This is a follow up to yesterday’s post about Morton’s use of twitter. As Aaron and Angela both correctly point out in the comments, this sort of behavior devalues Twitter as a communication tool. I want to stop referring to Twitter and like-tools as “media” because media doesn’t even begin to cover what it does.
Here’s the thing, comparing online communication tools using a term that has nothing to do with two-way communication automatically invites people, in this case marketing people, to view the tool in the same way they view radio, print and television, as a place to get a message out to people who will consume the message.
As @michaelramm pointed out to me today on Twitter, yes you can use Twitter to pass along information to a large group of people, but it’s also much more than that. It’s also a terrific networking tool, allowing people to connect and share information and ideas on a one-to-one basis. That’s the thing that differentiates not just Twitter, but the internet as a whole. It’s not just about consuming information, it’s a true marketplace. It’s a large, never ending, networking event, if you like.
Let’s take that metaphor and understand why all these “retweet to win a prize” gimmicks are just that, gimmicky. Let’s say we are all at one large networking event, where you have to option to make as many connections as you can, and speak with all of them simultaneously. Sure, the event has sponsers, and you’ll probably have to listen to a few words from each of them. Some of the folks in attendance are also working in sales, and want the opportunity to talk to you about their product. You, of course, have the option to say no, that product isn’t really a fit for me, and you each move on. Certainly the people you have made connections with may find a product, or person that can be useful for you, so they pass along that information, doing great word of mouth marketing because they have had a good experience.
All of these things go on at networking events, and online, everyday. I have no problem with any of it. However, do you ever see anyone walking around a networking event and starting every conversation with “I’m trying to win a contest, so let me mention the name of a company you dont care at all about, just because they might give me a prize!”
You wouldn’t stand for it. It’s bad form on two fronts, one for the company in question, the other for the person doing the retweeting.
The company in question isn’t asking people they have a relationship with to help spread the word about their product based on their own good experience, they are asking people who know nothing about them, to talk about them online in exchange for “payment” in the form of contest entries. It tells me that you aren’t generating enough word of mouth, so you’re resporting to a gimmick. It makes me wonder why you have to resort to this instead of encouraging people to talk about their own experience with you. Maybe it’s because no one actually has had a good experience? On top of that, you’re asking people to annoy their friends, is annoyance really the way you want me to remember your name? Surely a company like Morton’s doesn’t need to resort to this, and surely a company like Fahlgren Mortine, who in my interctions with folks who work there do actually seem to get social networking sites like Twitter, can do better.
The second, and more aggravating, front for me are all the people who continue to go along with this kind of thing, which I will explain in more detail in the next post.