When I heard the news about Twitter’s Fast Follow option, a few thoughts ran through my head.
- API jam-ups (moreso than usual)
- Who cares about following someone on Twitter if they’re not on Twitter (WTF)?
- Larger scope applications for brick-and-mortar…and virtual…businesses.
As there are a herd of people in this world smarter than me, I decided to ask them if I was overreacting to a social media platform doing yet ANOTHER thing that would overburden their API and do nothing to really enhance the customer experience. Or…would it?
Cue Chris Brogan of New Marketing Labs (his blog should be in your reader – now, please) and Shelly Kramer of V3 Integrated Media (aaaaand her blog in your reader now, too). I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts after you read theirs. Between you and me, I’m looking forward to my next brick and mortar client where this tool (of which I was initially skeptical) could prove a major player in foot traffic generation.
With Twitter’s rapid growth over the past three years, what do you think their motivation was in setting up a way for NON-TWITTER USERS to (ahem) get updates from Twitter?
Chris: I think it’s a way to extend the platform to people who don’t feel like participating. In the use case I read, it makes perfect sense: you’re out at a restaurant, see the “follow us on twitter” sign for the restaurant, and you follow it just to get updates from the restaurant. It’s very similar to the AOL method of the old days: “use AOL keyword SnarkBall to follow our updates.”
Shelly: I think Twitter’s motivation is the same as any businesses’ motivation – to grow and add value. With Fast Follow, Twitter encourages “non-users” to jump in and try out this crazy thing called Twitter, without really making much of a commitment. It’s a bit like the websites that allow you to place an online order without actually registering and creating an account. Some people prefer that kind of noncommittal relationship – since they don’t know if they’re ever coming back. This makes Twitter easier for them and potentially adds to the user base and the ultimate value of the Twitter platform for its founders. And, it also allows businesses a way to offer promos and special deals – which I think could ultimately end up being a big deal.
What do you feel will be the industries/sectors that will try to use Fast Follow from the onset?
Chris: I think retail and commercial people will use it first. Consumables. Because with Fast Follow, people are bypassing the two-way nature of Twitter and attempting to use it like a marketing broadcast tool. Though I personally rankle at that particular usage, I totally get it.
Shelly: I see this as a great fit for bars, restaurants, tanning salons, quick service places like Jiffy Lube and Great Clips and the like, who want to offer deals to consumers and test their willingness to participate.
Twitter accounts get hacked all the time. Do you think there would be additional motivations to hack accounts using and promoting the Fast Follow service?
Chris: That’s an interesting question. I think there will always be a motivation to hack a Twitter account, depending on the value of the account. Because people use weak passwords, trust any random application they plug their data into, and use other loose methods of managing their Twitter identity, sadly, hacking Twitter accounts is an easy target.
Shelly: I don’t think hacking will be any more of an issue with this feature than with anything else. As long as people continue to mindlessly select easy to hack passwords, accounts will be hacked.
What are some of the potential pitfalls you see for businesses/destinations adopting the Fast Follow platform?
Chris: I think the biggest negative to having people simple Fast Follow is that you lose the two way street. That’s like having a retail store with no clerks. Imagine people wandering your store trying to get some custom help and having no one to ask. That’s what this dynamic sets up.
Shelly: There won’t be any opportunity for businesses to get a taste of the truest value of Twitter, which is the engagement aspect. When you take all the “personality” out of the equation, Twitter really becomes a pretty boring medium. At least it would be boring to me. Using Twitter in the more traditional way as a two-way communication channel with customers and prospective customers adds so much value for businesses. And the users also will miss out on the greatest things that Twitter has to offer, but it’s also been my experience that there are many folks out there who aren’t much interested in that. So they may use the platform when they have the opportunity to do so in this way – and that’ll be a win for both Twitter and this new kind of user.
The first thing that came to mind for me when I read about the platform was the urban adventure potential. Scavenger hunts. Teams text when they arrive at the next location for a clue…What are some of the nontraditional applications you’d see benefiting from the Fast Follow feature? (Yeah, I know – you get paid to answer shit like this, but humor me at 36,000 ft, would ya?)
Chris: That’s certainly a great way to think of using it. I think that Fast Follow as a broadcast tool will have other uses that mimic mass text. For instance, if you want to do projects with teens, it’s a safer way to manage data because Twitter acts as the 3rd party intermediary, meaning that companies don’t have direct access to a teen’s telephone number. Beyond that, I think that Fast Follow could be married to location-based apps to do some interesting things. If I wanted certain storefinder abilities for every city I visited, once I geo-located in a city, imagine being able to pick out a list of concierge services I want to know about and have a Fast Follow account blast me all the contact and address info.
Shelly: I didn’t think about that, but I think that’s a great idea. Groups of people might be interesting too, scout troops…
What if Fast Follow isn’t fast enough? We all know how pissed we get when Twitter’s API goes down like a $3 hooker. Talk to me.
Chris: It’s the same platform, so it’ll perform exactly the way Twitter does. In fact, it’ll degrade Twitter’s service in the short term if it’s widely adopted. However, because all those new users won’t be retweeting, it’ll be a less painful bump.
Shelly: It’s a pretty good bet that a $3 hooker will always be nothing more than a $3 hooker. The Twitter API will continue to be an issue – and that’ll chase these new users – business and consumer – away quickly. Surely Twitter is aware of and focused on remedying this.
What does Twitter gain by launching Fast Follow? What do they gain by “bringing Twitter to the tens of millions of passive users who occasionally consume tweets from their favorite people or brands but don’t care to tweet themselves”?
Chris: What does any service gain by adding a mass of new users? Advertising clout.
Shelly: I touched on this in my earlier answer, but I really think it’s about Twitter expanding its capabilities to tap into a potential user group that’s not interested in the more traditional uses of Twitter. I also think that part of the beauty of Twitter’s leadership is that they are always exploring and trying new things, all with an ultimate goal of being profitable. I’m all for that, and tremendously interested in seeing what other uses there are for this platform that I think is so fascinating – and so incredibly useful from a marketing and consumer engagement standpoint. As you know from the time we spend together, I’m a huge fan of the launch it, tweak it strategy, and this seems to me to be an example of that. We won’t really be sure how it will work, be adopted, used, etc., until it’s out there and people are writing, talking, experimenting with and using it. I’m excited to see what happens next.
If you had a nightmare about a certain business using Fast Follow…describe it to me.
Chris: I don’t think Fast Follow will impact the “in-system” Twitter users much. It’s just a way for non-system users to get Tweets. My nightmares are about sharks under the floorboards in old houses.
Shelly: I don’t have any nightmares. Chatroulette is my definition of a nightmare – or at least a potential one. This just seems exciting.
A special thanks to both Chris and Shelly for taking time to answer my questions this week! Now…your thoughts?