SAN FRANCISCO -- How long does it take a new and popular technology to be targeted as a way to make money? Not long, apparently, if the technology is Twitter. That explains the advent of the first-ever TwtrconSF 09, a one-day conference put on Sunday by Modern Media Partners.
The conference sought to jump on the sudden popularity of Twitter and explain how companies can use it to reach audiences, deliver customer service and -- ideally -- bring in bucks.
Just remember: You've only got 140 characters to get your message out and no one -- including co-founder Biz Stone -- has figured out how best to use Twitter to make money.
From the "Twitter for Business 101" session held by Laura Fitton, author of Twitter for Dummies to "Your Brand is a Person," which featured MC Hammer -- yes, MC Hammer -- and "Adventure Girl" Stefanie Michaels talking about how to reach people via Twitter to build a marketable brand. Both recommended sending out personal -- or personal-sounding -- updates, but not flooding followers with too many tweets.
And there was a panel discussion -- "Twitter to the Rescue!" -- that focused on how companies can use the social networking media to answer questions and stay in contact with customers who need help.
Frank Eliason, director of digital care for Comcast, said companies should look for ways to get their own people working with Twitter, given the potential for spreading corporate good will virally. At Comcast, he said, more than 3,000 workers now get updates on what his division has learned from Twitter interactions. Overall, communication is key: Even if a tweet can't solve a problem, people like knowing that Comcast is aware that an issue exists. And the one-to-many nature of Twitter means that a service representative can send a response to one query, and all Twitter followers see the response. While part of the conference was devoted to networking sessions, it also offered vendors a chance to hawk software suites that promise improved Twitter stats; Web-based applications that let multiple people post to one Twitter account; and tweets from those hoping to make a quick buck. One such tweet, published with the "#twtrcon" tag, was direct: "MADE $637 TODAY DUE TO THIS."
The tweet included a link to a "make money fast via Twitter" scam, selling its "secrets" for $27.
In addition to MC Hammer, those at the event offering advice included Guy Kawasaki, ex-Mac evangelist and currently co-founder of Alltop, an "online magazine rack," and public relations and marketing managers from companies such as Carl's Jr. and the Dell Outlet .
The day ended with a trio of discussions. Tellingly, only one of them included someone from Twitter itself: product manager Anamitra Banerji, who tweeted: "Twitter product guy, says they focus on encouraging innovation, not monetization." The other two talks involved speakers from PR firms and investor funds who stressed the gold-rush mentality surrounding the service, as evidenced by the rapidly growing number of "followers."
As for TwtrconSF attendees, what did they think? Let's go to the tweets.
"Really enjoyed the speakers and meeting cool people at Twtrcon," tweeted Outcyde. "Any other great upcoming conferences?"
"Twitter as marketing os, insights engine net promoter score to aggregate most vocal enthusiastic fans, platform,search.twitter.com," wrote Contentnow.
A Twitterer name "Mfauscette" was less enthralled. Apparently referencing Twitter's value in the corporate world, Mfauscette tweeted: "For personal perhaps, for business not a chance."