We don't know if you played with a Bobo doll as a tot, but if you did, it was probably one of your favorite toys. You could give it a whack, and this plastic kid-size character would snap right back at you. What fun.
Twitter reminds us of Bobo dolls. It seems every time we think there can't be much to this microblogging site, we dig a little deeper and find many people using it in creative ways to nurture markets for themselves or the products they sell.
We've discussed Twitter before, but just to recap, Twitter is a social-networking system you can use to keep in touch with people by regularly responding to the question: What Are You Doing? These dispatcheslimited to 140 charactersare known as Tweets. You can send them from your phone or the Twitter site itself.
Here are some sample Tweets: "I'm on my way to the post office now"; "A new ad agency is handling Coke"; "I'm about to deliver a speech in Philadelphia"; "My new YouTube mashup is out."
Most of these Tweets we made up, because many are just that inane and silly. They remind us of the message board posts we used to see from bored e-commerce sellers. Most people don't have time for online coffee klatches. But notice the Tweet about a new ad agency handling Coke. That one probably got your attention. It was based on a real posting by Steve Hall, who writes the advertising blog AdRants. Hall has more than 1,300 Twitter followers. He obviously knows how to use the site to spread news andat the same timeremind people who he is and what he brings to the table.
He's one user, but it turns out President Barack Obama was one of Twitter's biggest users, with more than 130,000 people following him during the course of his 2008 campaign. Once you became an Obama followerjust by pressing the grey "Following" button on his Twitter siteyou could receive reports from him about what he was doing and thinking. The use of the service by Obama's campaign brought Twitter lots of publicity, so the site's enjoying a burst of popularity. On Election Day, the number of new Twitter sign-ups was up by 40 percent.
Companies that have a lot of people using their products tweet about outages, new services, special promotions and the like
OK, so who else uses it? Well, e-commerce sellers tell their customers about new items and music promoters such as David Mullings of Realvibez announce new products and clients. But anyone with a new Web site might want to let their friends and past clients in on special deals.
Companies that have a lot of people using their products tweet about outages, new services, special promotions and the like.
Value to sales still elusive
Twitter may actually be a better tool for communicating with people than trying to directly sell them something. Stephanie Inge, one of eBay's best-known sellers, uses Twitter a lot and says it is a great tool for bloggingbut not for selling.
"I have quite a few followers," Inge notes, "but I have never seen any [sales] benefit."
But as with YouTube and some other Web 2.0 tools, Twitter can be useful to some and not to others. Check it out for yourself to see if using it is worth your time. We just ask that you use it responsibly and not add to the world's already overflowing virtual trashcans full of spam. By responsibly, we mean in a way that will truly make it worth your time and the time of those who read your posts.
Unique visitors to the Twitter site grew by more than 570 percent in the last year
If you ignore Twitter at this point, you do so at your own peril. Website Magazine reports that unique visitors to the site grew by more than 570 percent in the last year (from an average of 500,000 per month to 3.5 million as of October).
But growth spurts can be painful. As we were researching Twitter for this article at about 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, we received a note that read: "Twitter is currently down for database maintenance." About 90 minutes later we received the same message. Not good, but it's not surprising, considering how quickly the service has caught on.
So put us in the camp of people who sometimes tweet. We have no doubt this is a powerful tool, but you'll have to take some time to learn how to make it work for you. We'll follow others and see who wants to follow us. Deb will start with our new president. While you're at it, sign up to follow Auctiva, which is just getting its twittering underway. Given the little time it takes to follow someone, "it couldn't hurt," as some of our favorite relatives used to say.
Follow-up: We asked to follow Obama, and a few minutes later we received an e-mail with the subject "Barack Obama has requested to follow you on Twitter!" Do you think an invitation to the White House could be coming next?