What’s Twitter REALLY for?

I've posted before on why Twitter has a tiny role for most brands. The top 10 UK consumer brands have a Twitter following which is on average only 1% the size of their Facebook following. 

However, it recently struck me that there are some things that its REALLY good for. These include getting fined, fired and arrested.

1. Getting fined: 

Manchester United and Englad soccer star Rio Ferdinand got fined £45,000 by the FA after acknowledging a comment on
Twitter referring to the Chelsea defender as a 'choc-ice', as reported here.
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2. Getting fired (or close):

F1 driver Lewis Hamilton din not quite get fired, but came close to it, after sending what must by the stupidest tweet of the year reported here. He shared confidential telemetry data from his car, as part of a moan about qualifying behind team mate Jenson Button for the recent Belgian Grand Prix.

3. Getting arrested

Poor old Paul Chambers was charged in relation to a tweet to his 600 followers in January 2010, jokingly threatening to bomb Nottingham airport: "Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get
your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!" It took two years and two appeals to get the convinction over-turned.

4. Cyber hate mail

One Direction popstar Zayn Malik recently closed down his Twitter account (OK, no loss for many brandgymblog readers) saying here that "He had become sick of the amount of hate directed at him". The dark under-belly of Twitter is that it allows "trolls" to send hate mail on steroids. Rather than a single private letter being sent, the offensive message can be published to 100's or 100'0s of people following the troll's Twitter feed.

5. Short-cut journalism

One of the main uses of Twitter is saving TV and newspaper journalists time, by creating a stream of soundbites they can publish without needing to interview stars anymore. Watch the TV news tonight, and you're likely to see some quotes on the screen sources via Twitter.

But are there any uses for brands? As I posted on here, there are three roles Twitter can play:

– Celebrity CEO newsfeed: if you're lucky to have a celebrity as a CEO, like Virgin, than this can generate some brand exposure.

– New age helpline: for complex service brands

– Buzz spreader: if your brand does something interesting, people may Tweet about it. But remember, 80%+ of word-of-mouth still happens OFFLINE

In conclusion, it strikes me that Twitter's main use is for "entertaining ego tripping". And like with any ego trip, the risk is that you can end up in trouble as the examples above show.