Monday, May 18, 2009
Near a little town in the country I escape to on weekends there's a modest diner with the unlikely name of Round Tuit, opened in the 1930s by a farmer who'd talked about opening a restaurant for years. Eventually, the farmer died and the diner passed to his son. Like many small business owners, the son had no insurance. So when the Round Tuit burned down, I mourned the loss of an institution I thought gone for good. But I'd underestimated the stoutheartedness of local patrons. Enough money was raised to rebuild the restaurant and the son lovingly replicated his father's place in every small detail: same linoleum tiles, same Formica tabletops, same wood panelled walls, even the same plastic-framed photos of cows on them. (Only thing he did differently was the pie case, because the original pie case people had gone out of business.)
Sorry to say, I was reminded of Rountuit at the Clios this week. Because it was clear that some ad agencies boasting "digital departments" have built them on the same entrenched practices and outdated values that have fed the way the ad business has been operating for years.
"Twitter sucks," according to the Chief Digital Officer of a top tier agency, who is presumably advising global clients on navigating social media.
"I don't do twitter," announced another speaker who went on to explain he was holding off having to learn it because, "the next big thing is probably just around the corner."
Sure, there were provocative speeches by agency creatives who get it. But twitter-aversion was rampant enough to make me wonder: why is an industry that prides itself on pioneering thought and creative breakthroughs having to be led to the sm frontier by the very clients we're supposed to be leading?
"If I let one more time-suck into my life, I'm doomed," said an ECD who was putting off learning twitter until this summer when her teenager was around. I understood her being daunted by the time barrier. Like many ad agency execs, she's struggling to stretch already long days made longer by reduced bugets, dwindling staff and heightened client demands--like demands to get them into social media.
But twitter (or any social media platform) isn't a monster that consumes your valuable hours while you sit on the sidelines, helplessly watching the clock.
Twitter takes only as much time as you let it. So even if you don't have time to get into Twitter, you have time to get it. OK, don't use it to post what you're having for breakfast. (Most tweeters don't, after their first post or two.) Use it for what most (including smart folks at Google) consider to be its most valuable feature: search.
Twitter search can help you ferret out nuggets of information, insights that can be gold for you and your clients. Search your company, your clients, your clients' products, their competitors. Get a sense of what's happening in your niche in the industry, right this minute, all over the world.
And, Twitter automatically informs searchers of "trending topics"-- top ten words appearing right now on Twitter. It's the most efficient way to keep abreast on what's toplining in news. The morning I saw "Biden" I knew, of course, he'd been picked. "Updike" told me, alas, he had died. Just now, I searched Twitter and AT&T came up. Why? I clicked through and discovered that the company is considering cuts to Iphone price plans. If your client is a mobile, such news might be relevant to a meeting you're leading. And knowing it instantly can make you look a lot more wise and informed than you probably feel these days.
Which brings me to another reason to "lurk" on twitter. It makes you smarter. You know how reading a great columnist can make you sound knowledgeable? Following people who share content relevant to you and your clients can definitely make you wiser (and more valuable) at meetings. Because you're being constantly fed by people plugged into your industry sharing the latest news on what's happening in it.
So, ad brethren: if you're not into twitter, time to get round tuit. Unless you're planning a change of career. Like moving to the country to open a diner. Where you'd face daunting competition from a much-beloved and enduring brand. Not to mention the pie.