Rise of the Sialia sialis

There’s a new bird in town. Perhaps you’ve seen the little blue bird on some of the websites you frequent. Facebook, say hello to Twitter.

Twitter is the new Blogger in a sound byte world. Back in my days in media relations I knew that if my message couldn’t be communicated in 15 seconds you might as well keep your mouth shut. Okay, I’m exaggerating about the 15 seconds. Now you only get 140 characters.

Like most new social media applications I approached this new one with a little skepticism. I kind of got it because it was very similar to the Facebook status updates. As a matter of fact, that is what first got me using Twitter. It allowed me to update my Facebook status using texting from my cell phone.

As an avid cyclist, I started looking around on Twitter to see if I could find some of the professional riders. The first I came upon was Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) and then Dave Zabristkie (@dzabriskie).  It wasn’t long before George Hincapie was on board as well (@ghincapie).

One thing is for certain, when Lance Armstrong gets into something, he gets in with both feet!  As of the time of this writing, he is up to 24,488 followers of his tweets.  Of course, that is just a drop in the bucket to accounts like the Obama campaign with over 165,000 followers.

You know that Twitter is starting to have an impact when it starts shaping the mainstream.  Take for instance a recent event with Lance Armstrong.  It would appear that Lance was trying to make an under cover entrance into the land down under for the Australia’s Tour Down Under.  His cover got blown… not by giving information, but from the lack of it.

Armstrong is such a prodigious Twitter user that people noticed when his tweets went silent.  Before you knew it, the word was that he on his way to Australia.  As Lance says in his first tweet on location, “So much for sneaking into Australia…my old journo buddy Rupert Guiness says since I didn’t twitter for 10 hours, it tipped them off. Haha.”

Yes, Twitter is the new Blogger in a sound byte world.  It is easy to use which makes it seem less cumbersome to people busy and on the go.  It is also easy to deal with on the follower’s side because the information comes in very short bursts so it is easy to digest.

The service is also a great way to build your brand.  If what you tweet is useful and interesting, you can gain a following that can lead to more traffic to your “traditional” means of communicating on the web.  Here at LowCadence.com, tweets of my own and others that link to my articles generate more traffic than any other source.  Once, when George Hincapie, linked to my site in a tweet, I had my largest spike ever.  I still get some traffic from that entry several weeks old.

Some companies are even using it as a means to provide better customer support.  I mentioned in an earlier blog about Twenty20’s VHoldR.  I mentioned a problem I was having with their camera in a tweet — remember under 140 characters — and they found it by a word search.  They made contact with me and that proactive action helped build a more loyal customer.

Some things I have learned?  Don’t over do it. I still believe there is such a thing as “share fatigue.”  It happens for both the “follower” and the “followed”.  For some people, it is possible to share so much of yourself that you reach a point where you want to escape!

However. more likely, it is possible to share so much that people tune you out.  Thirty fifteen second sound bytes in a row equals seven minutes plus.  Unless I am REALLY interested in what someone has to say, I skim right over some tweets simply because of the number of them.

Use your links judiciously. Another tweet I will overlook is the one that doesn’t give much information in the tweet but simply links to a URL.  Granted, you may have found this article because you clicked on the link that my software automatically sends out when I post.  However, I make it a point to use that sparingly.

Again, you want to avoid the Boy Who Cried Wolf syndrome.  A few judicious posts opens the door for your links.  Of course, it never hurts to make sure you are linking to information people really want to see!  We all know that person who forwards every “funny” email that comes into his or her box.

Twitter isn’t a gimmick.  In this relationship driven culture that we live in, it is a growing phenomenon.  Who knows what the next thing will be.  For now, the blue bird seems to be on the rise.  Join in the fun and be sure you give @jpait a follow :-).