Editorial: Twitter is a tad overplayed

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I had a bit of an "I told you so" moment earlier this month during my morning commute when the front page headline of New York's Metro proclaimed: "Study: Twitter's close to completely useless."

The free daily's headline was referring to a recent Harvard Business School study that questioned the micro-blog's true breadth when it found a majority of Tweeters (90%) aren't Tweeting. As someone who's been skeptical of the merit of the medium, I'm feeling pretty smug. It's not that I haven't been watching the trends, Tweeting my whereabouts @DMNews or found it fun to see what our followers are thinking — but fun and function do not always go hand in hand.

The DMNews team has been investigating the purported value of the micro-blogging site since its launch; and while many have told us they've built buzz, I've yet to hear marketers tie it to hard and fast ROI. Personally, I equate the site and others like it with informational chewing gum on par with the celebrity magazines.

But there's a greater Twit-atrocity. Rather than just insisting on my attention in a grocery store checkout lane, it's available on mobile phone, at my desktop at work and on my computer at home; it's in the constant background stealing my attention and training me to jump from one information stream to another. Multiply that by the bulk of sidelined Twitter users watching feeds without communicating and we have a mass medium of update overkill, not the promised land of one-to-one connections. No wonder customer loyalty is such a precious commodity in the digital age. 

But wait, you ask: Isn't an engaging, attention-getting, fun medium the point? Doesn't every good marketer seek to interrupt consumers in order to change their behavior? My answer is yes and no. The most effective shopping experiences I have had are with mail pieces or Web sites that I'm able to delve into and engage on a deeper level than 140 characters. Getting sold to is still a long-term process. Of course, an interrupting offer or a new product "need" suggested by a flashy medium may pique interest initially — but that's not the environment in which I hand over my credit card number.

As buyers across the US spend less, grabbing their attention for the long term has become more crucial. According to recent data from Fidelity Investments, Gen Y members age 20 to 29 are saving more and spending less — with 84% reportedly cutting their discretionary budgets. 

In our next print issue, released July 13, we'll be looking at the issue of customer retention and customer relationships in every element of DMNews. This is the first time that we'll be devoting an entire issue to one aspect of marketing - but I think it's a critical one. I welcome your thoughts on the evolving definition of customer relationship marketing.


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