The Increasing Utility of Twitter

While the regulatory side of new media has been muddled by recent FDA contradictions in what it says and what it does, the media themselves continue to develop.  Twitter, in particular, has enjoyed both growth and high visibility.  And, not only are there increased uses for Twitter, but there are increasing ways to monitor and analyze trends among Twitter users.

First, let's talk about the increasing number and types of people utilizing Twitter.  There are not exact numbers that can be quoted in terms of the number of people who are starting Twitter accounts, but anecdotally, this can be said.  On March 17, the Eye on FDA Twitter feed had 700 followers.  Three weeks later, that number increased by about 28%.  That is substantial growth in less than a month.  In addition, I noticed that the number of followers that many new followers and the number of updates have been on the low side, indicating that they have not been on Twitter very long as of yet.    

There are a growing number of newspapers on Twitter as well, and their followers are also growing. As mentioned here many times, the Clerk of the House is now reporting votes on Twitter and so is the Senate counterpart.   But the huge increase is in the number of members of Congress who are set up on Twitter.  Think of it, it is a much more personal and quick way to keep up with your constituency and to follow points of interest.  A good example of effectively attracting the attention of lawmakers is with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Advocacy Twitter  feed.  They opened up their feed on the day that President Barack Obama announced the much welcomed reversal of stem cell policies from the Bush Administration and within two weeks had over 1300 followers that included dozens of members of Congress.  

Clinical Research is also moving onto Twitter.  The Lancet is on Twitter, as is the British Medical Journal.   And finally there are several pharmas on Twitter, including AstraZeneca, Boehringer, Cell Therapeutics, Novartis,  and Roche.

Why are they coming to Twitter?  It is fast.  Here is a graph that demonstrates a Tweet I sent out not long ago that asked my followers (700 at the time) re-tweet to followers, which 40 of them did.  I counted the followers of those 40 who re-tweeted the message and found that it went out to 26,000 people – within 6 hours of the original request.  Twitter allows you not only to keep in touch with your constituency, but to extend your reach beyond to people and networks who might otherwise never notice you.  

Echo Chamber

Twitter is also direct.  You can hit targeted audiences with specific messages.  You can also monitor very well what people are saying about you or the subject in which you are interested.  

For example, using Tweetscan, you can enter in a term and see not only what people are saying about it, but who is saying it.  Think of  how useful that is in a crisis situation.  You can monitor what people are saying about your crisis, discern the messaging, develop your own response document and send it out directly to those who have been talking about it via Twitter.  It provides the incredible ability to intervene early in a crisis and know precisely what is being said at the ground level and an opportunity to get your messaging in very quickly.  Or, on Twist, you can see at what levels people are talking about particular topics – like say your crisis….

Twist
These types of tools are only going to get better and more sensitive.  In the meantime,  communications departments should be following and analyzing the topics of importance to them and ensuring that in a crisis, they understand and know how to use these tools.  And if you aren't in Twitter yet, get there.   
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One Response to The Increasing Utility of Twitter

  1. John Mack says:

    Mark,
    Regarding your Twitter Echo Chamber calculation: aren’t you overestimating the effect because a good portion of your followers’ followers are exactly the same people?
    One problem I have with Twitter is that I get the same message many times when the people I follow retweet.
    Of course, that’s great from a PR & marketing person’s perspective; reach x frequency as they say. BUT that is also the OLD model that consumers are getting very TIRED of — too many messages! twitter is not, IMHO, helping.