Thursday, September 10, 2009

Don't be scared, I might save your life!

On August 20, 2009 Twitter announced it was adding location awareness to its API.

Real time search on the web, that is being able to find out about news or information as it happens, is compelling. Getting real time in your pocket is even more compelling. Real time on the phone in your pocket, matched to your location is most compelling of all. Sure, Twitter hasn't made any money yet, but that doesn't mean smart businesses are ignoring it, any more than they ignored Google when first launched. Twitter is that important.

If you haven't yet figured it out, here's why: every byte that flows through Twitter has the potential to create business or at least foster a connection between a company and a consumer that someday very soon may involve a business transaction.

Let's play For Example, because it's so much fun.

From my iPhone I tweet "I have a headache." A grocery store chain's computer program, monitoring tweets originating in a 1 mile vicinity of any their 428 nationwide stores, recognizes my location and matches the keyword "headache" to a manufacturers coupon offer that can be redeemed at the in-store pharmacy just a block from where I'm standing. The program tweets "@jrome sorry about the headache, maybe this will help:"
Now this might trouble some readers, especially those who haven't yet tasted the Kool-Aid that is Twitter and the tweets that make it so sweet. They're probably familiar with email and are thinking "Do I really want to be bombarded by marketing any more than I want to see 1,000 spam emails in my inbox every morning? Heck no, I hate the sound of it!" Ah, ha! But Twitter makes it very easy to control who can grab our attention. With hundreds of millions of @ replies flying around Twitter, it's easy to ignore all of them if you so choose. The tweets you want to see, you'll see. How? Well, perhaps that company paid Twitter for the privilege NOT to spam every Twitter user tweeting a mile away from one of its stores, but offer real value to only those who signed up to receive offers. Perhaps I opted in when I signed up for my frequent grocery store buyer's card. If buyer's cards all don't hop on this within 6 months, somebody needs to lose their job.

Let's try one more.

I'm out on the town. I see a house on fire, but I don't know the address. I tweet "OMG house on fire! FD come quick!" The local fire department has a computer program automagically monitoring tweets just like the grocery store company in the example above. It sees my tweet and corroborates four or five other people are tweeting from the same location (and not calling 911 because the line was busy.) It promptly issues an alert that dispatches firemen to the scene. Moreover, the local newspaper, watching the events unfold using the same technology pings a staff reporter to check out the fire and hit up the four or five eye witnesses using their twitter credentials to schedule interviews. Suddenly getting the local scoop doesn't seem so difficult and lives were saved.