NetNights Report: The great 'Twitter or Bitter' debate 2009

The best marketing tool since Google, or a faddish distraction for lazy marketers? This week, Netimperative hosted a lively debate looking into the pros and cons of Twitter and watched the sparks- and tweets- fly. (Please note: No interns were harmed during the making of this report).

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The following is a brief summary of the debate, followed by some selected ‘Tweets’ posted during the proceedings. You can contribute to the debate yourself by following #twitterorbitter.


The event was held in Graphic Bar, central London, and chaired by Andrew Gerrard, CEO of d-marketing. The panellists on the pro-Twitter side were Matt Whelan (Guava) and Craig McCullough (TMG), while the anti-Twitter team were represented by Jon Bains (Tangent One) and Daren Forsyth (140characters).

Andrew Gerrard, an avid Twitterer himself, introduced he proceedings by asking each panellist to persuade the audience why they should be 'for' or 'against' the micro-blogging platform.

On the 'anti' side, Jon pointed out that Twitter was “just another platform”, and as ever it’s how the platform its used that really counts. From a client perspective, he felt marketers often simply didn’t have enough to say on Twitter, to the point where the whole campaign can backfire on the brand image. Daren Forsyth pointed out that Twitter was intrinsically a “very human platform”, as a result was “very flawed”.

On the 'pro' side, Matt Whelan highlighted the potential of live search, and how Twitter has essentially “replaced RSS feeds”. Meanwhile, Craig McCullough extolled virtues of crowd-sourced news, which regularly scoops traditional newswires

Jon looked to MySpace’s dwindling popularity as an example of how fickle social media users can be. The consumers' desire for social interaction online isn’t going away, but the platform might, he added.

Moving on, the ‘pro’ team saw potential in location based services. Twitter gets a high level of traffic from third-party clients such as TweetDeck, often accessed via mobiles. The potential of reaching people via geo-location services is huge, such as Tweeting vouchers (e.g. For restaurants, transport, entertainment, etc.) to potential customers nearby.

The debate moved on to the tricky balancing act facing corporates and brands using Twitter. Craig McCullough said the nature of Twitter ‘polarised’ the challenge to marketers. Their brands are now being talked about online on a highly visible and popular platform, whether they like it or not. The problem is they can either join in through their own Twitter acoount, and risk inviting further negative feedback, or ignore the platform, which could look too defensive and backward.

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The debate then opened to the audience, where the panel fielded questions including issues such as ‘Twitter squatting’, where brand names are being hijacked, sometimes for malicious purposes, and how B2B marketers can use Twitter. They also looked at some of the most famous Twitter brand accounts- such as Moonfruit’s controversial ‘Mac Book’ promotion, and what lessons marketers can learn from them.

Some select highlights from the debate and Q&A session are below, taken from Tweets using the #twitterorbitter hashtag on the night.

Pro-Twitter Tweets:


Pro-Twitter Tweets:

TomGriffola: #twitterorbitter 'I don't think Twitter's trying to be Google or Google's trying to be Twitter'. But Facebook's trying to be everything!
Dr_Black: #twitterorbitter facebook is abt people u used to know, Twitter is about people u wud like to know..... Discuss ;)
antonmccoy: It's not just or only about sending a message to a customer, more listening to your customers venting their views!
jon_white: The networking effect is the key advantage of Twitter #twitterorbitter
TomGriffola: #twitterorbitter Twitter influences how we operate in the digital marketing. That is all.
_netimperative_: Matt Whelan- guava. Twitter great search tool. Replaces rss twitter for referals. But ads can be intrusive
TomGriffola: Finally some discussion about brands on Twitter. #twitterorbitter If you run Twitter carefully&intelligently, you will encourage sales.
@oldmatt twitter has 9 day log for search but still grt for live srch. Will google move to this space? #twitterorbitter
TomGriffola: #twitterorbitter 'human' element to Twitter is a running theme. More personal? More of an emotional investment? Or just more time&effort??
whatterz: It's clear from last night's #twitterorbitter debate that marketers still don't get Twitter! It's all about authentic conversation, people!
TomGriffola: #twitterorbitter those 'bitter' amongst you, I'll see you outside >:-| those 'on the fence', I'll persuade you if you give me 5 minutes :-)
Webcredible: Pretty even at the end of the debate. We're certainly on the side of Twitter

Anti- Twitter tweets:

_netimperative_:Matt wheelan. All moonfruit learned was that everyone on twitter wants a new macbook. Where the ROI?
crazybaby19: Why should Twitter have dominance in this field when Brightkite offers better functionality?
whatterz: The key issues with Twitter for corporations are authentic voice and return on investment.
_netimperative_: David hood. Customer relationship management ... customers don't want 'relationship' let alone 'management'
whatterz: Twitter is not a substitution for face to face contact
jon_white: @Andrewgerrard reputation management question - do you think companies are at real risk from twitter squatting'
netimperative_: Jon baines. Trent reznor NIN abandoned twitter due to too many 'crazy people' following- hard to filter
katmaddison: Interesting debate last night. Was tempted to comment that really twitter is just for celebrities not brands.
netimperative_: Darren forsyth. Twitter requires time to get into - can be a barrier to adoption
jon_white: Good point @darrenbbc Twitter is a human platform and is flawed as a result
_netimperative_: Jon baines- twitter is just another communication platform
pauperprincess: habitat was invited to #twitterorbitter but declined ha
@DarenBBC people who aren't on it think you're weird when you start conversations 'er... So I saw this thing on Twitter.."
tlittleton: one negative from a user - no one ever asks me how I am anymore, they already know!

And the downright weird tweets…

"Still laughing at the term for twitter squating (twotting) made up at #twitterorbitter last night"
"The dulcet tones of @andrewgerrard being piped thro the sound system as I do a weewee #twitterorbitter"

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