An important consideration when trying to decide between Twitter vs. e-mail for your publicity needs is what you hope to accomplish through your communications. The intent of those communications is the primary deciding factor, above all else.
If you haven't heard of it yet, you will soon enough. Twitter is one of the most popular Internet social networks. Its popularity comes from the fact that its structure, short and simple one or two line blog posts, has the form and flow that Internet users like. According to the Nielsen blog, Twitter grew 343 percent over the previous year, making it the number one fastest growing social network site on the Internet for last year. That's five spots above Facebook and three spots above LinkedIn. Most experts expect that the future holds more of the same for Twitter.
Twitter vs. E-mail: What's Twitter Good For?
The magic of Twitter isn't immediately apparent until you start using it. Its usefulness becomes obvious within the first few entries. Depending on what your activities entail when you're on the Internet, there is a whole list of very useful purposes for Twitter.
- Distribute blog update notifications to readers who follow your writing
- Update the staff at your company with short status updates
- Update your family about where you are during a road trip
- Send updates from your cellphone so that friends can follow the progress of your hiking trip
- Journalists can immediately alert colleagues of breaking news
The fact that Twitter is so mobile and easy to use makes it the tool of choice to let a large group of people know about "status updates."
Why Use E-mail?
E-mail has had an important place in the daily activities of private life and of business. One of the primary ways that online businesses would use email is to generate "newsletters" and email them to the hundreds of people on their "opt-in" list. An opt-in list is a list that contains all of the email addresses of people who have selected to receive your newsletter. In many ways, Twitter is modeled after the "opt-in" scheme, and the list of Twitter "followers" is very much just like an opt-in list. So does this mean that when businesses consider Twitter vs. e-mail, that Twitter is going to replace the need to use e-mail? Not quite.
While Twitter certainly has a very important place in private life and in business, it doesn't have enough flexibility or scope to replace email. On the Internet, people tend to scan things very quickly, never remaining on one page for more then 20 or 30 seeconds unless something really catches their interest. Therefore, the only way to get your message in front of the eyes of such a "scanner" is with a short and simple one-line message notifying them that there's something new they may be interested in, such as a new blog entry, product, or event.
However, when people sign up for an "opt-in list," they are signing up to learn more about a product, service or website whenever there are any significant changes or news to report. This means that they are interested in far more than a one-liner can offer. With e-mail, you can provide your opt-in readers with a list of updates or bullet items and a brief description of each item. Twitter just doesn't have the capability or flexibility to do that, nor was it created to do anything of the sort.
Using E-mail in Combination with Twitter
The truth is, both Twitter and e-mail have positive aspects. A good marketing approach using both of these tools will achieve the best results. The following lists provide some of the advantages of each tool. Closely examine these benefits in comparison with what it is you are actually trying to do, and it'll help you decide which one to use.
Advantages of Twitter
- Much faster and easier to update
- One click distributes to your whole subscriber list
- Have the option to distribute to many thousands of people through Twitter's main website
- Reaches more people via mobile phone, even if they're on vacation
- A history of your updates is stored conveniently on your profile
- The subscriber list is stored and managed for you on your account
Advantages of E-mail
- Allows a more thorough update
- Provides detailed information about things your opt-in list is interested in
- Lets you integrate HTML links in the format you want, and even images into your "newsletter"
- Far more formatting options
- Allows for a more "personalized" communication with customers or friends
What the comparison above shows is that both Twitter and e-mail have an important place in your arsenal of tools when you're trying to share information with a large number of people. Email is still far more for sharing detailed news updates, while Twitter remains the tool of choice to alert large numbers of people to a new item of interest on the Internet, or to a breaking news story. Neither application is going to be replacing the other any time soon.