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Arguing about Twitter is a waste of time

There have been various arguments about Twitter in the last few months and whether the alerts tool is useful or not.

I started one debate a while ago and now there is another one (maybe).

First, let me set the record straight before folks think I'm a puritanically obsessed Twitterati.

At a personal level, I am a fan of Twitter; I'm not a big networker on Facebook; I don't like Second Life; and most social networking online is dross.

!!!!!

?????

People misinterpret what you say and think and they also distort the facts to suit their own views of the world (don't we all?).

The reason why I write about these themes so often however is that, at a business level, I think all of these developments are changing our world socially and commercially.  That is why they are important.

Often people cannot see this because they are constrained by their assumptions of how they see this world.  The best example of this is that I wrote my monthly column for one journal recently, and they edited a key line from what I wrote:

"Twitter is used mainly by those over 35"

to: "Twitter is used mainly by those under 35"

So I sent the editor a note saying that not only did he edit my column to oblivion so it didn’t read well, but also changed a critical fact, namely that the majority of Twitter users are over the age of 35:

  • 20 per cent of all tweeters in Britain are over the age of 55, compared with 12 per cent of Facebook users;
  • 45 to 54-year-olds are 36% more likely to be using the site on average; and
  • the majority of the 10 million Twitter users worldwide are aged 35 or older.

This is therefore a good audience for bankers.

These assumptions about our world, e.g. oh, Twitter/Facebook/social networks is for youngsters (assumption) – demonstrates that many people, especially the digital aliens and immigrants, don't believe what is factually correct and so they change the whole meaning of it to suit their own interpretations and false views of the world.

This is a mistake.

Not only are Twitter users older, but the majority of Facebook users are middle-life females sharing their family with their extended family who often live in other towns, cities or even countries.

This is how these tools are changing our lives socially and, soon, commerically.

Just as the internet has changed our lives, and Amazon and iTunes have wiped out traditional book and record stores, this new revolution is doing the same for how we communicate and relate to each other.

Back to Twitter.

Many people aren't too sure what Twitter is about and having tried it, think they get it and don't see why it's useful, so they then pour doubt on its usefulness.

I did the same until I found the way to incorporate this tool into my work and social life.

You see, I prefer networking socially in the real world.

I like my life and don't need a second one.

And Jonathan Ross popping up on Twitter on a regular basis saying: "Mr. Pickles has just been sick" just makes me think of the words of an old movie star: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn".

That's why I think social networking online is dross, because I prefer social networking in real life.  That's why I don't need a second life and I'm verbose enough as it is without Twitter.

But Twitter, Facebook and Second Life are useful for augmenting my real life with social tools when I am unable to network in the real world due to distance, time or capacity.

And what I really do care about is future business, commerce and banking.

Focusing on the future is where I sit firmly, strategically and seeking every opportunity to maximise revenues and profitability for the future.

So, in the latest debate over Twitter (with James Gardner this time), I am not arguing about Twitter and whether it's worth it or not.  I don't care about Twitter.

What I care about is how micro-blogging and sharing of URLs on an enterprise and globalised basis, changes news sharing and knowledge.

That's what Twitter does today.  It's the RSS2.0 of the internet.

Tomorrow, it could be Digger, Deliciouser or Grunter.

I don't care.

That's why I responded to James's latest comment with:

Fair dues to you James for this blog entry asking if right or wrong.

My key observation is not so much about Twitter, Second Life and Facebook as internet crazes, which they are.

Crazes come and go, e.g. Facebook is just Friends Reunited / Friendster revinvented; Twitter is just SMS text messaging reinvented; and Second Life is just MMORPG (gaming) reinvented for commerce.

The fact is that all of these have a sound base for future commerce however, which is social communications providing an ability through new channels to create commercial opportunities.

This is why I am so adamant about this stuff – not the transient nature of a craze for Twitter, Facebook or Second Life – but the long-term nature of what these things can possibly do for us and our business / planet.

Sorry if you feel under attack for casting doubts, but I don't think people see the long-term opportunities here and, as I was one of those who thought Amazon and eBay were transients in 1997, to miss such opportunities is how businesses die.

Building on this comment, and in case anyone is in any doubt about where I'm coming from, I come from the land of missed opportunities.

I come from the land of thinking Microsoft's share price peaked in 1993.

I come from the land of "who needs a mobile phone"?

I come from the land of Google is just Altavista and Yahoo! and won't last.

It is the land of missed opportunities.

And, as a financier, banker, investor or whatever you or I might be, if you see an opportunity this good, then take it.

Oh yes, and what is that opportunity?

At a time when bankers are trusted less than tobacco firms, communicate openly, honestly and transparently with customers to regain business before someone else does.

Meantime, arguing about whether Twitter is worthwhile or not is about as useful as a f*rt in a space suit.

Oh yes, and in case you missed, a few bank CEO's agree with me.  Here's ANZ's CEO Brian Hartzer on why he Twitters:

"There’s no doubt that social networking is not only growing in take-up,
but in importance as a channel. Twitter is unlike any other social
media vehicle because its immediate, honest and no-nonsense environment
really allows you to feel the pulse of the community."

Neil Robinson of LANZen also pointed to a useful article about on David Knapp of Bank of America , who runs theirr Twitter service BofA_Help:

"I contacted him a few days ago (via Twitter) … He responded within 10
minutes of my tweet, got my contact information from me, and forwarded
it onto a BoA rep in my area. I missed their first call, but before I
even had a chance to call them back, I saw that both my fees had been
refunded."

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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  • I am completely with you on all points. I use Twitter very regularly now, but I can’t stand Facebook. I am always skeptical about the need for new technologies, and still think there’s a lot of cold water that needs to be splashed on Web 2.0 tools for financial institutions. Most blogs and Facebook pages from financial institutions are undeniable flops. But Twitter is a bonafide customer touchpoint, and has demonstrated its ability to achieve meaningful business results for financial institutions.
    And to be clear: I was far from smitten with Twitter when it first came out. I regarded it as a colossal waste of time. It took me many months of “sticking with it” before I saw any value or return using Twitter.
    You’re also right that kids don’t use Twitter. Ask anyone under the age of 20 if they’re using — or have even heard of Twitter — and most will say no.