You are living in a bubble! This is a claim that many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs often hear. To some extent it is true. It is always sunny here, and new technologies are introduced every day, so we tend to be more cutting edge, just by diffusion. I want to argue though, that there is a bigger bubble than the geographical one: the Twitter bubble. Wait! Before you stop reading hear me out. I am not saying Twitter is over hyped, nor that it is not great. I am saying something different: Twitter creates a bubble for its heavy users and creates a virtual global world, in which Twitter is the main mean of communication.
Take Robert Scoble, one of the most admired new media evangelists in the valley. In a blog post posted recently claiming that Twitter worth 5-10 billion he said:
Silicon Valley tech bloggers haven’t yet put together this pattern, other than by watching traffic numbers which continue to zoom up. Why? Because most of them don’t travel very often and don’t actually meet with real businesses like restaurants or like the Fiat/Yamaha racing team I’m hanging out with this weekend.
Scoble is great at sniffing out early technologies -and I value his take and think that Twitter is a wonderful tool (and I am not in the business of valuing companies so I can not argue the 5 billion figure. I hated accounting related stuff the moment I started studying it…) –but we can’t draw objective conclusions based on subjective experiences. I think that although Scoble may be traveling more than the typical Silicon Valley blogger, he is not really leaving the TwitterBubble. When he travels, he meets people through Tweetups- events that are published on Twitter for Twitter users. This way, one never meets anyone that doesn’t want his @username printed on a t-shirt. Moreover, when you are so involved with Twitter (Robert Scoble tweets dozens times a day) you tend to see Twitter all over the place, even in places where others will miss (Think of the last time you heard of a brand for the first time and 2 minutes later you saw a truck with the same logo passing by) .
Real market research is done when you go into the corner furniture store and ask if they use Twitter or Facebook and you get the answer: “yea, we heard about it, and we plan to check it out as soon as we finish with the unclogging the bathroom/sending our holiday cards/upgrade our point of sales system…
There are two lessons here:
- Never mix the early adopters with the main street- this lesson was well documented more than a decade ago by Geoff Moore in “Crossing the Chasm“. Although Twitter is a common place now and growing fast, the businesses using it are “pre-chasm” if we use the Moore metaphor and not (yet) and indicator for mass adoption.
- Market research can not be developed in a bubble- if you go out and research a market go beyond who you know. For every business using Twitter there are many more that are not. Talking with them will add more value than talking with the 1% currently on the platform.