Twitterville. How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods

Nigel Bradley (Senior Lecturer, Westminster Business School, University of Westminster, London, UK)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 13 September 2011




Bradley, N. (2011), "Twitterville. How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 28 No. 6, pp. 461-462.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Twitterville. How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods is one of many books about the microblogging tool we know as Twitter. The author, Shel Israel, came to attention with his book Naked Conversations, essentially a book which emphasised that messages were being replaced by conversations due to the arrival of the internet. Twitterville repeats this as Israel says the Broadcast Age has given way to the Conversational Age (p. 72). He takes this to a more specialist level and shows how a microblog (Twitter) can be used in business. It must be said that Twitter itself offers help in this area[1].

In Great Britain we have lots of public houses (pubs) that have a unique set of behaviours: people deliberately allow others in to their personal space. Israel points out that Twitter is the same: you can sit at the bar and listen to conversations, you can interrupt or be interrupted, or you can simply walk away. I would go further, pubs are used for business meetings, to generate ideas, to transact, and Twitter is the same, which is Israel's point.

As an academic I treat with caution any book that looks like it was designed for sale at airports. Here we have a book that fits nicely in the hand with just 306 pages divided into 17 chapters. There are chapter headings that are unhelpful signposts such as Chapter 2 Showtime or Chapter 8 Seeing the Wizard. Everything is “bite sized” so we can dip in and out easily to gather pearls of wisdom. There are numerous quotation boxes, which break up the text, each quote from different Twitter entries (by unknown people), again breaking up the text. An example is:

@createdbymom: Twitter is future of biz, bringing biz back to being between people, rather than faceless corporation superpowers – exciting!

Perhaps it is an “airport book” with no bibliography and no citations (although original authors are constantly credited), but there is a glossary of 18 terms and a useful word index. The glossary gives us the new vocabulary of Twitter; some terms, such as tweet, retweet and unfollow, are now very familiar to us, but the book offers some others, such as tweeple, tweeps and tweetup.

The 17 chapters are divided into three parts:

  1. 1.

    how it started;

  2. 2.

    what they're doing; and

  3. 3.

    how and why.

Essentially the first part traces the history (albeit brief) of Twitter, the second part (50 per cent of the book) is full of case examples, and the last part gives a few personal thoughts from the author, including tips.

The case studies give an array of examples and take the form of story‐telling. Rather than an academic neutrality and clinical cleanliness, here is a start (once upon a time), a middle (and look at the amazing things), and an ending (and everyone lived happily ever after, or did not). This all makes the book accessible and readable. These cases include Dell, Comcast, Henry Ford Hospital, the Mayo Clinic, Motrin painkiller, and Pepsi. Essentially the book is teaching us how Twitter is used in business by a set of examples, from which the reader is expected to glean meaning and make sense. This approach is acceptable but seems very repetitive and conveys a sense of being fragmented. There is an expectation that the final part (Chapters 16 and 17) will resolve this and give us a fast‐fix by some sort of synthesis and conclusion, but the “mash” of different themes (metrics, metaphors, and multiple sets of advice) does not help. However, let us extract the author's eight tips:

  1. 1.

    Show yourself – create a profile with a location.

  2. 2.

    Read first, talk later – add useful, considered comments to tweets.

  3. 3.

    Post second, follow later – when confident, post original things.

  4. 4.

    Friends over stars – celebs are on Twitter, but stick with your circle.

  5. 5.

    Avoid spammer stats – avoid having few followers compared with those you follow.

  6. 6.

    Have favourites – add the star icon to good posts, they grade tweets.

  7. 7.

    Take your time – do not jump into conversations aggressively.

  8. 8.

    Think neighbourhood – Twitter is a daunting world, so keep to your circles.

As a marketing researcher I was particularly interested to see that Chapter 16 had the promise of metrics, but I was sorely disappointed. I suppose I was expecting a nice table comparing techniques, some sort of user's guide. Instead, this section discusses the inherent futility of measuring the numbers (of followers, retweets etc) and suggests a more “qualitative” or “purposive” approach is more fruitful. Some tools are, however, mentioned (Twazzup, Twinfluence and Twitter Analyzer), and of course many more have emerged since publication[2].

Certainly this is an airport book, certainly it is full of interesting stories, but it must be said that it is rich in content and new knowledge. It is a book that we should all have, and know, if we are teaching e‐Marketing or consulting in the area.

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