When I first stumbled on Twitter soon after it started up in 2006, I thought it was silly. Only the digerati used it-a bunch of kids who live on the Web-and there was no content for me.
But now you can find information on everything from aardvarks to xylophones. And there are applications that search the Twittersphere every 20 seconds to see what people are chirping about this very moment.
Should you care? As a financial advisor, do you need Twitter?
The answer is yes, you should care. You need to know about Twitter to network with other professionals, referral sources and thought leaders as well as to find new clients, serve as an intelligence source to your own clients and stay current with online marketing.
Twitter is a free social networking application. It enables you to send and read other users' updates, known as "tweets." A tweet can be no longer than 140 characters.
To put this brevity into perspective, consider that the paragraph above is 137 characters. Because tweets are so short, tweeting has also been called microblogging.
The notion that anything meaningful can be communicated in 140 characters has been satirized, perhaps most famously by Current TV's SuperNews! But Twitter is no joke; it is the Internet's biggest new thing.
Twitter is growing more than five times as fast as the second-fastest growing social networking site, according to Nielsen.com. In February 2009, Twitter had a user growth rate of 1,382%, while Zimbio had growth of 240%, followed by Facebook with growth of 228%. My sense is that Twitter's growth has actually accelerated since February. Rumors abound that it will be bought by Google.
Twitter and other social networking sites are revolutionary because unlike the telephone, e-mail, fax machines and other relatively new marketing and communication mediums, this one brings people with similar interests together. It allows you to broadcast ideas to hundreds or thousands of prospects, and it is incredibly easy to use.
But Twitter and other social networking tools do not have mystical powers. I've already heard from advisors who are making social networking the central part of their marketing effort, and some are likely to neglect more traditional marketing efforts to tweet and poke people all day. It's wise to remember, however, that social networking is only one of many marketing tools. Yes, it's fun, new and exciting. But most wealthy people are not there yet. They may be over the next couple of years, and you do want to get started now to be well-situated if promising new tools like this one are widely embraced by your most desirable clients. However, traditional marketing tools such as Web sites, newsletters and print brochures still play an important role in marketing your firm, and Twitter will not replace them or rid you of the need for them.