Earlier this week I watched Robert Scoble on his book tour talk about his ideas on how blogging from within a company changes the nature of the conversation with the customer. He should know – and I agree with most of his premise (I’d disagree that ‘buzz’ is unique to the blogosphere, but it’s certainly different).
The core of the message was that the blogosphere is both diverse and current, and therefore it’s possible to discover new and interesting things very quickly. That can apply to everything from news to products to gossip. Buzz travels faster in the blogosphere, and there are more (and presumably better) opinions and perspectives.
Then, he brought up Twitter. It’s pretty unlikely you’ve never heard of Twitter – the ‘buzz’ on Twitter as spread quickly, and interestingly often by using Twitter itself. But if you haven’t, it’s essentially a communication vehicle that allows you to be in a virtual conversation with all of your “friends” all of the time by web, IM or mobile phone. It’s fast, slightly addictive, and at least at first a bit overwhelming. (Add me to your Twitter friends if you want to try).
Here’s where it got interesting. We used to learn about new things in time units of days. Newspapers and daily news shows and the like brought us interesting and up-to-date information. Just two months ago, we were learning about new things in hours (sometimes minutes if you happened to be paying attention). Blogs, podcasts, even IM, chat and text messages took a short time to travel around, and we found out about (or our friends told us about) the cool new thing.
Now it’s seconds. I can watch the Twitter streams of people I know will have the latest information. I can spread information to my friends (or anyone who will listen) in a matter of seconds. They can do the same for me.
The marketing perspective? This changes the game. Remember those weeks (or for some of you, months) you spent planning your launch? beta-testing your site/service/product? Well, now, as soon as someone thinks it’s worth talking about (and that can be because it’s cool or because they hate it!), they can tell everyone they know in a matter of seconds. Are you prepared for the rush of attention?
And are you prepared to admit that you’ve now not only lost control over the message, but that old-hat “we’re not ready to make this widely known yet” – sorry, I’d have to say that if Scoble (or anyone who becomes widely followed) twitters about it, it’s widely known.
If you don’t believe it, look at the exposure Twitter got on blogs and in the news within just the first month or two after opening their site (search Technorati if you don’t believe me). And the most talked about topic on Twitter? Twitter! (maybe McLuhan was right…)
The point: The speed of buzz just got a lot faster. Maybe the speed of information did also.
This means you have to be prepared to be very public and, to use the current jargon, transparent, much faster and much more readily. Your audience will form opinions much sooner than you expect, and you won’t have much opportunity to influence them.
If what you’re offering is great – good for you – you have a good chance at a rapid success. If what you’re offering meets with disapproval, your audience will know it and move on just as quickly.
I don’t know if Twitter will be the ultimate way that the speed of buzz takes yet another leap, but it’s proof that the leap will happen. Get ready.