The future of social interactivity on the Internet is about learning what your friends, and in some cases strangers around the world, are doing -- right now. It’s reflected in the emerging trend of microblogging, a popular tool for quickly posting short text entries about one’s daily activities. The “right now” aspect of this brand new form of blogging could also play a big role in the future of advertising and marketing.
Posting one or two line entries in a microblog allows you to update your audience quickly. You can post microblog entries directly on a hosting company’s Website, via email, instant messaging, or SMS. You can use a computer to post, but cellular phones are the prolific microblogger’s device of choice because they're the key to the “right now” concept.
Although the posts can be read on a computer, microblog services are creating mobile-friendly Websites that are easier to use and view. Increasingly, microbloggers are being offered client software for transmitting and viewing posts on phones. Indeed, “microblog” implies short messages, which are easier to read on a phone’s small screen.
Twitter, the most famous microblog company, limits messages to 140 characters. Pownce and Jaiku -- purchased by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) -- also are well known. The short messages appear as a stream of conversations in reverse chronological order, just as with traditional Weblogs. You may allow specific people or anyone to view your posts, and add and delete friends, just as with social networking sites.
In fact, many social networking sites, such as Facebook (Nasdaq: FB), provide microblog-like features where users may post what they are doing. The lines between social networking and microblogging are blurring somewhat.
Banality is relative
Microblogging is ideal for users who don’t want to write a regular blog post, which may often be much longer. It’s also for thoughts that might not be relevant to your regular blog, such as “I’m drinking a latte at Starbucks” or “I’m looking at the 150-inch TV at the Panasonic booth at CES” or “Where I can find an inexpensive red silk blouse in London?”
Microblogging has been criticized for the banality of the messages. But a friend, who might be passing by the Starbucks you're in, may want to join you after receiving the message. A business colleague might be able to find you at CES. A stranger in London might recommend a great shop for blouses.
Sure, you can provide the same information with a phone call or an SMS, but microblogging is immediate broadcasting to groups. The value of microblogging, as with traditional blogging, isn’t necessarily about how many readers you have. Check out Twittervision, a fascinating mashup of Twitter and Google Maps to see what and where people are twittering around the world.
Microblogging’s ramifications go way beyond arbitrary posts, such as “My cat vomited on the carpet for the second time today.” It’s a way to get the word out quickly in critical situations. W. David Stevenson, a homeland security expert, discusses the value of microblogging for families who can quickly provide information to each other during emergencies.
Private and public organizations are using microblogging to quickly broadcast vital information. Microblog posts offered timely updates during the devastating fires in San Diego last year when people were desperate to learn about the rapidly changing conditions. The Red Cross set up notifications on Twitter.
Companies are already experimenting with microblogging to create more opportunities to engage with audiences and employees. News organizations, such as CNN, CBS Marketwatch, and The New York Times, offer microblog feeds. In other cases, businesses are testing microblogs to provide short messages to project teams, without the spam and irrelevant messages inherent in email.
For better and worse, companies have discovered microblogging for advertising. JetBlue promotes its services and promotions with a Twitter feed, as do Carnival Cruise Lines and IntelSoftware. Microblogging is especially useful for limited-time offerings.
The microblog future
Regardless of what you think about the concept, microblogging is here to stay. It is tailormade for the Internet: an always on, always connected, always reachable environment that’s accessed via multiple devices, technologies, and applications. You could always turn off your device, but most of you won’t.
— Alan Reiter, President, Wireless Internet & Mobile Computing