Will Twitter Destroy the US Economy as We Know It?

When I think about added value, I think about how professional service businesses sell their services. After all, anyone can go online to complete their tax returns. Why spend the money with H&R Block or hire a CPA that costs more that $100/hour at the low end? There’s an implied added value to the buyers that is much better than free e-filing your taxes.

Zachary Karabell, who writes for Time magazine, had this article in a recent issue: “To Tweet or Not to Tweet: Social-media sites are all the rage, but what is the added value to our economy?”  I see the basis of his arguments in this paragraph of his article:
“There can be little doubt that these (social media) companies enrich their founders as well as some investors. But do they add anything to overall economic activity? While jobs in social media are growing fast, there were only about 21,000 listings last spring, a tiny fraction of the 150 million — member U.S. workforce. So do social-media tools enhance productivity or help us bridge the wealth divide? Or are they simply social — entertaining and diverting us but a wash when it comes to national economic health?”
Good question, Mr. Karabell. His article forced me to rethink what’s the value of Twitter to my clients, or any social media platform for that matter. Here’s what I came up with:
  • Twitter is one more informational and target audience aggregator: Not a very exciting premise, but a powerful one. According to eMarketer, “Demographically, US Twitter users skew young and female. The Twitter usage rate among 18- to 29-year-olds is double that of the 30-to-49 group, according to a Pew study, and women users slightly outnumber men.” While this is a broad analysis of users, it does tell you that when you drill down into Twitter, this will be the core audience. Is that who you are selling to?
  • Twitter demands honing the art of headlines: I like the way copyblogger puts it, “Your headline is the first, and perhaps only, impression you make on a prospective reader.” Newspapers have been doing this for decades. However, the difference now is that with Twitter those who “subscribe” to your Tweets will have to decide in a matter of seconds if your 140 characters is worth their time to read.
  • Twitter shows you’re contemporary, but you still need to show competence: It’s like the idea of getting a customer in the door with a sale sign. However, you still need to sell them on the product or service. Many professional service businesses use Twitter more as a recruiting tool because they know fresh college grads are using that medium. Yet when they come in for the interview, you better be sure that you’ve gotten rid of all the boneheaded bosses. Wait, I take that back — if the potential employee went to glassdoor.com (one of the tamer places for employer reviews), your bonehead managers could have been made public.
So, I can’t say that Twitter will bring down our economy anytime soon because I do see it adding value as a communications tool that more people are participating in. The issue is how the tool is used. Throwing a baseball in Wrigley Field brings out thousands of people to watch. Throwing a ball in a fine China shop brings out a couple of police officers.