During the run up to Christmas, I experienced a near death experience, I literally cheated death, stared it in its eyes. I had been diagnosed with ‘shingles’…okay, it was basically a minor rash, but I sometimes exaggerate my stories to make them more interesting. In all honesty though, I had an extremely busy year, as I’m sure most of you did, and was really run-down towards the end. To give you a more elaborate taste of what my 2008 looked like, here goes;
January – Relocation Ver 5.0 – From Sydney to KL
January – March – Renovation Beta 3.0 – New house, new contractors, and lots of hacking.
June – IPO Ver 1.0 – Brought Pulse Group public on UK’s PLUS markets.
September – Baby Ver 1.0 – The arrival of my first baby boy.
December – Award’s Ver 8.0 – Pulse successfully swept up several awards.
It was not surprising then that come December, I was quite keen on taking a short break, to refresh my batteries, and get away from it all….and this is where it all went pear-shaped. I took the very tough decision of leaving my notebook behind, and heading somewhere remote, so remote that I barely received a GSM signal, let alone GPRS….To top it all off, it rained for 4 days (and nights!) in a row. What really got to me however, was how disconnected I felt from the world..which I guess was the whole idea in the first place, of “escaping it all”. As they say,” one never really escapes mentally, despite escaping physically”..smart alecks! Well, the real reason for my grumpiness wasn’t necessarily the continuous rain itself, but more so the remoteness of not having a WiFi or GPRS signal, and in turn not giving my Blackberry (my only lifeline to civilisation) access to Twitter…I was doomed! I started to panic, as I had read about this condition before, the heart palpitations, the cold sweat, the shivering…I was going Twitter Cold Turkey…this was it, I was a Twitterholic!!
Months before, I realised that Facebook was something which I could actually live without, however the latter…Twitter, was something I realised that I got withdrawal symptoms from whenever not Tweeting for more than a day. In fact, I believe that I’m clinically addicted to the damn thing, which begs the question ‘Am I a Twitterholic?’
It was only 2 months before that I really discovered Twitter, despite the fact that it was released in beta almost a year ago (a hell of a long time in the Web 2.0 world)..I felt that I had finally arrived, I had come out of my ‘Twitter closet’. Despite having Facebooked and blogged for a while, and not to mention having built one of the largest social networking sites (www.planet-pulse.com) , Twitter was different. The micro-blogging site was minimalist, simple, and replaced any complexities of communicating in a socially networked world, with a simplistic, short-messaged (140 words or less) manner..which was ideal for a man of few words. I had accumulated a small following, which was starting to get obsessive, especially after connecting to some of the legends of politics, sport, and business, such as Lance Armstrong, Guy Kawasaki, Richard Branson, and Barack Obama…it was phenomenal. In a real world, who would really care what I was doing on a minute-by-minute basis, or why one would want to receive multiple real-time posts of what one was thinking, doing, or feeling etc..however, Twitter enabled me to connect to some of the best minds in the world, in real-time, and in a virtual manner…for an information junkie like me, it was sheer genius, and it soon became an addiction
I read about folks who were Tweeting (yes, that’s what they call it) their experience from a plane crash, from a colonic, during a presidential election, before an acquisition, etc. etc. which allowed you to share their excitement, and more importantly the moments as they unravelled. President-elect Barack Obama embraced such technology to a point that his following on Twitter actually contributed to an emerging segment of voters, the Gen-Yer’s and tech geeks.
In 2008 alone, it was estimated that 200m people across Asia-Pacific were already involved in some form of Social network, with Facebook, Friendster and Twitter taking the lead. Such numbers are way too huge to ignore, and for us marketers, there are numerous applications in which I see applications such as Twitter becoming useful, applicable, and even profitable if put to good use. The ability to build mass or targeted communities, the ability to track and engage consumers in real-time, to study their online and offline habits, locations, social surroundings, advertising exposure, and consumer purchase behaviour for example. Since Twitter is also available via mobile, the ability to extend the reach to location based studies makes it all the more attractive.
Previously, location based U&A (usage and attitudes) studies via the more cumbersome and disconnected PDA’s allowed us marketers to study where people were hanging out at various times of day, what they were consuming, exposure to advertising messages and advertising mediums, who they hung out with etc. etc. by prompting short surveys via a PDA at designated times of the day. Such diary-like data would then be uploaded and synchronised at the end of the week to map out the entire social, consumer, and psychographic behaviour of a consumer…now, Twitter is replacing this entire process, while enabling real-time analysis of such data, and more..all in a relatively virtual, yet very real world.
As I write this article, our R&D boffins at Pulse are already developing our very own applications to leverage the power of Twitter, and believe that many will follow suit in the near future. If you have yet to discover Twitter, get on it, get addicted, and look forward to seeing you at the next ‘Twitter Anonymous’ meeting. Until then, you can tweet me at http://twitter.com/BOBCHUA