by: John Caddell

I was interested in this post from the NY Times Bits blog: “Dell Says It Has Earned $3 Million From Twitter.” Selling, after all, is one of the Five Archetypal Business Twitter Strategies.

But I was even more interested when I read this part of the post, almost a throwaway near the end:

Dell heard on Twitter that customers thought the apostrophe and return keys were too close together on the Dell Mini 9 laptop and fixed the problem on the Dell Mini 10. Now, the Dell Mini product development team is asking around on Twitter for new ideas for the next generation of the computer.

This is important, and it’s timely because it comes when Twitter users are coming under a lot of criticism for their, say, shallowness (examples here and here and here).

To 99.999% of people, someone complaining about the apostrophe and return keys on the Dell Mini 9 is worthless trivia. For Dell, that trivia–which is easy to find among the millions of Tweets posted daily–is extremely important. If it coalesces into a pattern, Dell engineers have something to use, besides gut feel or experience, to guide their product development decisions.

The very nature of Twitter (its simplicity, brevity and noisiness) is what frees people to post “trivia” like “Dell Inspiron Mini 9 keyboard is a little tight.” It takes a few seconds to get something like that off your chest–comments that, before Twitter, were not worth speaking in public. Now they are.

For companies like Dell, who listen to and act on these utterances, that is a big asset. For people who complain about Twitter’s shallowness, you are free to tune out.

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