Twitter Isn’t Over-Hyped; It’s Just Misunderstood

A week or so ago, I wrote a post looking at whether the shine was going to come off Twitter soon, and how it appeared that Twitter fatigue was creeping into the scene.

Recently, there have been some articles and blog posts about how anything and everything Twitter is over-reported – another sign that people are tiring of the Twitter story, if not Twitter itself.

Robert Scoble steps into the fray with a solid post about how he believes Twitter is under-hyped, and that it’s just starting to to scratch its potential as a valuable communications, business and marketing tool.

“I’m now convinced that Twitter has locked up a whole raft of businesses and that Twitter is actually worth five to 10 billion dollars,” he says.

Personally, I don’t think Twitter is under-hyped or over-hyped.

Instead, Twitter is just misunderstand – at least for now. Here’s why:

1. The 140-character (or less) limit seems like a restriction to many people. In fact, it’s a way of forcing companies and businesses to get to the point. You have to deliver the message quickly and succinctly without frills or hyperbole.

2. The fact it’s free and shows no signs of having a business model has likely caused many people to think Twitter is just SMS for older people, while teenagers use Facebook and text-messaging.

3. The ROI on Twitter is different from traditional ROI metrics within the marketing and advertising markets where the bottom line is higher sales.

With Twitter, you’re penalized if you blatantly try to sell because Twitter is a conversation medium, not a sales medium. On Twitter, you’re looking to build new and stronger relationships, which could lead to a more enhanced brand, word of mouth and, hopefully, higher sales.

4. Twitter is a platform so it’s a mistake to just focus Twitter itself as opposed to the ecosystem of third-party services built on the Twitter API. In fact, I would argue that the third-party services are far more interesting than Twitter, which continues to be a no-frills service.

5. While high-profile marketers such as Dell, Zappos, Comcast and Ford have embraced Twitter, and received a lot of attention for doing it, the vast majority of companies are still on the sidelines trying to figure out what it’s all about. In time, many of these companies will get Twitter, which will bolster Twitter’s role and value as a marketing and communications platform.

6. Twitter is still new and shiny, and growing like a weed so it’s attracting a lot of attention. In some respects, the tsunami of media and blog coverage has made it challenging for people to get Twitter because there’s just so much information being thrown at them. When the hype disappears, it could become easier for people to get their heads around Twitter the service.

7. From a public relations perspective, Twitter has taken a shotgun approach with its founder – Biz Stone, Ev Williams and Jack Dorsey – doing a flurry of interviews as the mainstream media tries to tell the Twitter story.

In some ways, this has confused many people because there seems to be a new story (e.g. Twitter will never charge people to use the service; Twitter will charge business users; Twitter doesn’t want advertising; Twitter wants advertising, etc.). This has made it hard to get a handle on what Twitter is going to do when it grows up.

7. It’s still early days for Twitter. It’s really only been a year since Twitter has seen strong growth – a report by Sysomos shows that 73% of Twitter users have joined this year. Like many companies and communications mediums, it will change, evolve and improve.

So, what do you think? Is Twitter over-hyped? Is it under-hyped as Scoble contends? Or it is misunderstood?

More: Ken Camp has a good post addressing each of Scoble’s points about Twitter on his blog, Stardust Global Ventures.

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  • ed lee

    hey mark – another thought provoking post.

    would you say that twitter is simply doing what all technologies do (and have done), and that it is to continue its movement across the gartner hype cycle?

    if this hype cycle is a constant, isn't the real story technologists getting over-hyped about the hype itself?


    • markevans

      I think, in time, the hype surrounding Twitter is dissipate, and that it will become another tool used by companies and individuals to communicate, market, sell, etc.

  • mavgi

    From a micro perspective, it is no Twitter that is over-hyped– but discussions of on Twitter.

    In any case, Twitter has begun to evolve — not change– the way we communicate.

  • kevinbriody

    I think it's not entirely accurate to say "With Twitter, you’re penalized if you blatantly try to sell because Twitter is a conversation medium, not a sales medium." It's true on a broad level, but more and more we're seeing companies experiment with using Twitter to drive direct, trackable sales – provide Twitter-only discounts, promo codes, contests, etc. In fact that's a major way Dell uses it, and it's reasonable well accepted if done right.

    Twitter and blogs seem to be following a similar hype cycle, from conversation medium for the enthusiasts through to adoption by major brands and indispensable tool for a whole range of businesses. The difference is blogging had/has multiple vendors and platforms, standard and open technology at its core (RSS), etc. Twitter is one company, and controls it all. It will be interesting to see how comfortable big brands feel betting so much on a single, small company with unproven longevity. Parallels to Facebook I think.

    • markevans


      Actually, you make a good point about the discount, promo codes and contests given what Dell and Jet Blue have done. Thanks for weighing in.

  • Lise

    Twitter is still relatively new but growing like wildfire, probably the contant exposure of it now everywhere its pulling more people in to sign on. I didn't get it at the beginning of the year when I got an account but following the tweets I liked and mirroring what they did helped immensely. I like the lack of selling on twitter, I think Twitter itself still doesn't understand what its here for, it just is. I think it has benefits we haven't even seen yet, which I find exciting. I think its appealing more to our right brain, the creative side and that in time we will all be connected to each other somewhere somehow!

  • Alex Hawkinson

    As I said here in response to Scoble’s post, it's not that Twitter is the be-all-end-all tool. It's just that if it is used properly it can become the constantly in motion "front line" where your business (or your individual) interests can connect with other relevant people in the world who you are not yet connected to. That’s a powerful value. We have found then that it needs to be integrated with a deeper web presence (like what we’re attempting to do with that blends Twitter with other forms of content and engagement tools that can flow across the web for other forms of interaction (Facebook, e-commerce, etc.). Twitter and open, publicly available micro-blogging is becoming and will remain an important part of the equation.

    Incidentally, on point 1 above, tools are evolving like ours that try to keep people succinct while also letting them flow smoothly into longer posts without being unnaturally constrained…the tools just summarize and take the core of a post and tailor it as appropriate for whatever environment the post is flowing to. Posts to Twitter are simple and tight, while the same post syndicated to Facebook or elsewhere contains richer information since the platforms support that.

  • Filbert

    John Dvorak has an interesting perspective in his most recent column, Twitter is the new CB radio, and when you think about it, it does have a lot of similarities to CB radio.,2817,2351932,00.a

  • Tom

    I agree that Twitter is misunderstood. Because Twitter can be used in so many different ways, a persons understanding and perspective can be skewed by how they learned about it or who introduced them to it. Once a person understands that they can follow both @Oprah and #Oprah, that's when the light bulb goes off and they understand Twitter's power.

  • sfmitch

    I think Twitter is way Over-Hyped. Media and companies seem to think mentioning Twitter makes them cool / relevant. Talking about Twitter just to be seen/heard talking about Twitter.

  • Joan

    Twitter can be a valuable marketing tool for some.

    But I also think Twitter has become a spammer's dream. And just like companies that sell useless guaranteed website traffic to those that don't know any better – there are numerous people selling useless Twitter followers to the same people.

    A recent success story for Twitter was an American man who was unable to get a job sending out resumes. He put something on Twitter and got a fantastic job. So Twitter definitely has it's uses.