Category Archives: Facebook

Internet TV gains support from Comcast, testing IPTV

The dividing lines between Netflix and its cable competitors were blurred even further when Comcast, the largest cable operator, announced it will begin testing an IPTV service, a method of delivering content through the Internet.

Comcast announced on May 25 that it will start testing IPTV, an acronym for Internet Protocol Television, at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, MIT, in the coming months.

IPTV can be used for Live Video, On-Demand Video (VOD) and delayed programming like a DVR. The technology is already in use today. Netflix, Hulu PlusRoku, live-streaming services like U-Stream and Live Stream, as well as AT&T‘s U-Verse TV, are all using the Internet to deliver video content straight to our television sets.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association held its 60th annual Cable Show last week in Chicago’s McCormick Place. The Cable Show is a three-day event that displays the latest technology and innovations in cable. From delivery methods, to content, to advertising and promotions.

Comcast displayed its Xcalibur guide — which uses the cloud and features a comprehensive search engine and social media components — through an IPTV connection.

Comcast also recently announced a partnership with Internet-video-conferencing service Skype, again utilizing IPTV. More on that in a future post, but here’s a quick video from NCTA, showing Skype on Xfinity TV:

If it wasn’t obvious before, it should be now: the future of television is through the Internet. And Comcast is proving it won’t sit back and let other Internet services push it aside.

Comcast is fighting back with the introduction of its own IPTV delivery and partnership with Skype in an attempt to fend off rivals like Netflix and maintain its position as one of the largest media conglomerates in the world.

“We want to deliver video everywhere people want to watch it,” Comcast’s president of converged products Sam Schwartz  was quoted in The Wall Street Journal. “We have to do a better job getting people to realize what they are paying us for.”

5 Small Business Musts

The Top 5 Small-Business Musts

5. Social Media

Social Media provides another way to connect with customers. But recent research has shown that it has little impact on purchase decisions.

Don’t expect it to increase sales. As I’ve said before, social media is a conversation with your customers. It should be used to strengthen existing customer relationships and give a little taste of your personality as a business owner. Don’t let it replace other areas of advertising and customer service.

But it’s an important place to be. Anymore, your customers will expect you to be using social media. Participate, be on Facebook, use Twitter, use Foursquare, offer specials to customers. Engage with your audience.

The following social media platforms are the most popular today, though they are not perfect for every business. Most can find a way to incorporate a Facebook Page or a Twitter Profile, but Foursquare requires a physical location with foot traffic. Have a plan before you get started.

Facebook

A Facebook Page is an excellent addition to a company website. A great place for comments, conversations and contests. It’s all about content and frequency. Update your Facebook Page every day. Updates, News, Commentary, Jokes, Questions, Photos from recent events, the options are endless. Just try to have some focus.

For my related post on ways to connect with customers and promote your business, click here. And here for my informational post on Facebook.

Need help creating a Facebook Page for your business? Click here for Mashable’s guide to the new Facebook-Page layout.

Twitter

Twitter provides a way to alert customers of news, specials, changes or insight into the company. Or maybe a business quote of the day. Be creative. Twitter is also a great place for contests.

Business owners can also use Twitter to stay up-to-date on industry news. Follow related companies or industry experts. You’ll have access to all of their tweets on your home page.

For my post on Twitter, how it started and where it’s headed, click here.

Need help using Twitter for your business? Click here for Mashable’s How-To on Twitter.

Foursquare

For businesses with a physical location, in particular ones that have heavy traffic, Foursquare is a fun mobile application that rewards customers for visiting your store. Reward check-ins with a special discount or offer. Or Offer your most frequent customer, which Foursquare dubs Mayor, with the highest prize.

Unlike Facebook Pages and Twitter profiles, Foursquare is user-generated. In fact, most business listings on Foursquare were added by the users themselves, not the business owners. Are you already on there? Check it out at Foursquare.com.

For a business owner, Foursquare requires the least effort to keep going. Users check-in on their own. Unlock specials that you’ve created and compete with their friends on the Leaderboard. In addition to the new Explore feature. To read my in-depth post on Foursquare, click here.

Need help using Foursquare for your business? Click here for Mashable’s How-To on Foursquare specials.

4. Blogging

 

blog is a great way to share your expertise in your field. To brand yourself as an expert.

It’s also a great way to stay on top of trends, new information and stay connected with your industry.

There are a number of blog services that do not charge for use. Three leading blog services are WordPress, Blogspot/Blogger and Tumblr. I use WordPress to host this blog, though I pay an annual fee for the domain, ericsadblog.com. The free domain would be ericsadblog.wordpress.com. If you don’t want the wordpress extension, you can buy a domain name for small annual fee.

Keep your content focused on truth, on topics that matter to your customers. Do not sell your business on your blog. That will happen organically after you’ve branded yourself as an expert in your  industry.

3. YouTube

The best part about YouTube — other than those funny cat videos — is that you can do it all. And it’s free.

Build a YouTube Channel. And link either Informational Videos or How-To videos for your industry, making your YouTube Channel a great resource. Or better yet, record the information and How-To videos yourself. Creating the videos yourself adds a very personal touch. It allows the viewer a look inside the business. If you link videos other have created, users will remember them. If you create the videos, the users will remember you.

2. Get on the Street

Slow business day? Well don’t just sit there, hit the streets! Talk with your customers one-on-one. Offer samples, coupons, ask questions. What better way to get customer feedback than talking to them? Thinking of implementing a new menu item? Or changing your store layout? Ask people on the street. Some won’t want to talk to you, but don’t worry about it. Focus on the ones who do.

Even just talking to people –small talk —putting your face in front of the business. Then your customers aren’t just shopping at the store on the corner, they’re shopping at Your store on the corner, Tom’s Store, Mary’s place, Wendy’s coffee shop. It makes it personal. You want them to connect with the business on a more personal level than just a simple trip to the grocery store.

We remember people, not stores. Think of one of your favorite businesses. What are its employees like? Friendly? Do you know any by face or name? Had any conversations with them? If so, I’ll bet you remember the person and the conversation.

One of my favorite retail stores is Best Buy. I love the products Best Buy carries. But I also love the customer service. The way they greet me with a simple “hello” every time I walk in. Best Buy employees are also very knowledgable and accessible. They aren’t trying to sell me; they’re trying to help me. It’s something I remember, and in part it keeps me coming back.

1. Advertising

Advertising isn’t just for national brands. Local businesses need it more than anyone. It isn’t enough to just open your doors and hope people come in. Advertising informs, possibly entertains, and reminds customers that you’re there, and that you have the products they want and the expertise to service them. Advertising Builds Companies. It brands them as the place to go.

Believe it or not, it’s possible to generate word-of-mouth. It’s called advertising. When you advertise your business with audio, and advertise the same message often enough, you’re using word-of-mouth to build buzz about your business. Audio like TV and Radio. The key is frequency and getting your message to the same audience.

Online banner ads, newspaper ads, magazine ads — or any other print ads — offer a way to reach consumers in the market today, or the day you run your ad. But it works much differently than a TV or Radio ad. Know the basics before you get started.

Search marketing is another way to reach consumers who are searching for your products and/or services. Making sure your website is well optimized and contains all necessary information — skip on the fluff — that best portrays your business.

If you don’t know how to build a solid website or make it search-engine friendly, find someone who does. Because being visible when customers are searching for you is an important step in acquiring new customers via the web.

What are you waiting for?!

So get out there, talk with your customers! In person; in the ads; in your blog. Be friendly. Be yourself. Have fun. Interaction is key. Show people how much you love your business and what you do. Because if you do it well enough, they will too. But don’t focus on selling your business; that will happen organically when people see how much you care about it. Sincerity is easy to spot.

The common thread with this Top 5 Small Business Musts — in case you missed it — is Interaction. Interact with your customers. Interact through Social Media, Blogs, YouTube, In-Person and in your Advertising.

Predictions for Internet TV and the future of Cable

A Netflix-red-hot topic on this blog and certainly in the tech world is the rise of Internet TV and the belief that it will some day replace cable TV as our chief source of home entertainment.

In previous posts, I’ve covered My Cord-Cutting Experience; Netflix; Hulu Plus; Roku; and even my comprehensive Internet TV Guide. Now I’d like to offer a few predictions on the current status of these services and the future of Internet TV and pay TV based on my first-hand experience and research over the past 13 months.

First let’s take a look at the playing field. Right now we’ve got powerhouse Netflix. Then Hulu Plus. And Amazon Instant Video. And other services like Crackle, PlayOn, and Internet Apps from a variety of providers including Roku, Sony, Apple, Google, Samsung, Vizio, Boxee and more.

Note the very distinct difference between unlimited streaming like Netflix and video-on-demand (VOD) services like Vudu. An example: Warner Bros. recently announced  a deal to rent movies through social-networking behemoth Facebook. Many news outlets suggested this deal, through Facebook, would challenge Netflix. That’s dead-wrong. The deal, as it stands now, is video-on-demand. A charge per Warner Bros. movie –a version of yesterday’s pay-per-view — not unlimited streaming.

There’s a feeling you get when you graduate high school and head off to college. It’s a special kind of freedom that’s hard to describe. You can make your own decisions. Stay out late and do pretty much whatever you want.

That’s how Netflix is living. No cable-backed parent over its shoulder. Big Red’s got nothing holding it back. Though CEO Reed Hastings recently said he’s not competing with premium cable like HBO, I don’t believe him.  [Hastings has made similar comments in the past only to contradict himself later. Take his stance on original programming. Hastings said the company wasn’t in the business of original programming until Netflix gained exclusive rights to original series House of Cards in March of this year.]

Hulu, on the other hand, is still living at home. And its parents watch cable. Hulu is jointly owned by Comcast’s NBC Universal, The Walt Disney Co., News Corp. and global private equity investment first Providence Equity Partners. In the sale of NBC Universal to Comcast in late January, GE had to relinquish its decision-making power and 32% stake of Hulu. (See my media ownership post here.) The deal gave Comcast 51% control of NBC Universal, now labeled NBCUniversal (no space and no peacock). Previously, GE owned 80 percent. Prior to the sale, GE purchased the remaining 20 percent stake from Vivendi Universal. GE’s stake in NBCUniversal is now 49 percent, though according to USA Today the company plans to completely remove its shares over the next eight years.

With Comcast holding stake in Hulu, I don’t see how Hulu Plus will fully commit to Internet TV in fear of making cable obsolete. That is, if Comcast has anything to do with it.

Studios and cable companies still seem hesitant to enter the streaming game full-steam. In part because it threatens pay TV and also because nobody knows where it’s headed. Fear of the unknown. But the conversion is happening, albeit slowly. It will likely continue at that pace until we reach an Internet-TV tipping point.

Watch for studios to start their own services on a smaller scale. I predicted just last week that premium cable channels like HBO and Showtime would roll-out their own subscription-based offerings.

One week after my prediction, Time Warner announced the acquisition of movie-discovery service Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes, as well as plans to develop an expanded video service. Though no plans of including any HBO content, per the report. [HBO recently introduced HBO GO, an extension of its premium cable channel. It is free with a paid subscription to HBO and is not a stand-alone or even subscription-based offering.]

From the Business Wire release: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group will utilize the powerful Flixster brand and technical expertise to launch a number of initiatives designed to grow digital content ownership, including the recently announced consumer application “Digital Everywhere.” This studio-agnostic application will be the ultimate destination for consumers to organize and access their entire digital library from anywhere on the device of their choice, as well as to share recommendations and discover new content. The Flixster acquisition and “Digital Everywhere,” combined with the Studio’s support of the UltraViolet format are all part of an overall strategy to give consumers even more freedom, utility and value for their digital purchases.

I’d watch for more studios and content owners to explore options for skipping the middle man and becoming the means of distribution for their content.

Studios like Disney, CBS, Viacom, and premium cable like Starz and Encore (both owned by Liberty Media Corp.) will all look in this direction. At first, simply to supplement their current revenue model.

Recent rumors had big firms like Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Hulu and Dish Network teaming up to potentially launch a Netflix competitor.

Netflix is gaining a huge lead — the company just surpassed Comcast’s pay TV subscribers as the largest video-streaming service in North America –but in time there will be a number of subscription-streaming services. With overlap in content. For example, Netflix and Hulu offer some of the same programming or channels, while other programming is exclusive to the provider. Much like the DirecTV-Dish battle of today. (Or Netflix vs. Hulu Plus.) Only I see more competitors in the ring.

Right now, in 2011, we’re witnessing the easy part. There’s a clear distinction between pay TV and Netflix. Wait five years and we’ll see the transition taking place: cable companies — like Comcast, Time Warner, Viacom, and even satellite TV providers Dish and DirecTV — developing stand-alone Internet-TV subscriptions, separate from their pay TV plan.

So, at that end-point, what will be the difference between pay TV and TV over Internet, other than the means of distribution? First, the customization. Consumers will choose what content they want and when they want it. Whether it’s subscription services like Netflix or specific channels like, say, HBO’s Internet Channel. Second, the cost. The cost will be more in the Internet service and the streaming box, instead of paying to receive 300 predetermined channels. Subscriptions to our content will have to decline, as we see with Netflix subscription rates compared to that of a typical cable plan.

A few final talking points if pay TV as we know it today will move online and stream to our living rooms. 1) Live Newscasts; 2) Live Sporting Events; 3) Local News; 4) Advertising and 5) Local Advertising.

Live News is already happening on Roku, on the free Newscaster app. Al Jazeera streams live all day. In fact, I’m watching the live Al Jazeera stream as I write this section. So the capability is there. And Roku has a DVR-like function that lets you pause, rewind and resume the live feed. How about Sporting Events?

Xbox 360’s got that covered with its ESPN 3 app featuring live broadcasts and up-to-date sportscasts on a variety of sports. Roku’s got live coverage too including MLB TV, NBA Game Time, NHL and UFC. Local News is now streaming as well. Roku announced via Twitter on April 16 that it had added the first local news broadcast, Channel3000, a CBS News affiliate from Madison, Wisconsin. Roku pulls video from Channel3000′s website and makes it playable for free on the Roku player.

National News is better than ever on-demand with Xbox 360’s NBC News channel. Update: Roku introduced an NBC News channel in December of 2011, as well as CNBC Real-Time and Wall Street Journal Live.

Now Advertising. Hulu Plus has done the best job of incorporating video advertising into its content, using the pay TV model, ads within programming. A few of Roku’s internet apps have video ads as well as banner ads. How about Local Advertising, targeted just like Internet banner ads, based on location determined by the user’s IP address? But probably the greatest potential for the future of TV advertising is the connectivity. Imagine a television ad with a purchase, more info or social media one remote-click away.

It’s like cable, only customized and connected to the Internet. And on the consumer’s schedule. Almost as if every show on TV was Tivo’d for us. The consumer decides not only what content is displayed on his or her dashboard, but when it’s on.

Within the next 10 years, I see the Internet as our means of distribution for all television content. As broadband access becomes ubiquitous, like mobile phones and smartphones after it, the future of pay TV will be clear. Combine Netflix’s vast library of TV and Movies, Roku’s app-interface with the ad-model of Hulu Plus  and mix in ESPN3’s live sports on Xbox 360 and you’ve got the future of pay TV.

We have the capability of all of these services today. It’ll just take someone to put it all together.

The future of TV is one box, connected to all of our subscriptions and video content including Movies, TV, News, Sports, Weather, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Local News channels, Live News and Live Sports. All at our fingertips. A media hub, allowing consumers to pick and choose the content they’d like displayed on their dashboards. A La Carte television. Complete consumer control.

Thanks for checking in: a look at Location

A new vehicle in the advertising realm, one that should not be underestimated, is location-based applications.

Location-based applications allow users to ‘check-in’ via smartphone and share their location with other users of the service or other social networks. Users are able to see who else is checked in at a given location (from all users) or friends in nearby locations. By checking in, users receive points and/or badges and can unlock certain specials determined by the retailer.

The most publicized of these location-based apps is Foursquare. Today, there are a reported 8 million Foursquare users, up from just one million a year ago. Foursquare’s growth is a reflection of not only the company’s success but the adoption of smartphones and our increasingly mobile lifestyles.

Foursquare was created in 2009 by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadura. Prior to Foursquare, Crowley founded a similar service called Dodgeball, which was acquired by Google in 2005. Google has since shut it down. Foursquare, which is free for both users and merchants, is now the hottest thing on the block (literally).

 Four steps to Foursquare

  1. Check in
  2. Get points and badges
  3. Get rewarded
  4. Become Mayor

 Thanks for checking in

After joining Foursquare and downloading the free application for smartphones (iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Palm, Ovi, Windows Phone, etc), you’re ready to check in. While you’re going about your business — going to work, to the store or to a restaurant for dinner — simply launch the Foursquare application and view the Places around you. Foursquare determines a user’s location based on the phone’s GPS location.

For those that believe Foursquare is a bit too personal, keep in mind that the check-in is a manual process. Users decide when and where to check in or not to check in.

When checking in, users can add comments and/or tips for other users for that particular location. Or upload a photo. If the location you’re visiting isn’t in the Foursquare system, the application allows you to add it yourself.

Users find friends by linking Foursquare to their email, Twitter or Facebook accounts. Users are then able to view their friends’ latest check-ins. And even compete with them in a points contest on the Leaderboard.

By checking in, users receive points and badges based on where, when and how often they check in. The Mayor often receives the largest reward or the highest percentage off a purchase. All rewards are determined and set by the business owner.

A user becomes “Mayor” if he or she checks in more frequently at a location than other Foursquare users. And can be ‘ousted’ as mayor if someone checks in more frequently than the current mayor.

 Will you be the next Mayor…of Walmart?

Check in at Walmart and you’ll earn points. Check in often enough and you’ll become Mayor. If you’re lucky (by achieving certain milestones), you’ll get a badge. Sounds a little childish, I know. (Besides the mayor part. Who wouldn’t want to be Mayor of Walmart?) But there is actually a benefit to checking in. Many retailers are embracing Foursquare as a way to connect with customers. A small but growing percentage of businesses on Foursquare are even offering discounts or Specials for checking in. Watch for this to expand rapidly as both smartphone adoption and Foursquare use increase.

Foursquare’s message to businesses:

“As a business owner, you can use Foursquare to engage your increasingly mobile customers with foursquare ‘Specials,’ which are discounts and prizes you can offer your loyal customers when they check in on foursquare at your venue. Don’t forget to show extra love to your venue’s Mayor! Additionally, if you offer foursquare Specials to your customers, you will be able to track how your venue is performing over time thanks to our robust set of venue analytics — for free!”

 Well isn’t that Special?

From my home in Bellefonte, Pa (Foursquare specials vary depending on location) I can view 18 Specials nearby including: Gordon’s Jewelers – Check-in and unlock $50 off your $300 purchase; Radio Shack – Check-in and get 20% off your qualifying purchase; Penn State Book Store – A free Snickers Peanut Butter Squared Pack when you check in. Forever Tanning – Free tan or 10% off a hair cut with every third check in.

You’ll see there are both national chains and local businesses taking advantage of Foursquare Specials. In a post on Sept. 3, 2010, titled, Finally a reason to be on Foursquare, I first looked at Foursquare’s growth in my area (State College, Pa aka Happy Valley).

 New and improved

Foursquare has rolled out new versions over the last three years, each update improving upon the last and bringing new features to the table. The current version features five main categories on the mobile application:

Places: showing businesses and landmarks around a user’s current location. After selecting a location, this is where users check in. And choose to comment and/or share with Facebook and Twitter. A new feature to the check-in is the ability to take a picture with a smartphone and upload it to Foursquare. The photos are then displayed on both the user’s page and on the location’s page.

Friends: displaying the user’s friends; much like Facebook, friend requests must be sent and then accepted. Here users can view a friend’s Foursquare feed, displaying all of his or her check-ins.

Explore: a service similar to Yelp (founded in 2004), showing nearby businesses in a given industry like Food, Coffee, Nightlife, Shops and Arts & Entertainment. Like Yelp, Foursquare Explore finds your location with your smartphones built-in GPS. Once a category and location is selected, say Pizza Hut, Explore will tell you how many of your friends have checked in, and name them specifically. Explore also displays how many times you’ve checked in to the location as well as what Foursquare calls Tips (essentially comments) made by your friends.

To-Do: the to-do tab is a bookmark, allowing you to note a location and what you’d like to do there the next time you’re around.

Me: serves as the Foursquare user’s Dashboard (showing total number of Check-Ins, Badges, Mayorships, Points, Leaderboard, Most Explored Categories, Top Places, Tips and Friends).

The Leaderboard on the Foursquare Dashboard (the ‘Me’ tab) ranks you among your friends by total number of points over the last seven days. It offers a fun way to gauge your Foursquare influence among your friends. Points are awarded for checking in, adding a new venue or traveling.

 Who’ll come out on top?

Foursquare is gaining fame at a fast rate. And where there’s success, imitators won’t be far behind. With the introduction of Facebook Places and other location-based services like Whrrl, which was acquired by daily deals service Groupon in mid-April, companies are copying Foursquare’s model. And vice versa, as evidenced by Foursquare’s recent inclusion and emphasis on its Yelp-like service directory Explore.

Our favorite services are attempting to do it all by folding social networking, location applications and daily deals into one. What will win out? User base or functionality? Quantity or quality?

For a direct link to Foursquare’s business page, click here.

Source: Foursquare.com, Mashable.com, Foursquare application, YouTube

The Twitterati

Twitterati: The Tweet elite, whose feeds attract thousands of followers and whose 140-character spews capture the attention of the rapt who doggedly monitor them.                 -As defined by Urban Dictionary

Twitter, a mircroblogging site launched in 2006, is a triple-threat source for news, gossip and social networking. (That sums it up in 140.)

Recent reports estimate that 90 percent of tweets are generated by less than 25 percent of Twitter users. Let’s call them the Twitterati. The USA Today broke them down into four categories: media, celebrities, organizations and bloggers.

Twitter is trying to change that and increase its Twitter appeal among a wider user base. Last week, Twitter announced it will be making its homepage more user friendly. More accessible for those who haven’t yet made the Twitter jump; for those who are on Twitter but don’t often tweet; for those who don’t quite understand Twitter. (And those who have no connections to the Twitterati.)

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who returned to the company in late March, is in favor of a more mainstream website. Dorsey served as Twitter’s first chief executive, then took a step back in 2008 and handed the CEO duties to co-founder Evan Williams; the two essentially switched roles. Dorsey is now back in the fold as executive chairman.

Jack Dorseys Twitter account, announcing his return on March 28, 2011

Per Reuters, Dorsey wants to focus on users “that don’t really understand what Twitter is and see Twitter mainly as a consumption experience.”

“We have a lot of mainstream awareness but mainstream relevancy is still a challenge,” Dorsey was quoted on Reuters.com, from an event in New York hosted by the Columbia Journalism school.

I noticed the home-page change Thursday, April 14. Here’s a screenshot I grabbed. The tag has been changed to “Follow your interests,” more in-line with way most people use Twitter. Subtitle: “Instant updates from your friends, industry experts, favorite celebrities, and what’s happening around the world.”

The new home page hasn’t rolled out to everyone just yet. In fact, I visited the site two days later and saw the old page. Which offers only “Twitter. The best way to discover what’s new in your world.”

The change might seem subtle, but for someone new to the site and the service, the re-design definitely accomplishes what Dorsey wants. And it could be the difference in Twitter gaining mass appeal.

Dorsey started Twitter in 2006 with co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone. In addition to his return role at Twitter, Dorsey serves as chief executive at mobile-payment startup Square.

Rumors were also floating around the web that Twitter is planning to redesign its Brand Pages, which as of right now are no different than user pages. The said move will make Twitter Brand Pages more like Facebook Pages.

Twitter’s microblogging service has exploded among celebrities, reporters and sports stars; and has filled a niche that Facebook doesn’t. All within 140 characters. Pro athletes are announcing moves on Twitter before the reporters have the story. Celebrity tweets are quoted daily in the news.

I’m new to the Twitter scene. One of the aforementioned ‘on Twitter but don’t often tweet’ users. But now, I’ve decided, I’m in. I made the plunge a few short weeks ago. Actually, the specific moment was after I attended a lecture by John Andrews, Founder and CEO of Collective Bias.

“Collective Bias is an emerging media firm focused on the intersection of mobile/social media and social shopper marketing. Through our proprietary Social Fabric shopping influencer group, we build dedicated communities for our clients designed to foster the shared conversation between consumers, brands and retailers, creating an advocacy platform that fosters organic dialogue and strong brand relationships and ultimately enhanced loyalty and sales.” – From Collective Bias handout at Penn State University in March, 2011. Collective Bias is based in Southfield, MI; Bentonville, AR; Scottsdale, AZ; NYC.

Andrews recently visited Twitter headquarters to get a first-hand look. See his visit on Whrrl.

“I must admit that my opinion on Twitter has changed greatly since visiting,” Andrews told me via email after returning from his trip.

“Twitter is doing some great thinking on products.  Their point of difference is focusing on the interest graph vs the social graph.  I think this is a very powerful marketing tool when you think about the connection of people sharing their interests actively (like a google search with friends and family connected).”

In the NFL, Denver Broncos Executive VP of Football Operations John Elway announced the team’s new head coach on Twitter before anywhere else. John Fox was announced as coach @johnelway on Jan. 13, 2011. It was retweeted by @Denver_Broncos soon thereafter.

Twitter has successfully evolved into a full-fledged news outlet, from the sources themselves. That’s powerful stuff.

“I believe that small media wins ultimately and search levels the playing field,” Andrews said. “Media is decentralizing away from brand control to consumer control.  Content still wins, there is just no longer barriers to who produces that content.  Search, to which I include Twitter, allows the consumer to decide what content is important vs. the channel owner.”

Twitter’s microblogging service has exploded among celebrities, reporters and sports stars; and has filled a niche that Facebook doesn’t. All within 140 characters. Pro athletes are announcing moves on Twitter before the reporters have the story. Celebrity tweets are quoted daily in the news. Twitter is on the map. And I think it’s here to stay.

If it’s accomplished this in only four years, where is it headed? What’s next for Twitter? And will it mean the fall of the Twitterati?

Source: Twitter, Urban Dictionary, CNet, Mashable, USA Today, NYTimes, Reuters, Adweek, Fast Company, Ad Age, Collective Bias, Reuters, John Andrews, Twitter.com/johnelway. Twitter screenshot from sageisland.com, @jack screenshot from Mashable