Tweet Tweet

Twitter, it seems, is definitely flavour of the month. Last week it got a front page mention of the Guardian due to Downing Street, no less, dipping its toe into the Twittersphere, and the amount of Twitter-related articles and posts in my RSS reader keeps on growing by the day. Twitter’s tipping point, if not already here, is close to arriving. And that means both the company and PR Tweeters need to start sitting down and thinking out their respective strategies.

Firstly, here’s an example of how Innocent, a company that is usually pretty with it when it comes to social media, seems to have got Twitter a bit wrong. It’s a bit embarrassing when a government aide can work Twitter better than most companies. Usually this government is one of the last to leap on board new web projects and gets it hideously wrong in the process.

But Innocent’s misstep shows that in the age of social media, you can’t just stick out a press release or fire out updates. Perhaps that’s fine for a standard Web 1.0 website, or even a corporate blog. But if you’ve going to join Twitter then you’ve got to understand it’s a conversation not a lecture or an high-tech information pamphlet.

Whatever you’re promoting, you’ve got to be prepared to interact with your audience. You may even be promoting a brand that has lots of fans. But what’s in it for the fans if they’re just getting links or updates but no conversation? Other than the immediacy, why should that make Twitter any better than just sticking a regularly updated website into your RSS feeds.

Another side issue is brand v trust. Depending on how big the brand or event or whatever you’re publicising is, perhaps its worth having a trusted employee with an established Twitter presence on there. It’s a question I’m going to have to answer soon, with a football (sorry, can’t quite bring myself to write soccer) related bit of publicity for work. I’m getting plenty of football-related followers on my feed. Would they get annoyed or offended if I start using Twitter to publicise something I’m working on, or would it be more successful than if I launched a branded feed?

There’s also a fine line between PR on Twitter and spam. At what stage does targeting those who might be interested in your product cross the line and make your average user reach for the block button quicker than you can say tinyurl?

Finally, in Japan Twitter have started running adverts. As David North cautions, they need to handle this carefully, lest the company themselves cross that line into spam.

But for those Web 2.0 fans, and casual supporters, Twitter seems to be finally arriving. And now us in the media need to deal with it.

UPDATE: Ben Ayers asks if Downing Street has peaked on Twitter.