Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Twitter - blogging for the masses

For a long time I didn't understand why everyone was so enamored of Twitter. It seemed like an effective broadcasting tool, but my gut told me it would suffer the wrath of blogs - a ton of readers/followers with few, concentrated creators. While the blogging model can be monetized effectively through niche, contextual ads, Twitter writers or Twitter itself would have a hard time copying that model. 140 characters seems a huge limitation to line by line context, and as a result context based ads, especially if you're broadcasting random thoughts or daily activities.

Within a few minutes of using Twitter last month though, I 'got' it. Writing a blog to attract a readership is tough work. Readers expect content and blog writers have to produce it in volumes. Don't produce, readers abandon your feed. For the last year or so, I've literally had little to no time or interest in writing (which I love to do). A ton of my friends who blogged have tapered off as well for what I assume are similar reasons. Ultimately, blogging is such a great tool for broadcasting your expertise or opinions due to SEO. But the cost on personal time is material, so 99.9% of blog readers don't end up blogging at all or don't stick with it.

Twitter is effectively blogging for the masses. Most of the upside is still there. An effective tool for self-promotion, quick access via mobile or feeds, an inherent method for creating connection with thousands of readers. But by breaking down the format to 140 characters, everyone can do it simply and almost without thought. It's taking the basics of viral marketing (singular focus, super simple, no thought required) and applying it to something creative. This up-ends the creative/followers ratio from less than 1% on blogs to what I assume is some huge multiple of that (no clue what the writer vs follower % actually is on Twitter).

Given the huge number of writers that are suddenly enabled via tweets, you have to believe Twitter will be larger than Wordpress in short order (100M+ uniques a month), which makes it ridiculously valuable. Capturing user-created contextual data, even if piecemealed, is more valuable than user-read contextual data (i.e. blogs). The former is simply more representative of the individual than the latter, so long as there's enough content being written. Do this across 100M+ people and suddenly you have a massive network of interests, groups and engagement, all of which can be targeted for advertisers for a fee. Doesn't matter how this can be done, whether through behavioral targeting via cookies, search, company tweets, etc. Think of it as a cross of Google, Facebook and MySpace. Search delivers dynamic context (and monetization) on what you're looking for. Micro-blogging delivers dynamic context based on your publicly available status update. Both drive the same difference, an opportunity for a business or advertiser to generate a high CTR. Mix in self-expression and mass-market acceptance and you have a killer service. No doubt that's driving Facebook to open up its pages to the public or consider an acquisition.

Well, you can safely assume I'll be doing a lot more twittering than blogging for now, though at some point when stuff at RockYou calms down I'll come back to writing long-form - hard to do it well in 140 characters, feels like I'm writing haikus. Here's my latest tweet: "for any The Wire fans out there, wife and I settled that she's the Marlo and I'm the Stringer Bell of RockYou".

(I'm rochoy on Twitter btw).
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