The internet is awash with talk of Twitter. The service, which allows users to publish a running snapshot commentary of their day, and to subscribe to similar feeds by others, is riding a wave of hype. Whether or not you believe that it takes the unrestrained narcissism of social networking to a terrifying new level, it’s unsurprising that business is seeking to get involved.
The key question is: why? Most businesses want to be seen as innovative, but are customers really crying out for a kooky comms channel from their friendly neighbourhood multinational? Isn’t the consumer facing information overload enough as it is? Similarly, does anyone really welcome the idea that firms are scouring the Twitterspace to follow up on negative customer experiences, or to offer their services? Corporate twittering is a solution looking for a problem.
The relative ease of establishing a foothold in digital niches such as Twitter tempts fools to rush in, but in general, these attempts ring hollow, and rather than showing true innovation, they illustrate a lack of strategic digital planning. At ?What If! we have gingerly poked our toe into Twitter, largely to coincide with TopDog, our recent industry get-together – and to ‘feel out’ whether it is right for us. But such are the advantages afforded to firms with an open-ended innovation brief.
The first rule must always be to understand the technology on its own terms – not every platform is wired up for immediate transplantation to another context. Right now, any number of ill-advised planning departments are scheming to shoehorn some ‘Obama grassroots magic’ into their digital strategy. They will likely end in failure.
Digital innovations present exciting possibilities, but they will either require robust customisation, or – more scarily – we need to change ourselves in order to get the most out of them.