CIO Symmetry

Mar 21 2011   5:32PM GMT

The opportunity cost of Twitter for business

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

Last week, Site Editor Wendy Schuchart did a nice job showing the upside of Twitter for business. “Social media presented an easy opportunity [for P.F. Chang’s] to make the most of the customer experience and demonstrate to the business that there’s gold in them thar tweets,” she wrote.

Yet, like all things, all that glitters is not necessarily gold.

I call it the “opportunity cost” of tweeting. Opportunity cost, in business, is the next best option for where to make an investment. With Twitter, it’s the thing you’re missing out on by tweeting another thing.

This was perfectly illustrated at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) conference, which concluded Sunday in Austin, Texas. You have to check out Amy Harmon’s New York Times account of the festivities, if only for the picture of four tweeters standing together with all eyes on their phones and none on each other.

(Twitter is one of the things that brought these people to Austin in the first place. SXSW and Twitter created a buzz back in 2008 when a tweet-happy audience basically upstaged an interview between Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and journalist Sarah Lacy.)

This year, some tweeters at SXSW faced a backlash from people who were not attendance, jealous that they were missing out on the fun. Some Twitterers were being unfollowed, having their communiqués from Austin blocked or seeing their #SXSW hashtags filtered out.

Though most avid Twitter users are expert multitaskers, you can’t be in more than one place at the same time. And inasmuch as Twitter allows people to share experiences and places and time vicariously, sometimes that can be too much of a good thing.

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