How To Explain Twitter to Your Mom

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Ryan Kuder recently got me thinking about how to explain Twitter in a way that would make its value clear to my mother.

The first time I had to make a case for using Twitter was in 2006, to the management of a startup that hired me to deal with community and social marketing. They simply couldn’t see it as anything other than a unidirectional platform for broadcasting messages that were hobbled by their forced brevity. In the end they remained unconvinced but decided it was less effort to give in to my “eccentrism” than continue to resist.

Thankfully it’s a lot easier nowadays to convince somebody that they need to get a handle on Twitter. But many companies pursue Twitter just because the common wisdom tells them to — and everybody else is doing it — rather than because they see the opportunities within their reach.


Sure, Twitter can be used poorly as a broadcast platform, but the louder you shout the less interested people will be. Twitter is simple, but it isn’t crude. It’s about the conversation; a constant, real-time, interlinked and elegant conversation.

Using Twitter’s own search tools, or one of many great desktop (TweetDeck) and online (HootSuite) Twitter clients, you can find people talking about anything. With a simple @ reply you can jump right into the discussion.

Personal Touch

No matter how big your company may be, or how geographically remote from your customers, they can use Twitter to speak directly to you. Perhaps more importantly, you can speak directly to them. This immediacy has been used brilliantly by companies like JetBlue and Comcast to offer support without inflicting hold music on their customers.

Jump into related conversations, make some casual and funny observations, and suddenly you have a very human face again. All it costs you is time and the desire to connect.

Research Assistant

I can only guess what it would have cost twenty years ago to find out what people were saying about your company, your industry, your competitors in real-time. That sort of information would have been a luxury out of most people’s reach.

Now? Just set up a search in your favourite Twitter client and get notified every time somebody mentions you. Better yet, get notified when they mention your competitors, and let them know when you see an opportunity to deliver a better offer.

So What Is It?

This is all well and good, but you still need a quick and simple explanation that your mom will buy into? Try this: Twitter is free access to what people around the world are thinking and talking about, what we care about, what we’re interested in, what we’re entertained by, what we’re curious about. It’s a chance to get to know your customers, and for them to get to know you in a more genuine way.

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