Sunday, May 3, 2009

Why We Need Twitter

When I first heard of Twitter, like many, I thought I had no use for it. In one week and the addition of nearly 1,200 followers, I've changed my tune. There is no doubt Twitter is becoming an essential communication tool for companies worldwide. This includes travel companies, top journalists, news stations, magazines, politicians, as well as people like you and me who now have the opportunity to communicate directly with all of the above.

This morning alone, I learned from Kimpton Hotels COO Niki Leondakis that all Kimpton Hotels are offering late check-out Sundays in May (in honor of “Better Sleep Month). I also learned through morning posts by various “tweeters” that a 6.1 earthquake hit western Guatemala; that all hotels (and restaurants with patios) are open in Cancun (despite cancellation rate of 70 percent); that Fairmont, Four Seasons & Kimpton rank at top of Health Magazine’s “Healthiest Hotels” list; and that Ritz-Carlton’s new “Peace of Mind” package gives my clients 5 nights for the price of 3.

The immediacy of being able to learn what is happening, throughout my industry and the world, is what makes Twitter such a game changer. Since you have the ability to choose which companies and individuals you want to “follow,” you cannot only keep up with what your favorite companies are offering but also read a plethora of relevant news stories all in one place. For example, during the swine flu crisis, I was able to follow what CNN,, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the CDC, the White House, Mexican tourism officials, airlines, hotels and locals living in Mexico City and observers were reporting—without having to skip around from website to website in search of accurate information.

The true beauty of Twitter is that posts are limited to 140-characters, giving you a brief read on the topic of interest. Many tweeters also post a link to a relevant article or blog containing more in-depth information related to their “tweet", and you can respond directly or publicly to this person with your thoughts. As I heard recently, Facebook is for connecting with those you know while the main idea of Twitter is for connecting with those you want to know.

For example, after seeing Leondakis’ post about Kimpton’s "Sleep In" promo, I shot off a quick response letting her know how clever I thought this was and what a fan of Kimpton I am. She responded immediately, thanking me for the note. Now I know I have a direct line to the hotel company’s COO should I ever need it! This is just one example of how easy it is, thanks to Twitter, to build new relationships with people you would otherwise never be able to “meet”.

I also took the opportunity to connect with some local residents in Mexico City, Cancun and Los Cabos during the swine flu panic, as I wanted their first hand take on what was happening rather than just relying on what we were hearing here in the States. Even if a direct dialogue does not develop (some tweeters are quite popular as you can imagine), you can still take advantage of knowing what people of interest to you are thinking, doing, planning, offering, etc. based on their updated “tweets.”

Among those I follow, for my own personal interests, are Bonnie Fuller (Huffington Post columnist and former editor of US Weekly, Cosmo and other mags), several rescue dog organizations and many yoga devotees. I also enjoy following celebs such as Mariel Hemingway, Virginia Madsen, Seth Rogen, Dane Cook, Ashton Kutcher, Joel Madden and the Kardashian sisters solely for entertainment purposes, while I find following business people like Steve Case, Seth Godin, Suzy Welch, Russell Simmons and Richard Branson to be both interesting and inspiring.

Whether or not you choose to join the Twitter generation is entirely up to you. But if you do join, feel free to follow me at and I will see you in Twitterville.