A Conversation With My Dad on Twitter and My Plea to the Wireless Industry

A few weeks ago marked the first time my dad and I chatted about Twitter. My dad asked “what is Twitter anyway?” Apparently a friend sent my dad an with an invite to “follow” him on Twitter. About ten minutes later, I got as close as I was going to get with “it’s basically a service that allows people to “subscribe” to receive short messages from you.” The gray area for my dad was twofold:

1) why anyone would care to receive these “short messages” from you, or anyone else, and
2) how you “got” the messages once someone you subscribed to sent a message out to his/her community

I left that night wondering really about the second gray area my dad couldn’t reconcile – While Twitter popularity has grown exponentially this past year, so has the quality of mobile and desktop software that allows users to create feeds to pull tweets from people you want to follow. I for one am a huge fan of Tweetdeck and use it on both my laptop and iPhone.

However, for myself and many of my friends, it wasn’t until Twitter mobile apps were more sophisticated that the service became accessible and a useful “tool” for information consumption.

It is definitely holding true here – as technology has made “the new” more easily consumable, it’s the 35-49 age group that are joining Twitter in droves:

Nielson also stated:

Another of the main reasons for Twitter’s success is the ability to use it via mobile devices – either through the mobile web or through text messages. In January 2009, 735,000 unique visitors accessed the Twitter website through their mobile devices, and the average unique visitor went to Twitter.com 14 times during the month and spent an average of seven minutes on the site.

Peter Dunn’s article from July 09 entitled “Are You Going To Work With Gen Y Or Against Them?” highlighted the key point for me:

3. Gen Y has created a group of expenses that I call The New Necessities. This is a category of spending that didn’t exist 15 years ago. The category includes Internet access, mobile phone charges, cable, designer coffee, and lease payments. Young people don’t think twice about paying big money for cell phones and coffee.

I wouldn’t limit the dependency of New Necessities just on Gen Y – In fact, I would broaden the scope of those who fall into that category to be anyone who is more than one generation removed from living through the Great Depression.

As I read Peter’s article I came full circle – this is why my dad will never find value in spending $100 per month on a mobile plan plus data plus text messaging plus $.99 for said cool app. This is where he draws the line. It’s. Just. Not. Worth. It.

My hypothesis is this – until the wireless industry is able to find a way to create targeted plans to entice that market and at a flat (non a la carte) monthly rate that the 55+ will pay for, you’re not going to see a huge uplift in usage in that market.

Question is, does it matter?

YES! There are about five million awesome potential applications here and there is money to be made. Not only that, but increasing accessibility for those who are unwilling to pay simultaneously increases accessibility for those who are unable to pay, thus broadening your viable market potential in both directions. Everyone likes a win-win situation.

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