Twitter's 101 Primer for Business Users

Last Updated Jul 25, 2009 3:10 PM EDT

Yesterday, after rereading all of those leaked internal Twitter documents published by TechCrunch recently, I started getting a better grasp of the company's strategy going forward. As we noted yesterday, a newly redesigned home page will be launching soon that should help newcomers, including business people, figure out what this micro-blogging service is all about, and how they might use it to their benefit.

The lead designer for this project, Doug Bowman, came over to Twitter after leaving Google in March. He explained his reasons for leaving the search giant, "Without a person at (or near) the helm who thoroughly understands the principles and elements of Design, a company eventually runs out of reasons for design decisions...data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions."
After I wrote about Bowman's exit, the great designer Roger Black added this comment to my post: "In the event the folks at Google need a precedent for what happens to a big Internet service company that never seriously adopts a content and design strategy, they need look no farther than . . . Yahoo."

Then, in his blog post welcoming Bowman to Twitter, Biz Stone wrote, "Creativity is an infinitely renewable resource and Doug embodies that completely."

All of this is coming full-circle with Twitter's first major design change since it became the hottest company on the planet earlier this spring. In another, less-noticed move these past few days, Stone announced the release of "Twitter 101: A Special Guide," noting that it is particularly meant for businesses.

Here are some of the highlights in that guide, which is exceptionally accessible and unpretentious in tone:

  • "Twitter lets you write and read messages of up to 140 characters, or the very length of this sentence, including all punctuation and spaces."
  • "When you combine messages that are quick to write, easy to read, public, controlled by the recipient and exchangeable anywhere, you've got a powerful, real-time communications medium."
  • "Twitter connects you to your customers right now, in a way that was never before possible."
  • "If you run a search for your brand, you may find people posting messages about how happy they are...Others may post minor equipment complaints or desired features that they would never bother to contact you about--providing you with invaluable customer feedback that you can respond to right away or use for future planning. Still others may twitter about serious problems with your (product)--letting you offer customer service that can turn around a bad situation."
  • "But Twitter isn't just about useful immediacy. The conversational nature of the medium lets you build relationships with customers, partners and other people important to your business. Beyond transactions, Twitter gives your constituents direct access to employees and a way to contribute to your company; as marketers say, it shrinks the emotional distance between your company and your customers."
  • "In addition to learning more about what your customers want, you can provide exclusive Twitter coupon codes, link to key posts on your blog, share tips for shopping online, and announce specials at store locations."
So, Twitter is providing businesses new channels for marketing, customer-service, and relationship-building with their customers. If you've been one of those slow to the party, and therefore wondering why all the fuss inside the business world about this social media service, these are three key reasons.

In addition to its utility and its commitment to design modifications, the thing about Twitter's corporate structure that is so refreshing is that it seems to utterly lack any of the arrogance and pretense so common in tech start-ups. There are no "we are so cool" vibes coming from this company. In one of my favorite passages from those leaked documents, one employee asks "What do we want to be when we grow up?"

  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital, Salon.com, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.