Posts Tagged ‘Help!’

An Ace on Fire is Still an Ace

July 24, 2008

Let me start by stating the obvious: I am absolutely trying to capitalize on the attention my previous post received.

Its not quite as self-serving as it seems.

I’m not looking to increase my rss subscriptions or further my own personal “brand.” What I would like to do is share some thoughts on what I think Twitter can (needs to) do to successfully pull out of the flat spin they induced recently.

I mentioned previously that I thought that Twitter had set their Ace-in-the-hole afire when the latest snafu impacted the community’s Holy Grail: their subscriptions.

I have noticed more and more people commenting that the early adopter community tends to focus on the reasons a product will fail rather than the things that need to happen in order for it to succeed. I want to offer (what I hope will be) a constructive and helpful perspective derived from my experience in the campaign and public affairs arena.

There are certainly a number of marketing/public affairs/public relations professionals with far more experience than me on Twitter or FriendFeed – I hope they will add their own thoughts (but by all means please do so on FriendFeed, put them here an no one will ever see them!).

The biggest threat to Twitter’s survival is not rooted in technology but communications.

What I am going to suggest does not necessarily mix well with the old school PR or campaign regime whose focus often revolves around message control. Many would probably say that Twitter’s current PR/communication approach strikes the right balance between acknowledging the problem and discussing your plan to solve it and being so transparent that you make your product look more unstable than it really is.

There are certainly situations where it is important to find that balance. But not this one.

This is not Multinational Corporation X trying to figure out how to handle an internal study indicating their may be a higher than expected fail rate on their new hard drive, this is Aunt Milly drunk off her ass at the family reunion.

The cat’s out of the bag, we all know it is an infrastructural problem that will take some time to fix. We didn’t leave when we first heard the news so why would we now?

If Twitter fails I guarantee it will not be because they couldn’t fix the glitches fast enough – it will be because they failed to honor and leverage the rare and special community that has sprung up around a very flawed product.

So here are my suggestions – some of them may already be in place and users may simply need to be made more aware of them. Most of us have acknowledged that Twitter has created a very special community of  users – let’s put some action behind that belief.

My suggestions:

  • Update the standard FAIL page to include links to every official update channel. I don’t visit the Twitter blog or developer forum or status page – add links and I will probably click on them when I get the service is down page and feel better that I am not in dark about what is going on
  • Create an official Twitter channel on a video streaming site and make it company policy that someone from the Twitter staff will jump on within X amount of time of any major problem to provide users an update (even if it is to say “we are working to identify the problem”)
  • Identify a group of the most influential users (Robert Scoble, Louis Gray, etc) and provide them with regular briefing via  video conference, be open and transparent, allow for Q & A
  • If further decisions are required as to which functions need to be temporarily disabled (or the order in which disabled functions should be added back) ask the users!

I was verbose enough in the lead up so I wanted to limit my suggestions to what I considered to be the most important.

Again, I understand that the underlying concept of throwing the doors wide open and pushing uber-transparency goes against the grain of most of today’s accepted PR and communication CW but I would put money on their effectiveness in this situation.

Twitter is not your standard application or product – we don’t love Twitter because of what it DOES, we love Twitter because of what it has DONE.

Twitter has created a community out of its users but they will lose that community if they do not show they understand and appreciate its power by using it to ensure the growth and survival of the service.

PLEASE – go back to FriendFeed, Twitter, your blog, WHEREVER and begin your own discussion on what Twitter could do to avoid the ultimate FAIL.

I have no allusions that this post alone will lead to the communication changes that Twitter so desperately needs BUT we all interact with several individuals on a daily basis who have the ability to encourage change – collectively our ideas can and will make a huge difference.

So there are my thoughts – what are yours?

As a user – what could Twitter do from a direct communication standpoint to make it more likely that you not only stuck around but became a Twitter evangelist once again?