Twitter is like a series of tubes…no, wait, that’s the Internets. Ok, try this, Twitter is a river of information, a veritable data flow that can be strained and redirected in all sorts of ways. That being said, the wide-open nature of the platform has opened the door to data that is (to some folks at least) the equivalent of a power plant dumping PCB’s into the river. For instance, Twitter founders @ev and @biz were on The View today and got an earful from Whoopi Goldberg who doesn’t use their service, but who is represented on Twitter by an impostor.
She was assured that Twitter was moving towards a verification model but it’s hard to see quite how they would be able to prevent this from happening, at least until the real Whoopi Goldberg speaks up. Marketers come across this all the time, sometimes by hucksters who are practicing the ancient art of cybersquatting, and on occasion by someone who is parodying the brand or celeb. More tricky are the pages that are set up by fans of the brand or celeb who, while they may be off message, are generally supportive and doing active outreach and in some cases racking up thousands of followers.
The reality is that it’s very hard to weed out the real from the fake in social media. Facebook’s fan page model was set up in part to do so but as Coca-Cola found, by not engaging they opened the door to others to do so for them. They eventually co-opted their Facebook fan page rather than fighting to control it.
In the end though the only recourse other than trying to reason, cajole, bribe, or otherwise sway someone who is using your brand name on Twitter (or many other sites) is to appeal to the platform itself. As some of us have found with Twitter though, booming traffic means longer lines to get action taken on stuff like reclaiming your brand’s handle.
Still Biz and Ev seemed to acknowledge today that the site wouldn’t grow if the information on it was too confusing or misleading. The ultimate result may be a more formalized process to sort out who ought to be able to use what handle.
So much for what goes in the river, what about understanding what comes out of it?
From a marketing perspective this is just as important. Clients love to see hard numbers and data to back up their outreach whether it be in social media, search, or offline. Twitter’s deal today to toss out market leader TinyURL in favor of insurgent link-shortener bit.ly is significant not just for bit.ly, which is sure to get a vastly expanded number of links and users. For Twitter too it represents, along with the elevation of Twitter Trends data to user pages, an acknowledgment of the importance of metrics. Bit.ly adds the potential to tie up rich data on how links are being shared no matter who shortens them, and track what happens when those links migrate off-platform to other services, sites, and even search engines.
It’s the kind of a-ha! moment (and I don’t mean the moment when you realize you are a Norwegian new wave band in a partially animated video) when I can see the next step pretty clearly – buy bit.ly. Just like the earlier acquisition of Summize (now known as Twitter Search and now embedded on users pages where it belongs) bit.ly’s metrics add to the usefulness of the site as a whole and enhances one of Twitter’s main uses – link sharing.
More importantly this move creates more options for how to open up Twitter further to smart commerce and marketing while still respecting the core integrity of the site and how people use it.
Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them here or check out Reprise Media folks on Twitter.