Five Communications Implications As Twitter Enters The Trough Of Disillusionment

gartner_hype_cycle09Earlier this week, Gartner released its latest Hype Cycle report showing the state of various technology trends.

Some of the trends on the rise at various stages of the cycle include augmented reality, Internet TV, Web 2.0 and corporate blogging.

One noticeable point, however: microblogging is about to cross into the trough of disillusionment. Of course, the dominant player in this field is Twitter.

Twitter is social media’s golden child right now. Recently, Twitter has sat at what Gartner calls the “peak of inflated expectations”:

“…a frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations”

It’s hard to argue that Twitter hasn’t been over-hyped recently. We’re about to see that change. The next phase is characterised as:

“Technologies enter the “trough of disillusionment” because they fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and the technology.”

What does thais mean from a communicator’s perspective? Here are five potential effects of Twitter’s transition into the trough of disillusionment:

  • Less breathless media coverage: corporate Twitter use won’t be enough to generate media coverage
  • Less snake oil: the field will thin as the opportunistic snake-oil salesmen move on to the next shiny tool
  • Maturing use by companies: smart communicators already know that Twitter isn’t a social media strategy unto itself. Twitter will become less of a focus of campaigns and more of an integrated tactic. In more cases we’ll see companies decide that this isn’t the right tactic for them
  • Maturing expectations of users: we’ve seen the growth of somewhat unrealistic expectations in terms of response levels and times by organizations. This should lessen, making issues management more… manageable
  • Increased focus on measurement: as Twitter moves into the trough, it will become all the more important to measure effectively and for communicators to tie Twitter use to business results and metrics

Make sense to you? What do you think?

  • Great post, Dave! I think you’re dead on with your assessment of the impact on communicators. In my opinion, this is good news for Twitter.

  • Elena

    Agreed. It’s not like we didn’t see that one coming. I like twitter though would be interesting to see what it happens to it next year.

  • Great post, I think many of the trends you mentioned have already begun, twitter isn’t going away, but will become more just a part of the social media matrix, just as blogs have not vanished but become part of an integrated social media package. The only thing that is a sure bet is that nothing will stay the same on the web, but will evolve, devolve, and integrate.

  • Patrice Cloutier

    Hello Dave … another great thought!

    I agree with the fact that then end of the twitter “fad” might be a good idea … although i’m a big champion of using social media platforms as emergency info tools, just as one example, i’m also worried that people pay too much attention on that one tool (twitter) … instead of building a more comprehensive and thought out plan in place that focuses on the type of info conveyed, protocols on who does what, delegation of authoriy and that type of thing …

    If Twitter becomse a bit more “staid” …than it cold become just one of the tools … and attention might be given to some other components of a sound crisis comms process that involves using all avenues to reach your audiences …

    thanks as always

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  • Interesting post, I have been on Twitter for since winter, I have gone through pretty much the same peak and valley the graph above illustrates.

    As a PR person I find Twitter to be valuable tool, but I am also of the belief it is but one piece of a much bigger communications puzzle. I do get a little worried that key messages get reduced to bumper sticker slogans and the nuances get lost (witness to the healthcare debate in the US). I do think Twitter is great for sharing information (driving traffic to blogs and websites) and networking.

    As for the measurement end of the equation, who is reading the tweets outside your followers, more importantly visiting the sites and blogs and are the key messages having the desired impact?

  • Dave, I agree, this is exactly what will happen. And, this will not only effect Microblogging (Twitter) but all the other Social Media Suites that are following it into the Trough.

    Only one comment, lately there’s been an outcry about gender equality in Social Media. So, please give the Snake Oil Saleswomen (along with Salesmen)equal mention!

    Thanks!

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  • Shannon Morton

    Thanks Dave, good post – makes sense to me. Of course, you hit the nail on the head regarding Twitter not being a social media strategy unto itself. It’s important as communicators to set those expectations and benchmarks, i.e. it will not enough to generate media coverage (nor should it be). And similarly, we need to be clear that the results aren’t measured the way we measure media coverage. Rather, we will need to be able to demonstrate Twitter’s effect on overall business goals.

    It’s a challenge, but let’s get in that “groove” of a trough and give ourselves time as communicators to help our organizations / clients become more comfortable and familiar with the tools and how their results can be measured most effectively.

    Cheers & thanks!

  • Great post, Dave! These social media platforms will all continue to evolve with plenty of fads, flame-outs, etc. Communicators need to keep an eye out for what’s coming next.

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  • Great visual. I agree Twitter is a communications tool and companies should periodically evaluate wether it is still “relevant” to their marketing and communication strategies

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  • Spot-on, Dave. Twitter is but one tool is a vast array. People get so caught up in hype. I surveyed 160 uni students over the past two weeks and only seven of them use Twitter.

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  • I agree with your analysis here, but there’s something more that needs to be said about the ‘trough of disillusionment’. Not every technology goes through the entire hype cycle. For some, the trough is the end of the road.

    Now, I’m not suggesting Twitter and micro-blogging are endangers species, but I suspect they will evolve into something quite different from what we currently see.

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