Twitter only grew 343%?

You may assume at first glance that this post is sarcastic in nature, but I assure you it is not. According to Nielsen's report last week which measured growth for social networking sites in terms of "unique audience," Twitter is number one for overall growth in 2008, beating out Facebook by 5 places. Now, 343% is certainly not a number to scoff at by any means, but that being said, my reaction was similar to Rodney Rumford's surprise. I've seen Twitter explode from this random thing a few of my friends were playing with every other week to a valuable customer service tool and even a powerful rallying resource for charity in a very short period of time - surely 343% is a base?

One point that Rodney brings up is Twitter's mobile component, which he explains is not as easy for companies to measure. So now I'm wondering, why? Off the top of my head, I would think it's probably just because the idea of reaching out to customers directly through their cell phones is still so new and scary that there isn't much data on it, let alone demand to process said data. But with more and more people carrying iPhones and blackberries to answer their need for a constant connection to their online worlds, mobile seems to be the next logical step. The challenge, then, is to incorporate mobile in a way that isn't "spam-y" - to connect with customers wherever they are without invading their personal space, and as with other forms of social media, I would advise companies to go in with feelers first.

Getting started could be as simple as purchasing a texting number (like Twitter's 40404 and NBC's 62288) as an additional customer service "line" or as a way for customers to enter sweepstakes and other contests. As long as you keep it simple to opt-in and opt-out, it'd be difficult for anyone to argue that you're "invading" their mobile. The next step is to make sure that those who opt-in to receive texts from you understand the service. Are you going to message them regularly with information, and if so how regularly? Will the number exist solely as a text-response service where you'll only message customers in response to messages they send to you? You might want to try out a few numbers to address different needs and then see which ones merit a customer response and develop from there.

Really, the fact is that there is probably a LOT that could be done by adding mobile communication into the "social media" mix, and I'm shocked that more companies haven't taken a stab at it yet. I mean, imagine if I could text "vend 11385" to Coca-Cola and get a list of the 5 closest vending machines to get a caffeine fix? How cool would that be?