On April 17, 2009, Oprah sent out her first tweet on Twitter.com. For interested parties the Tweet said: “HI TWITTERS. THANK YOU FOR A WARM WELCOME. FEELING REALLY 21st CENTURY.” My first thought, as a marketer, was that the tipping point was just televised. Even better, if I required concrete confirmation it came a day later in numbers: Twitter saw a whopping 37% increase in visits to the Twitter.com homepage. All new visitors. Each one signing up for a Twitter account.
Impressive numbers, indeed. Now let me continue by saying aall of us at Allebach are big believers in social media as a vehicle for brands to get their message out to the public – and let’s face it, Oprah is a pretty big brand. As strategic, forward thinkers, we clearly see how powerful the word of mouth potential is on sites like Twitter and Facebook. However, more often than not, we also find our clients asking why social media is important to their brand. Isn’t social media just a passing fad? Does it really matter? Isn’t it something for kids – “not something my customers are using?”
Valid questions. Ones, I think, we have all asked ourselves at one point or another when trying to understand the concept of social media. Especially Twitter. At only 140 characters for sharing thoughts and no other applications to entertain users, Twitter is pretty much the social media equivalent of a billboard.
However, upon Oprah joining the social frenzy, all my questions regarding why people were grabbing hold of Facebook, Twitter and the like so tightly where answered. My theories, as an amateur social scientist (aren’t all marketers amateur social scientists), where confirmed. Not because Oprah provided the answers, but because the strength of Oprah’s brand is built upon a strong sense of community and belonging. With just 140 characters, everyone can Twit. Everyone can be a member of the community. Everyone can see what Ashton Kutcher is up to and what snack, Skinny Cow by the by, Oprah is noshing on. And, it’s free.
Being on a social networking site is not only inexpensive (an especially appealing entertainment during down economic times), but social networking builds upon something the disenfranchised in our fast paced society have discovered they’re missing: community. In fact, if you track the numbers, the worse the economy got this past fall, the more members Facebook and Twitter gained. And now that Oprah, the woman, and the brand, has started Twitting and sharing her life with the masses of people who hang on her every tweet, I don’t think we’ll be seeing the end of the craze anytime soon. If ever. Kind of like email.
Remember when we didn’t have email?