Silly Twitter, Tweets are for Biz

There is a lot of noise on whether or not Twitter should be used for Business.

On one hand we have examples like ComcastCares, DellOutlet, JetBlue and many others that have been used as case studies.

On the other hand, there is me.  I wrote about not using it, about treating it as an IVR, and even getting rid of Twitter altogether.  I have had reservations about it from the beginning (can you really have a conversation in 140-characters? What happens to loads when you start to escalate all your interactions? How do you measure successfully?  How do service outages affect your delivery? And so many other questions).

Last week, my reservations moved to certainty.

I spent the past six weeks or so attending conferences.  I live-tweet them as a means to both provide a service to my followers who want to know what is going on in real time, as well as electronic note taking.  I put a hashtag to my tweets, and when I need to write a blog post about the event, simply get a transcript for the hashtag (I use WTHashTag, there are other tools) and my post is mostly written.

I was at Dreamforce 2009 this past week live-tweeting the event.  I was not keeping track of how much I was tweeting — but apparently Twitter was.  About an hour or so into my live tweeting I get an error message through my client.  It happens.  Conferences, especially large ones, bring Twitter to its knees and the famed Whale makes more than one breach.  I just go online and put a few tweets online until the volume slows down and I can use TweetDeck again.

This time was different.  Whenever I entered my tweets online and press submit, I would get an error message that said that I had exceeded the Status Update Limit and that I would have to wait several hours to resume.  I tried to look it up online to see what I had done wrong – but could not find any more information on their web site on that specific error.  I know that fellow blogger and friend Marshall Lager had the same problem.

(I found out later on that the Status Update Limit is 1,000 a day — nowhere near where I was.)

I went through frustration, anger, and resignation (cannot remember the other stages of grief — but probably went through all of them – including a “negotiation” to let me send just one more tweet).

Then started thinking. Not being able to live-tweet was detrimental to my business. Twitter is NOT a business tool.

It was not only the limits – but how Twitter handles users having problems:

  1. If this was a serious issue it should be very well documented in a easy-to-find place.  I did not go back to the original terms-of-service — but relying on a TOS as the sole documentation is a bigger failure than to lock me out.
  2. I am assuming that Twitter runs on pretty smart computers.  Could they not figure out that the status updates were all different, had the same hashtag as a lot of other traffic, and maybe – just maybe – look it up against a master calendar of events and hashtags and let it be?
  3. Similarly, could they have potentially sent me a message (oh, I don’t know something short, like 140 characters or less, in electronic form) to warn me?
  4. Once the problem occurs, the online self-service should have the answer — or support should reply rather quickly (this is a perfect example of running support with automation tools – I would have gotten my answer).

I would have been willing to consider using Twitter for business (yes, there are problems but they all have problems).  Alas, If I can be locked out for an arbitrary and undocumented reason – why would I rely on it as a business tool? If service is not where it is supposed to be – should I make a more sensible choice?

I will continue to use Twitter, but I won’t be rely on it for any critical business functions.  I guess it is true, you get what you pay for.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh on them? Another chance?