Twitter – boom or bust?

By | 1st October 2009

Last weekend’s  Sunday Times carried a full page article on Twitter entitled ‘What makes Twitter worth a billion dollars?

Readers of this blog (though apparently not my nearest and dearest, friends and neighbours) will know that  Twitter is a free online service which enables users to send and read messages of no longer than 140 characters known as Tweets.

I conducted a random poll around our house over breakfast amongst people ranging in age from 22 to 59 and no one had used the service nor knew what it was for. I assumed, as a result, that it must be for the very young who were not represented at the poached egg stage or for celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Barack Obama whose tweets have found their way into the press. 

How wrong can you be? The article explained that according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the average age of the twitterer is a positively wrinkly 31!! Only 11% are aged between 12 and 17, according to another research company, comScore. 

The Sunday Times wondered whether Twitter was worth one billion dollars based on a recent investment believed to be of the order of $100 million or whether it was likely to be an example of the dot com boom and bust and would disappear within a short time. 

What caught my eye, however, were comments such as: 

  • “Twitter is “redefining the way people communicate”.
  • “During the Iranian election Twitter became a sounding board for angry voters”.
  • “On Twitter you choose to hear from me and more importantly interact with me in a two way dialogue”.
  • “It’s very quick, very easy, you opt in, I’m not bothering anybody with emails or text messages, you choose when you do it. That could be very valuable-especially when it comes to brands who want to develop a deeper relationship with customers”. 

Now we all get cross with spam, pop ups, television advertisements interrupting our favourite programmes and other unwanted intrusions into our lives. I return to another favourite theme (see my  previous post ‘Opus interruptus ) and I have quoted previously from a report  which revealed that once someone had been interrupted by an incoming email it took 25 minutes for them to get back to work. We all know the feeling.

While the claims made for Twitter will have to be tested over time, and I, for one, am not in the slightest bit interested in what Stephen Fry may have to say when stuck in a lift, I began to wonder whether the founders of Twitter might not be on to something if they can persuade a sceptical public that there is more to life and Twitter than telling anyone who cares to read it, about what you had for breakfast. 

One of the greatest annoyances experienced by me when I was a busy litigator was the interruption from a wholly random and unknown source often trying to interest me in something of dubious value at a time when time was precious and the next deadline or meeting were fast approaching. It made little difference if the source of the interruption was known nor even if the person interrupting was someone you liked! 

By now on the third cup of coffee and keen to avoid the jobs lined up for me in the garden, I reflected that a marketing device which allowed potential customers to choose when to be interrupted might work well in the e-discovery market. It is well known that there are many providers of e-discovery services (I counted approximately 50 serious players the other day and if you Google e-discovery you get millions of hits) and that it is difficult for lawyers to know how to choose between them.

I thought that lawyers might look kindly on the provider who did not interrupt them but who allowed them to look at the information (remember only 140 characters) at a time of their own choosing and convenience. 

A blog is very similar in that it is read only by those who want to read it and at the time when they have time to read it. I hope that those with a little bit of time will let me know what they think about the possibilities, by posting a comment here.

Who knows, the next thing may be advertising what e-discovery providers actually offer, on YouTube!! I will return to that at another time.