Five years ago, if you were to say you wanted to “tweet,” the person you were talking to would probably think you were crazy. As pervasive as Twitter is today, five years ago it was nonexistent. When Jack Dorsey launched Twitter in 2006, chances are he never imagined that it would have such an impact on traditional media. Now, people tweet simultaneously while watching their favorite shows, and those on the Twitter-verse can find out who won every Oscar Award without even turning on the tube. Most importantly, Twitter is changing how brands interact with their publics.
Many television fans are shifting back to watching shows in real time, rather than watching a recording at a more convenient time. Twitter supplements the viewing of many popular shows by allowing fans to follow the conversation about episode happenings.
Glee is perhaps one of the best examples of how Twitter is effecting television viewing. “People feel like they have to watch the show while it’s going on because the community is tweeting about the show and the characters are tweeting as the show’s happening so [they have to] watch it in real time,” said Twitter CEO Dick Costolo in an interview for the Consumer Electronics Show. With characters who tweet while the episode airs, Glee creates a new level of interaction for viewers. Twitter creates buzz before, during and after each episode of Glee.
With the popularity of social media, anyone can become a critic of any and every event. While increased interaction can certainly help brands, it also poses a danger. Everyone can and will comment on the things they don’t like. Credibility or journalistic training is no longer needed for a comment to be taken to heart by the public.
The Oscar Awards took advantage of the increased conversation that Twitter provides. Its Twitter handle, @Oscar_awards, was used throughout the evening to tweet winners. While this tactic was useful for people like me with little time to watch award sagas, the takeaway from the Twitter-sphere was that the show itself was not at all entertaining. With hashtags like #Oscarfail trending during the show, this new media became a tool for fans to express their dislike with the famed awards show.
CNN published an article based on the tweets about the Oscars. In this article, one line that stood out was: “Richard Robbins, director of Social Innovation at [AT&T], tweeted that the show’s producers might consider tuning in to Twitter and other sites in the future to gauge how the show is playing and make necessary changes if needed.”
While Robbins may not have meant this as a serious idea, he makes a valid point. Twitter could very well change the way of live broadcasts. It would simply be good business to change directions with a live broadcast when things like #Oscarfail begin trending.
A key part of public relations is understanding how the public responds to your brand. Twitter is more than a new tool to reach people; it is a way to monitor and predict what will happen to your brand. Social media, for many, is the primary source of news. It is critical for brands to monitor and participate in the discussion on Twitter.
Twitter is often used to help the public feel more connected to a brand, but it can even be used to quickly learn about and lessen the effects of a crisis. On the Blast Media blog, Megan Giannini wrote, “Recently, some of the world’s biggest brands have faced crises… in communication. It is understood that brands cannot necessarily predict a crisis like an oil spill, brake malfunctions or public outcry on privacy settings within a social network–but regardless of unforeseen crises, companies should be prepared to take quick and effective action.”
Twitter’s ability to connect directly with the public has the potential to give it a higher credibility than traditional methods. If the public feels that a brand is taking the time to connect with them on an individual basis, a crisis can cease much faster than it would with a basic news release or company statement.
With the many uses of social media, there is no way for news to come only from traditional media. By incorporating Twitter and following the discussion about the brand on Twitter, a public relations practitioner can better understand how to relate to the public. Twitter may not replace traditional media, but it is certainly a supplemental tool that can affect a brand’s image. Social media must be a part of any communications plan for a brand to succeed.
Do you watch and tweet simultaneously? What do you think Twitter means for the success of a brand?