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Twitter’s Brand Crisis

Picture of Kyle Sacks, Social Media Coordinator

Kyle Sacks, Social Media Coordinator

The big talk right now is all about Twitter’s first promotional spot, which plays on the recent East Coast earthquake. It starts with one of Twitter’s software engineers sitting at a table with a cup of coffee. He gets a tweet that is presumably that the earthquake just happened and picks his coffee up off the table as everything starts to shake, continuing to read his book unfazed. The two main criticisms most people have brought up are a) that the goofball approach underplays how revolutionary Twitter is and b) that regardless, it’s just not a very engaging spot. I’d agree on both counts. Concerning the latter criticism, it got a slight chuckle from me, but wouldn’t make me run out and try Twitter if I hadn’t used it before. However, what I want to talk about is the the criticism of bad brand representation.

In reality, the spot isn’t really that off of Twitter’s brand image. They started with a goofy, techy-nerd image that appealed to their early adopter crowd and haven’t fully shed that yet. For example, if you try and tweet something that is more than 140 characters for the Twitter website, it will flash a message telling you to “be more clever”. The default background is still blue fluffy clouds. The problem is, Twitter has gotten popular enough that they might have outgrown this image.

Twitter has grown way past the little “see what you’re friends are up to” tool that it started as. 87% of people in the US are aware of Twitter. During Hurricane Irene, national news networks were instructing viewers on which hashtags to use when tweeting about the hurricane so the update could be tracked in real time. Twitter has helped spark revolts and revolutions. Whole countries have tried banning it because of the effect it can have. Twitter has changed communication in a real way. They need to decide how they want to be seen by the world. Is Twitter ok with keeping the fun, geeky brand image that this earthquake ad perpetuates? Or are they ready to grow up and embrace the fact that can and are changing communication as we know it?

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