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Twitter turns eight – but what impact has it made on business?

Friday, 21 March 2014 | By Melinda Oliver

It is eight years today since the first tweet went live on social media site Twitter, and while it has been embraced by millions, it has not been without exceptional controversy.


Founded on March 21, 2006, the site now has roughly 645,750,000 users and was made a public company via its IPO in November 2013.


On this day in 2006, founder Jack Dorsey posted the first tweet – “just setting up my twttr”.


Today, it is asking users to remember their first tweet, using a tool first-tweets.com to find it, and the hashtag #FirstTweet to share it. The first-tweets site also allows users to find the first tweet posted by other users.


For example it shows the first tweet by US President Barak Obama was, “Thinking we're only one signature away from ending the war in Iraq.”


Virgin chief executive Richard Branson commented on the weather for his foray into Twitter on October 23, 2008.


“It’s cold and will only get worse but at the moment it’s bearable. Holly and Sam are coping well as are the rest of the crew.”


SmartCompany’s first tweet – incidentally also on October 23, 2008, like Richard Branson – was: “Just finished our first great seminar on online marketing! Thank you to our fabulous speakers - I hope the attendees are as inspired as us!”


Twitter has revolutionised the way people interact and its impact on business has also been significant.


JoElla Marketing director Megan Barrow told SmartCompany the site has allowed “engagement and interaction between businesses and consumers like no other platform”


“It has given the general consumer the chance to interact with the likes of Richard Branson, and to get some insight into what people like that are thinking and planning, and they can engage with us,” she says.


Barrow says it has not only enabled businesses to better promote their services, but also to lift their game in terms of customer service.


“It has completely changed customer service… it has allowed businesses to understand customers and show them respect by responding to them.


“Some companies offer 24/7 customer service on Twitter. Zappos in the US introduce themselves each morning (the customer service representatives on Twitter).”


In the next eight years, Barrow thinks businesses will take Twitter even more seriously when it comes to customer interaction.


“The SMEs will look at what the big companies are doing well, and realise that they can’t take customer feedback for granted.”


Social media expert and chief executive of Bendalls Group, Fi Bendall, says while Twitter has become integral to business life, its impact has become passé.


“I actually think in its heyday Twitter was brilliant for reaching hard to find people and generating business,” she says.


“Now it's become so mainstream it is almost just another channel.”


She says that the controversial use of Twitter, such as through bullying or inappropriate self-promotion has become the norm.


“Sure people can be idiots and bullies, but they are in real life. Twitter for me is just a distribution channel like any media. I think it has lost its original mojo,” she says.


This article first appeared on SmartCompany.