t act on behalf of the company, who can?

Despite my thoughts above, I do understand the basis of what he is saying; because some corporations do have it wrong. Tweeting has to be engaging and it has to be interesting, which is something that some corporate accounts are not. It can be hard to keep a corporate identity, reputation and message whilst still trying to come across as a human, interacting with other users. And it is something that requires a lot of attention, which some businesses do not have the time and resources for. But at the same time these things can be managed, and they are no reason to dismiss what has become a great tool for businesses to communicate and market themselves. And there are plenty of success stories to prove it.

Any thoughts to add, readers? Or has my Monday morning rant covered it all?! As for Sathnam, that’s  HR and Twitter crossed off his list – I wonder what we can do without next? After my recent PC nightmare, I predict: “Computers are too much trouble – let’s revert to carrier pigeons and typewriters.” OK, maybe not, but you never know. Let’s wait and see…

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