Jeannie Houchins

Twitter is all a flutter, and by now you likely have an account or know someone who has an account. But for those of you in the know but not tweeting, you might be questioning why in the world would this micro-blogging service be useful for those in the food science field? Well, increasingly, there is evidence of businesses using Twitter to form one-to-one connections with their audience.

Twitter is quickly shattering misconceptions about its use in the marketplace. Some may see Twitter as a toy for those who have too much time on their hands and say that this “tool” is a passing fancy with questionable staying power.

The fast-growing reality is that businesses that have embraced Twitter view it as more than just another social media tool because it communicates with audiences at both a macro level and a micro level. Twitter provides the ability to communicate overarching marketing messages at the macro level. At the micro level, Twitter enables real-time updates for local information like news, product promotions, and events.

According to, there are currently 22 million Twitter users. Nielsen found that between February 2008 and February 2009, Twitter use grew by 1,382%. As reported by, Twitter is one of the most widely used search engines, and industry analysts are betting that it will exceed Google in terms of immediacy of information retrieval. From the Pew report, nearly 80% of Twitter users are consumers of mobile news, retrieving information online or from a cell or smart phone. Because of news accessibility, instantaneous delivery of information is expected. Some current stories delivered quickly via Twitter are last fall’s presidential election, the Mumbai massacre, US Airways Flight 1549 landing in the Hudson River, and, most recently, the Iranian election.

However, Twitter is more than just a more-efficient way of receiving news—it’s being used in all sectors of life from business to entertainment to education. Here are some examples.

• Twitter has been successful in solidifying relationships between business and customer in the case of Zappos, an online apparel company; with JetBlue airlines in addressing customer service; and with Kogi BBQ and its BBQ taco trucks in creating a customer base.

• Twitter is receiving entertainment nods by being projected onto millions of television screens. CNN’s Rick Sanchez asks viewers to tweet their comments, which are displayed onscreen; E! Channel streams celebrity tweets at the bottom of the screen; and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” producers ask Twitter followers to send in show content and questions for show guests.

• Many universities are using Twitter to connect with their students. Tweeting brings the classroom conversation outside the physical classroom and creates communities, allowing for more participation.

If you haven’t signed up for a Twitter account, you should. It takes less than a minute, and you’ll see how simple it is to use. It’s very similar to texting, only you have 140 characters (with spaces)—yes, characters not words—to get your point across. Using Twitter will make you a pro at drilling down to the most important information.

The hardest part of using Twitter is deciding what to post. Being strategic from the beginning about your Twitter intentions should help you maneuver this step. In the food science field, there’s always new news, and depending on your communication goals, that can be new research findings, new ways to do business, or even new food safety legislation.

Still find yourself stuck? Look to see what’s currently being discussed. Type in food science in, and you’ll find various tweets on this topic. Typing hot topics like food safety or food recalls will provide pages of tweets. These conversations are ripe opportunities for food scientists to be heard.

Implemented last year, the IFT Twitter was unveiled at the Annual Meeting and Food Expo® in New Orleans. This tool made its return in Anaheim, letting attendees know what events were happening during the meeting and expo.

If you follow the Food Technology ePerspective blog (, you’ll notice that the IFT Twitter is linked, providing a continuous loop of social media outreach. IFT continues to twitter about the activities within IFT and certainly encourage you to follow our tweets at

The food science community has many voices, so make sure they are heard on Twitter. Need a Twitter review? Watch the “Twitter in Plain English” video at Need to know about Twitter lingo? Check out the Twitter Lingo Guide at Ready, set, tweet!

Jeannie Houchins, R.D.,
Director of Media Relations
[email protected]