Wow! What started as an interesting story angle developed by Bill Yackey at Digital Signage Today has exploded into one of the most re-tweeted, linked-to and re-posted stories that I’ve seen related to digital signage. In mid-July, Bill solicited input from his @DigSignageToday Twitter followers (who currently number 644) regarding how they use Twitter in their business. Of course, he solicited that input in tweets of 140 characters or less. On the first Monday in August, Bill posted the brief article, “The convergence of digital signage and Twitter” in featured space on the Digital Signage Today web site. He tweeted to announce the article, and it clearly got read worldwide, based on a look at all the re-tweeters. The apparent fascination with this convergence is both encouraging and a bit frightening. It is encouraging that digital signage is getting associated with the trendy web tool du jour. It is frightening that people leap to the conclusion that because you can, you must plaster it on a digital display. It is reminiscent of the sometimes reflexive need to scroll news and weather, regardless of the environment, that we see so often.
The article leads with a discussion of LocaModa’s Wifitti application. It ends with some tips on integrating Twitter feeds from our own Gavin Stark. Whether you feel the need to include a third party social media tool (Wifitti) clearly aimed at bars, or to get tweets to the screen on your own, it might be a good idea to think through your use case before proceeding. Read the tweets behind the gentleman in this picture to understand the need to filter user-generated content of any kind. If the Denial of Service attack on Twitter this past week doesn’t make you wonder what a Twitter zone on your screen might have displayed, it should. With those caveats shared, Wifitti has certainly found its niche and a case can be made for using Twitter RSS feeds within a Flash template or ticker to display network-generated content, as opposed to user-generated content. Think about location managers in hospitality, restaurant, retail and corporate or college campuses using Twitter to update events, specials and alerts. Certainly manageable, and using Twitter would not require being a user on the digital signage application. Security of the Twitter account would still be a concern in most cases.
As an aside, I haven’t figured out the killer app yet, but there may be something interesting in the concept of giving appliances and machines the ability to tweet their own state. I think of coffee makers tweeting when fresh brew is ready, or donut ovens tweeting the arrival of a new batch, but the odds are good that someone will come up with a slick application of this concept.
Twitter is an evolving and interesting tool. It can be integrated with digital signage in many ways. But like anything else, a decision to use it should be part of an overall content strategy. And it is worth considering the difference between user-generated tweets and network-controlled tweets before jumping in.