Tuesday, February 24, 2009

We ALL Use Twitter - Short Term Memory, Long Term Memory, and the Consciousness of the Internet

We all use Twitter. So do all our prospects and customers.

I made that argument to our CFO and CEO the other day and was met with a rousing chorus of guffaws and comments about teenagers and people with too much time on their hands.

But it turns out, that is the critical importance of Twitter, we are all users, just not in the way you might think.

First, let’s look at how Twitter is used by those who use it directly. To be honest, the main users (in my limited sampling) seem to be lots of journalists, PR people, Twitteratti, and bloggers. Ideas are discussed and commented on, links are shared and re-tweeted, and relationships are built. Anything that is more than a day old is extremely outdated news on Twitter.

Twitter functions, in many ways, as the short term memory of the Internet.

However, what happens on Twitter does not stay on Twitter. A significant segment of the audience on Twitter is in the segment that Nielson identifies as the heaviest content contributors. Based on their 90/9/1 rule, only 1% of the audience are heavy content contributors, responsible for around 90% of the content.

This contribution of content is not limited to Twitter, much of it is contributions of content on blogs, journals, and discussions. The relationships, links, topics, and opinions that were formed and shared on Twitter are written down in longer form and discussed on these blogs and other online sites, which remain relevant for many months, or even years in some cases.

Blogs, and similar forums, form the long term memory of the Internet, and due to Participation Inequality, much of the input to this long
term memory comes from the short term memory of Twitter.

Then, as any of us involved in SEO are familiar with, Google indexes and ranks all of this content, pushing to the top the ideas and discussions that are most popular with, and linked by, the rest of the audience. This is where the vast majority of internet users interact with Twitter; through their Google search box. They are not aware that behind the scenes, the ideas shared on Twitter, and blogged about by the 1% who are active content contributors have formed a major factor in the selection of results they see, but it is nonetheless critical.

Google, as the consciousness of the Internet, indexes the long term memory, and ranks results based on their popularity in that forum. This is where the largest audience becomes exposed to those ideas.

If, as execs, we discount Twitter as unimportant because its direct users are not our peers, or our prospects, we are missing the point. We are all users of Twitter, either directly or indirectly, and if our marketing strategies discount that fact we do so at our own peril.
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
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Anonymous said...

Leads nurturing campaigns are great and at the end you will get 15+% open rate and 15+% clickthrough rate.

But, I feel that we need to find new vehicles to push information to our prospects.

We are getting started on RSS Feeds syndication, blog syndication, twitter. When we post an article, we are really impressed by the web visibility we get within 72 hours and the # of clicks re-directing traffic to our company website.

btw, I am an Eloqua client and I love your product :-)


Chad said...

Steve - this is a brilliant post. Since using Twitter I've been blogging more as I'm getting a wave of traffic happening that is similar to what you have outlined: I blog, I twit about it, other people twit about it, blog readers read it, they Digg it, they twit about it, it gets pushed up in Google so people find it, they twit about it, they Stumble it, they write about it on their blogs, it gets tweeted a bit more, I create new Twitter relationships, people add my blog to their RSS feeds etc... etc... it's extremely interesting.

Steven Woods said...

Nicolas, Chad, thanks for your comments. It is interesting that the visibility we get into exactly what gets retweeted and linked to allows us to understand what parts of our overall message are found to be interesting by the audience.

Carson Poppenger said...

Great analogy, short term - long term memory... I'm looking forward to watching it evolve.