Since its inception in 2006, Twitter has emerged to become a force on the Internet. A force, that is, for 140 characters worth of banal nonsense.
OK, so it hasn’t been all meaningless meandering posts about people’s mundane lives. There’s also been meaningless meandering posts about celebrities’ lives.
Yes, Twitter is popular, but — brace yourself — it’s also a fad. “What? It’s been around for six years? How can it be a fad?” you exclaim way too loudly at your humble author. Well, if you recall that from 2005 until early 2008 Myspace was the most visited social networking site in the world, and is now basically a place for Justin Timberlake to hang out with 11 of his friends, you can see how social media vehicles have a tendency to break down.
But let’s go even further back for an analogy. Remember CB radio? Remember those things?! If you’re under 40 you might not, but rest assured, CB radio was a full blown craze in the 70s. The ham radio scene was full of hip handles (Betty Ford was “First Mama”) and genre-specific jargon (10-4 good buddy!) that seemed to ooze out of every “Dukes of Hazzard” episode. It all seems kinda silly now, doesn’t it? #irony
Surely there are numerous benefits to being on Twitter. Building brand awareness, interacting with your customers and partners, and having another marketing outlet are all great reasons to tweet. But as this CBS MoneyWatch piece points out, just being on Twitter with a sleepy account might be worse than not being there at all. An unresponsive Twitter account, especially when pertaining to customer inquiries, creates a public relations minefield. There are some lesser known pitfalls too, including potential legal issues. Plus as Twitter’s popularity has risen, so has its noise. With a medium all about brevity and abbreviations, it can be especially tough to find anything of value. Cutting through the sea of hashtags and ampersands and #FollowFridays can be daunting, especially for the casual user.
Yes, we are taking some liberties with how long a fad can last, and yes we recognize that Twitter has been involved in some significant causes, but as evidenced by the Myspace exodus and CB radio fizzle out, the way we communicate can change in less time than it takes to say “Digg.” If you use Twitter wisely and don’t bank on it as a long-term marketing strategy, you’ll be “trending” ahead of all those people who bought stock in the pet rock.