The Business of Twitter - an English for Special Purposes Lesson

panning for goldAside from living off the venture capital they've received, nobody knows how Twitter's making cash or even if they're managing to cover their bills, despite the fact that their application is one of the fastest growing in the web 2.0 - especially amongst older, wiser, users.

This issue of how are they going to turn it into the next Google-money-making-machine has got the bloggers all in a twitter, all trying to figure out what on earth the next step might be, (will they be bought out by Apple?) in a semi-voyeuristic thrill of being the first to learn about the killing they'll probably make.

However, no one, really, can come up with a good solid answer of where this cash is going to come from and when it comes, how they'll maintain that income.

So, I took Twitter's potential business model into the language classroom.

After all, my adult students with their investment banking backgrounds or their daily web design responsibilities should have a better inkling than I do (or the so-called the social networking marketing experts) and to boot we'd be able to practice some great language of creating possibilities.

They did quite well.

Massive amounts of brainstorming went into this exercise: Mirko and Volker at the bank were convinced Twitter could make their money combining advertising tweets with google earth and data mining until we decided that, quite probably, too many countries would declare that illegal.

Philip thought they might go the route of the romance sites, hooking up people across the world based on like-minded tweets but then decided that would be too cliché.

Marc at the website company also came up with the idea that they could do a deal with a major telephone company as more and more smartphones hit the market, the telecom industries should be able to make a killing off the tweets.

Susanne was convinced that the plan was made right from the beginning to simply sell it to Google, which means Adsense, and that would be their downfall as they'd just piss-off their user base.

But Frank thought, in a separate lesson, that the twitter page should be divided up into blocks (the right column is a problem - too narrow for ads) of 5 - 10 tweets, +1 sponsored ad inserted mid stream directly related to the general themes in each twitters' profile setting.

moneyGerhard, a bank board member, was pretty convinced that Twitter won't actually ever make any money, reminding the rest of us of how the bubble burst in '00.

Who knows if any of them have got it right.

Why not find out what your students think?

To do this lesson, which is aimed at students with an applicable interest, you'll need:
  • internet access in the classroom

If you're not already on twitter, (whether or not your students are) sign up for an account and then follow other teachers in your niche (you can find them by searching for #esl, #efl #businessenglish #teachertuesday hashtags) for about a week to 10 days.

Start tracking conversations and participating in them so you've got a fair amount of experience into the hows and whys and wherefores.

Next, look for several people in your students' niches.

If your students are already on twitter, exchange @addresses. If they're not, it doesn't matter, use your own account.

The lesson is basically made up of

1. Showing them your twitter page.

2. Them showing you their twitter profile (if they have one) - discussing choice of avatars and background pictures and talking about if/ why these are important.

3. Following the tweets and links of people in your students' fields of interests/ niches and discussing these.

3. Discussing the conversations you've and your students have been having online - what they've learned.

4. Discussing the pros and cons of using twitter (see this video which you can also take in or set as a pre-task).

5. Brainstorming how Twitter could transform their platform into a successful, financially sound business.

6. Feedback on their language: the key (and new) vocabulary they would like to learn.

As a follow-up, for extra vocabulary dissection and more discussion on the application and its use, you can also show Evan Williams' short talk on TED.

Useful links related to this posting:

@kalinagoenglish (me)
Twitter blog (from Problogger)
Tweetdeck (helps you organize all your tweets/responses/group people)
The IATEFL tweets (from the Cardiff conference and beyond)
More links, articles, videos etc (things I've saved on delicious)


p.s Funny song, actually first heard on Ronaldo Lima's blog -it's all his fault am on Twitter now!
(lyrics here - quite an interesting viral marketing story too)

p.p.s. To print out a copy of just this page, click on the title first, then move down to the eco-badge buttons and select print.

3 Responses to “The Business of Twitter - an English for Special Purposes Lesson”

  • Neal chambers says:
    May 08, 2009

    I think this is a very interesting lesson. I think social media should be explored more for language learning. How about a facebook lesson? (j/k)

  • says:
    May 19, 2009

    Agreed. We posted our "How to Use Twitter" pages for ESL/EFL learners as we were getting on board.

  • Mark says:
    August 21, 2009

    While people may have different views still good things should always be appreciated. Yours is a nice blog. Liked it!!!


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