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Twitter and business

Sathnam Sanghera’s article today in The Times –  Twitter may not be right for business – shows just how easy it is to confuse what Twitter is all about.

To dismiss Twitter’s usefulness for business by citing examples of how some retailers like Sainsbury and Marks & Spencer are using Twitter rather clumsily by posting messages about their weekly special offers is an easy pot-shot to take. And a massive oversimplification akin to saying that the traditional postal service is flawed as a medium for carrying letters between friends and family because it also carries bills, mail order items, business documents and Christmas cards and so on.

Twitter is the kind of open platform that doesn’t discriminate usage nor require a rigid context in order for it to function properly, just like the postal service and telephone networks before it. Any kind of message is permissible including those that are apparently completely incomprehensible.

For example, alongside keeping up-to-date with news and insights from people and companies I’m interested in, I also use Twitter as a virtual personal assistant. Remember The Milk is an online to-do list application which integrates with Twitter among other things.

So, whether it be from my smartphone or desktop, by simply sending a direct message to the @rtm Twitter account, e.g.

d @rtm pay gas bill next tuesday £84.21

…my Twitter borne to-do note then automatically routes its way onto my desktop calendar application’s to-do list for next Tuesday, all via the Twitter integrated Remember The Milk service. Now, these messages don’t appear on my public Twitter timeline, but if they did they would be of no value to anyone but me. And possibly British Gas.

Xero partner MinuteDock last month announced that they were building Twitter integration into their online time recording application to deliver something similar for booking and billing project work for clients, with an integrated hand-off to Xero for billing. Now this kind of feature wouldn’t suit every business, but again that’s OK. The context and applicability need not be universal.

Through a myopic lens it’s easy to conclude that Twitter is indeed a trivial waste of time full of pointless details and needy celebrities as well as being a golden opportunity for some businesses to look like inept, cynical marketeers.

But look a little closer and you’ll find there might be more to it than that.

PS. Tesco’s Prawn-mayo sandwiches ftw – v. yummy


Read more about Technology, Social Media



13 November 2009 #

Do you mean “dm @rtm …..”. Does the single letter d work for direct message?

Gary Turner
16 November 2009 #

Single d is fine.

The correct microsyntax for denoting a direct message or DM in Twitter is just d + username + message

10 March 2010 #

Hi Gary,

Excellent article, very well …

Another idea (about Twitter and business) could be:


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