Talking point: Twitter’s new fast follow feature

This week saw Twitter announce a number of new features including suggested followers, notification of common followers and an official retweet. There was, however, far less publicity given to the introduction of fast followers, a SMS service available for users and non-users alike in the US.

The description from the company’s blog:

Fast Follow.

Anyone in the US can receive Tweets on their phone even if they haven’t signed up for Twitter. This is a simple way for people to get information they care about in real-time. For example, let’s say you want to get Tweets from New York City’s office of emergency management (@NotifyNYC). Just text ‘follow NotifyNYC’ to 40404 in the US.


With much made of Twitter’s lack of business model and its less obvious usefulness for business – particularly when compared to Facebook’s strong model – this is move is interesting for a number of reasons.

Twitter openly embraces SMS, having began its service offering SMS-based usage without charge. The use of SMS for the fast follow service gives a new possibility for a range of users – from government, to information bureaus and, of course brands – who can use the service as a direct-to-mobile marketing strategy or an information service.

For example: a company already making use of Twitter might open a new account designed specifically for SMS followers, which immediately opens from to a larger portion of the mobile market given most to do not actively tweet through mobile internet.

Or as a public information service as in the example of @NotifyNYC in the image above.

In effect, for brands fast follow enables a different type of mobile marketing strategy because:

  • Financial: huge savings on direct-to-mobile marketing strategies which require considerable input to both run and market (generate interest and usage in)
  • Opt-in: spam and privacy issues are less of an issue when recipients have knowingly opted into the updates
  • Convenient: recipients have the option of accessing the data via SMS or through Twitter itself, while companies can post messages quickly using the Twitter site
  • Non-intrusive: using 140 character messages keeps things concise, avoiding the issue of bogging down recipients with long messages
  • Message quantity: recipients opting-in and messages being concise, sending numerous messages, which may ordinarily encourages some to opt-out, less of an issue than with other techniques

With Twitter keen to develop its potential for business and develop its ‘business suite, value-added services could be added to the feature at a cost.

For example, a feature could enable businesses to utilise Twitter’s growing usage of user location, potentially a very powerful profile:

Eg a consumer receives an opt-in discounted offer for a shop whilst out in town. SMS so ubiquitous the message is almost certain to be received

It may turn out that fast follow is not hugely used as most with an interest in Twitter sign up to the service, but it is serves as an example of the type of thinking Twitter might employ to develop monetisation strategies and encourage business interest.