Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Media's Love Affair With Twitter

I signed up for my Twitter account in May 2007, about a year after a lot of my techie friends did. I really didn't start using Twitter until last fall, and now it seems the whole world is using Twitter.

One thing that has really surprised me about the Twitter phenomenon is how quickly the media has embraced it. It's hard to read any magazine or watch a television program without a plug for Twitter. On-air broadcasters invite viewers to interact with them through Twitter, and often respond to viewer tweets while they're on the air. Think about how much free advertising and publicity (and subsequent word-of-mouth) Twitter is generating. Twitter is almost as popular as the Snuggie.

Just look at the Top 20 Twitterers on Twitterholic and you'll see what I mean. CNN, The New York Times, NPR, and Mashable all make the cut. Depending on your definition of media, you could easily add another 15 media Twitters when looking at the top 100.

I don't remember the media being so enamored with Facebook or MySpace - many media outlets were late to the party for those (and many had to pay-to-play when they got there). It seems that they don't want to miss the boat this time around. Twitter may not have a business model yet (that we know about), but they certainly have captured the attention of mainstream media (not to mention celebrities and other public figures).

So why does the media love Twitter so much? Here are a couple of possibilities:
  • It takes less than five minutes to set up the account - even with some brand-friendly customization.
  • It doesn't cost them a penny - Twitter is free, making it one of the most cost-effective channels for reaching audiences.
  • Accurate audience numbers - while Twitter is still small compared to other online channels, everyone knows how many followers you have. Many media outlets don't know for sure how large their online audience is (read this article in Technology Review for more on this).
  • Twitter has a huge "cool factor" for brands - instantly demonstrating that media participants "get it" and are in-tune to the Internet-savvy audiences that consume their content.
  • Traditional media is hurting - they need to embrace new channels or risk becoming extinct. With newspapers dying everyday, media needs to find new outlets to reach consumers.
  • Twitter drives traffic - with little effort, a media outlet can post a link to a new story and drive up to thousands of unique visitors to its site within minutes (not to mention the pass along retweet factor).
  • Instant feedback loop - journalists know instantly whether or not audiences are interested in their content, based on retweets, click-thru (using trackable URL shortening services and Web analytics), and general responses from readers.
  • Instant trend data (free research) - The media can keep tabs on current trends and topics in real-time, responding even faster to audience demand for coverage. They can also identify new expert sources and topics with relative ease, using simple searches and following the conversations of their followers.
  • The President used it - in part - to get elected. There is huge support from politicians and political journalists on Twitter. It's proven to work as a communication channel for them, why not for media?
  • The competition is using it. Regardless of whether or not Twitter shakes out to be a fad, or they find a business model that forces organizations to pay-to-play, media can't risk their competition having more Twittershare. They need to be there to keep up with the Jones.
These are just a few possibilities for what is behind the massive success Twitter has found so far among media users. It's obvious that Twitter is here to stay for now, as constant media mentions for Twitter drive new users in droves to this channel. It will be interesting to see how journalists continue to use this medium in the months to come.

Why do you think the media loves Twitter so much?

1 comment:

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