This just in… Who cares?

23 Apr

[by Todd] Can someone tell me, in 30 minutes or less, why I should care at all about Twitter? Seriously, I’d love to figure this out. According to Leigh companies need to have their ear to Twitter in order to get the first glimpse of brand nightmares headed their way.

But, try as I might, I fail to see Twitter as anything more than a curiosity among a precious few nerds.

Hang on. Let me back up my rant and try this again.

Leigh is right, every company on the face of the planet should have a plan for responding to consumer outcry. And no plan should be complete without incorporating listening to and responding in the UGC world. But deciding just when and how to respond is the truly tricky part.

Way back in News 105 (a.k.a learning how to write a news story) we were told that key elements of newsworthiness were timeliness, proximity and impact. So that two-car crash that tied up rush hour traffic for you is a big story at home, but not likely to matter much to people a couple hundred miles away.

Of course all this was long before anyone created a blog, or "twittered" (damn, that just sounds wrong). Suddenly geography isn’t the easy calculation it once was. And timeliness has been sliced down to nano seconds compared to what it once was. But impact, that remains the gold standard. Which brings me back to my rant.

Companies need to keep a keen focus on asking "Who cares?" whenever an issue pops up on the radar. If person X, blogging on a site with five links raises an issue, then I care a lot less than if it is on a site frequently cited on 100s of other sites.

Double ditto with Twitter. Yes, I want to know what’s being said. But I can’t imagine ever pulling a play book off the shelf and initiating a disaster response program based on a Twitter. All too often it’s just a handful of like-minded technophiles whispering among themselves.

The critical skill required is an ability to understand what makes news. Shame on any public relations agency or brand agency that isn’t studying daily how stories move between the user generated world and mainstream media. But never let three executives talking among themselves about something they found on Twitter trigger a full-scale response.

So I would add the following to Leigh’s game plan. Call on professionals. Either keep a public relations firm on retainer, or have one in your Rolodex. Then, when you hear a whisper on Twitter, or see your brand on Technorati, call on a pro and ask them to help evaluate the risk.

After all, there’s nothing worse than a company taking a spark of unrest and pouring fuel on it to create a full-blown conflagration.