Twice a day my phone emits a little Bewitched-like brrrring.
I don't bother checking it, because I instantly know who it is - and where they are.
The "who" is Rickshaw Dumpling, a Chelsea restaurant I've patronized more times than is decent, for its scrumptious nowhere-found-in-Chinatown Peking Duck dumplings.
The "where" is the exact location of its new, mobile chuck wagon.
The bearer of this otherwise mundane, sub-140-character missive is Twitter, your friendly internet stalking program. It's a bit like the text equivalent of a webcam trained on a college freshman's digs, promising a rare glimpse of her bloomers.
In the morning, the cart seems to loiter deep in the Financial District, wooing hedge fund managers - who've still got a cubicle to call home - with its edamame purses and matching ginger dipping sauce. By lunchtime it pops up a few streets north in Midtown, proclaim "yum yum come and get 'um'. On weekends it competes for "king of the curb" with other carts in the Meatpacking district.
Get this - I don't actually ever go chase it down, which is the whole purpose of the alert.
But every time I hear the brrring, a little smile crosses my face. Occasionally I'll pick up the phone and forward the message to pro-dumpling but anti-twitter friends working in walkable distance from the latest stakeout.
I can't blame my friends – I too, have been slow to adopt Twitter, because the last thing we all need is another tab on our cluttered browsers, right? Rickshaw is the only "tweet" I follow, and no-one's twailing me with any great conviction.
Yet, there goes the brrrrring and it brings a smile to my face.
How the har gow has Rickshaw managed to rent such a compelling corner of my brain?
In the back of my mind, I just like to know Rickshaw is still out there, still making money, still viable in this recession. When I hear that brrring I find myself re-running the story about a Halal cart hell bent on defending its territory with a smoking shawarma. I see the two carts comically cat-and-mousing around the block, dumplings and dona kebabs drawn and cocked.
Twitter is a clever tool, but it's not rocket science. Its value is in reinforcing a basic tenet of Customer Evangelism: make people feel intimately involved and a part of something good, profound, or just pretty durn cool. The resultant community is key to resilience in a downturn.
Not everything is worth tweeting. After stalking several friends, frenemies and a couple of celebs, I got bored with "Now taking a bath", "About to eat dinner", "Watching SNL" "Taking a dump" would have been marginally more interesting for the voyeuristic mental picture it conjures up - even more fun if it was Obama or the Queen - but no such luck.
As David Rowell of The Travel Insider  put it:
It was reasonably easy to 'tweet' - ie to send twitter messages - during my travels, and it was only a concern for overloading people following me with excessively trivial messages that limited my tweets ...
I ended up deleting these tedious tweeters from my list almost immediately. Worse, I started drawing all kinds of irrational conclusions about them; that they were actually pretty boring people with nothing much to say, and had somehow hoodwinked me into thinking they were worthy of my friendship. Such is the effect of ADHD technology.
This led me to thinking of Twitter an excellent, free training tool for aspiring advertising copywriters, speech writers and sound bite engineers. Why? Advertising 101 says, unless you want to bore the Crocs off your audience, keep it short and sweet. In 140 characters or less:
Ø The more you say, the less people hear.
or, as Sao Paulo Creative Director Marcelo Serpa put it:
Ø Say too much, you lose money
The more compelling your tweets, the more people will appreciate your ability to string letters together and stay on your tail. And who knows – it could lead to a job writing lines surpassing "New. iPhone." for Apple.
To use it as a self-copy training tool, try setting up a second account and follow yourself. If you bore you, chances are you'll bore everyone else unless a) you're a celeb whose fans hang on your every 'the', 'a' , 'but' and space b) you're a jealous or controlling spouse/parent/beau who likes to know your victim's every twitch c) you're a bona fide stalker with the blessing of the stalkee.
I've just set up a twitter account for the company I work for, Bike Friday, and given all staff access. Since our customers love to get the inside dope on us, I'm hoping individuals in the company will tweet about all the interesting things they're doing and thinking, giving followers a "glass against the wall" view of what goes on in the company.
So far, I'm the only one who's posted. I'll wait.
Meanwhile, there goes that brrrring ...
The Galfromdownunder  thinks that many adwriters should use Twitter to hone their headlines. She put the above doozy into the Twitter and guess what it came out as?
A: Don't get hammered at auction.