Canadians are participating on Twitter. In 2007 a According to Twitter stats in 2008 Canadians accounted for 7% of traffic. Checking Alexa.com today reveals their figure of 2.5% – Alexa ratings however are known to be flawed, but we do know that Twitter usage in Canada is not near close to that of our American brethren despite similar technologies and technological interest. And a Sysomos study released in June 2009 indicates that Twitter usage by country indicates 5.69% of Twitter accounts belong to Canadians. This data was compiled by indexing 11.5 million Twitter accounts and recording country of origin.
The question begs however – how many of these accounts are actively being used…?
Mobile Provider & “The Green Monster”
Twitter adoption in Canada has been largely stunted by mobile provider reluctance to allow users to participate at a reasonable cost – and while there is the possibility of communications via Twitter on the web, believe it or not real life experiences are much more inspiring. Data plans in Canada are not within the price range of the average mobile user, and SMS can get very expensive as well. Bell higher ups have stated that a Twitter update is not the same as personal message – it’s just not the same thing. I don’t see the difference – the networks have grown but if you offer an unlimited plan it appears that you cannot distinguish between what it is used for. Hmm… doesn’t this sound familiar (p2p throttling).
My solution: There are lots of Canadian companies (retailers especially) that want to make use of social media but they either find too few Canadians or too few Canadians find them. Why not work out a deal with mobile providers – you receive Tweets from Retailer A you get Twitter credits, get Tweets from retailers A & B get even more mobile credits. Mobile companies make money, retailers market, and consumer gets Twitter with daily updates from the retailers they are following. Everyone is happy! Je rêve en couleur…
While this is not restricted to Canadians alone, many first-time Twitter users feel frustrated when they join Twitter because they do not understand how it works or what it is for. In my discussions with people about Twitter (non-Twitter users or users with non-active accounts) there are some misunderstandings about the real value of participation there. Here are some of the opinions from people in the marketing industry as well as those would use Twitter primarily for personal communication:
- tweet about mundane daily happenings as they happen
- tweet ads on regular basis with no dedicated interaction
- tweeting about TV shows
While these have their time and their place, the real value of Twitter is the real-time communication that is made possible for the organization of communities in spreading knowledge. The valuable local content on Twitter in Canada is not as pronounced. If I tweet about an accident in the city I live in as I drove by, people would hear about it but the news would not spread quickly enough to be of help to more than a handful of people (this is a random guess). While the tech community in London Ontario has long embraced Twitter it seems that the supply of local “early adopters” will have to run out and my mom won’t be using Twitter anytime soon without some real incentive. This local, pertinent content is one of the real powers of Twitter – averting hazards, finding great local sales, hearing about a great rock show – and until mobile providers make this more accessible, Canadians will likely be slow to adopt Twitter as a tool for every day living and communication quickly with friends, families and people within and without their networks. The more people on Twitter in your region, the more valuable it becomes as a tool and this is where our frustration with the mundane will be relieved.
In America, It Trickled Up… In Canada, It Trickles Down
In the United States, Twitter growth was much quicker and it was not until later that offline retailers really took advantage of Twitter. Online only companies have been using it since the beginning. But, in the United States, the companies went to where the people where. In Canada, on the other hand, there is still not a very large user base and the value of Twitter is not as pronounced as in the country to the south. Retailers are encouraging Canadians to join Twitter in exchange for valuable savings – many retailers such as Future Shop, Sears, Sobeys and Safeway, among others, are using contests and other incentives to compel people to join and follow their brands.
Will Twitter Move Forward in Canada?
While I think the Twitter model is bound to change, it could become a very valuable tool for disseminating local content and real-time communication to our larger networks. As well, it could become a very valuable tool for marketers. Many companies will find their niche audiences here – Canadian retailers like Future Shop are poised to speak to the early adopters of Canada – those most apt to buy the new phone, the newest netbook and the latest in gaming technology. Herein lies the power of Twitter and social networking – you can connect with your tribe and your tribe can connect with you. Labelled and mapped into the social graph, these tribes are to identifiable and social media marketers can find their audience in those most apt to be interested in what they have to offer, connecting with their customers and increasing brand engagement.
What do you think the future holds for Twitter in Canada?