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 Anything that is more than a day old is extremely outdated news on Twitter.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.