If you read James Gardner’s post about Twitter then you might come to the conclusion that Twitter is of little use for banks to be concerned about because it only touches 0.5% of its user base. My friend, Roger Lawrence, makes a fine point that many people thought mobile phones would never take off – yet over 15 years they took the world by storm and are a critical communications device. At one point in time they too only held 0.5% of the financial services user base. So what's the tipping point? Is it a better UI or some universal integration point? I doubt anyone knows for sure but I’d argue that:
The change in twitters use has been unexpected (personal rants, to celebrity followings and social commentary)
If the medium gets limited to one channel then Twitter as it is now known will disappear (SMS survived due to low cost and its universality)
Enter another perspective “How Twitter will change the way we live” which makes key opening and closing points. Twitter makes a bad first impression though it can help build a a case, in small 140 character messages, that addresses a wider audience than would otherwise be possible.
So, is twitter a must have media for all users?
In its current format I’d say no however it is wider reaching than traditional media, such as newspaper and television. Exposing information and fast is where it excels. Thanks to Twitter few people can be counted out of the six degrees of separations. If you know someone who twitters or even reads twitter (like me) you can know more information that you would find out from simply reading a report or versus the local news.
In financial services terms, twitter helps provide time-correlated but ongoing conversations about otherwise private information. Much like the wisdom of crowds it can help point at a trend as was evident in the Szechuan earthquakes.
It'll be interesting to watch the true value of social networks change over time.
[Addendum from Chris Allison:
15 yrs after the mobile went from 0.5% very few banks have grasped it (despite US smart phone sales being 40%)..
Even SMS banking services are rare...]