Don't get me wrong. I love Twitter and have been using it for some time. Because of my schedule, I'm mainly on in the early mornings eastern time (@vidlisting) but sometimes on throughout the day.
You may be surprised that this post isnt going to be around Twitter's downtime. If you are a regular Twitter user that may have been your first thought about what I have posted here - it's not. :)
The premise of this post is that despite all of the rightful hullabaloo about Twitter, it has some real drawbacks for business users. It's funny but also telling that very few blog reviews discuss Twitter within a business context.
Here are some of my observations looking through the real estate business lens:
No easy or quick way for customers to find you or for you to find them: The basic assumption about discoverability on twitter is that someone already knows who you are and/or what information is contained in your very brief Twitter profile. If you are a normal person trying to using Twitter as a lead generation source, there is simply no reliable way for customers to quickly know who you are or for you to know who they are without a large time investment in the conversation required to build a large network of followers (a huge percentage of which will never be a lead).
Here is the unsaid secret of why Twitter works for A-List Bloggers that I've never read anywhere else: A-list bloggers already have built a critical mass of people that know who they are and often what they do. Think about who you initially followed when you joined: likely it was people that you actually know and then people that you virtually "know" through blogging.
Designed To Be Very Public: Let's say that you do find a prospective customer that has indicated that they are looking for a property in your area. Twitter simply isn't a great place to do pre-sale activities. If you dont have your conversations set to private, everything that you twitter with that person including their interest in services will be available to anyone looking at your or their profile. Before you say that you can direct message the person (or "DM them" in Twitter-speak), you have to actually be following each other before you can commucate via DM.
Additionally, some people (like me) take a gander at people's previous tweets prior to accepting new followers or considering whether or not to follow someone. If those tweets are 100% marketing messages then you'll be less likely to build the network of followers required to build a business network.
No direct way to pass marketing materials: Twitter has no mechanism to directly pass photos, videos, PDFs, or other marketing materials publically or privately. You'll need to rely on links or otherwise go outside of Twitter to use these.
140 characters is too limiting: It's hard to build a compelling marketing message in 140 characters beyond a simple slogan. You dont even really get 140 characters if the message is addressed to someone. While I view the conciseness required for Twitter compelling from a conversational perspective, having to use 5 messages to give someone more than a slogan is a serious drawback on the business side.
Most of the people on Twitter are not customers: There I said it. Someone needed to. :)
UPDATE: Pat Kitano has posted an excellent response to my blog post at http://transparentre.com/2008/05/16/why-twitter-is-potentially-a-mainstream-media-killer-app.aspx
So, I love Twitter for social conversation with people that happen to be real estate professionals. However, when viewed a pure business tool, it takes a lot of time without a definable end state. That time could be more profitably spent in an activity with a much higher mix of prospective buyers.
It immediately works for those that have already built a large following elsewhere that happen to also be open to trying Twitter (think about that the next time that you read a review about tech from someone with a large base of followers)
Again, I love Twitter. What are your thoughts?
Tony (Twitter Name: @Vidlisting)
PS - Something better is coming...perhaps even this week.