(Originally published in iMediaConnection, August 2009) by Eric Picard
Over the course of the last few weeks I’ve had about a dozen conversations with people about Twitter. People’s feelings range from gushing love of the 140 character medium, to disdain for the narcissistic tweeters among the digerati who simply won’t shut up.
I don’t have any particular beef myself with Twitter, and I’m as jacked in, connected, and narcissistic as the next guy. But much of the conversation about Twitter is incestuous and “insider-ish.” There’s a bit of haughty staring down the nose at the unwashed masses who aren’t tweeting — as if those who don’t tweet are simply showing that they have nothing to say.
And of course this week, discussing the denial-of-service attacks against Twitter has been all the rage. Which is to say that when you don’t have a vehicle to talk about nothing — or should I say, to tweet and re-tweet the nothing that is being tweeted — folks are tweeting about not being able to tweet.
A lot has been said about the power of micro-communi-blogging, or whatever category of the week that Twitter sits within. And as a communications tool, while I personally find it unwieldy and a bit untargeted, I’m nothing but respectful of those who get value out of Twitter. Shelly Palmer, for instance, is full of ways he’s gathering value out of Twitter. He said recently that by simply tweeting that he was thinking about dinner, he immediately had a readymade dinner party without having to make a single phone call or send a single email. Or should I have said, rt: @shelly_palmer?
More power to folks who find this to be a powerful medium for communications. But have you noticed that, for the most part, the people who are “power-tweeters” are either professional writers, or are using Twitter for personal PR?
Here are the reasons the buzz surrounding Twitter is a lot of hype.
1. Twitter is a recursive conversation among individuals who are promoting their own careers.
Not participating doesn’t hurt you. In some ways, it will help you if the folks you’re trying to impress are not part of the twit-clique. There’s nothing like mutually being on the outside to solidify a relationship with an interviewer or potential client than showing your anti-Twitter camaraderie. Because goodness knows that anyone who has chosen not to tweet at this point is resentful and annoyed by all the Twitter hype. And if you’re not an idiot, you’ll have already made certain that the person you’re meeting with is not an avid tweeter — because, well, that’s quite an easy thing to verify. And for the small part of the population that is hooked on the newest form of crackberry, stroking their ego is as easy as “following” them.
2. Signing up to follow someone on Twitter is easy and painless (especially if you never check your account).
Twitter is mostly about making the folks who are tweeting feel important and loved. Not to say that I don’t love them all already. But if all I need to do is simply sign up to follow them on Twitter, what a marvelously easy thing it is to make them feel better about themselves. And of course, when someone looks me up and sees that I’m following the “who’s who” of the online advertising digerati, I look both connected and very important. Oh, and I am, baby, I am — it’s how I roll.
3. Nobody can really follow what the hell’s going on anyway — who can read all that crap?
It’s really easy to say that you follow along on Twitter. But it’s way worse of a time-suck than email. I get about 300-500 email messages a day. Most need to be scanned or read, and about 100 of them need to be responded to or handled one way or another. I also try to read the top-of-mind industry news every day — that’s about 10-20 “must read” articles.
Last week I wrote more than 150 emails. And when I went through them (I am just that kind of geek), most of them are a few paragraphs at least. About a dozen of them are several printed pages. Plus I wrote several long documents last week. Oh — and I actually did work. Who has time to tweet?
And of course there’s the blogs of my favorite people, and my Facebook account — where I’ve shut off most of the feeds from Twitter (sorry FB friends) because I just don’t care about reading updates from whatever talk, conference, or luncheon most of my industry friends are attending. I prefer to find out what my friends are up to on Facebook — not read unedited input from my reporter friends while they’re sitting in a session at “advertising show of the week.” I’d rather read their edited article the next day, or their blog posting that night.
And there’s always my recent and growing love of Kodu on the Xbox 360 to suck away my free time.
4. Most of the professional tweeters are not writing their own stuff anyway.
Come on… you know better, don’t you? You really think all these CEOs, VPs, and entrepreneurs are writing their own tweets? Really? Yeah — and they really write all their own trade articles too. Honest.
Why do you think all the PR folks love Twitter? Just like blogging, it’s been a huge shot in the arm to the PR industry. If you have to be up to date, always responding, and seemingly always “in the know,” the only way to do that — and earn your executive salary — is to pay your PR firm to tweet for you. (Disclaimer: I write all my own articles — and I write all my own tweets.)
Yes, there are some seeming superhumans out there who manage to run their own companies, post on numerous mailing lists, tweet all over the place, write a blog, post on Facebook, spend time with the family, and have a garden (Yes, I’m talking about you, @thespos1, Hespos.com,@_marketingLLC). But for the rest of us, it just doesn’t work that way.
5. It’s the future of communications!
In 20 years, we’ll find Twitter right alongside the CB radio and personal blogs. Well — maybe not personal blogs, but…
Despite my tongue-in-cheek commentary above, I actually do use Twitter — and I do find it to be an amazing communications tool. But I will say that the hype is a bit, well, hyper. Twitter is a communications tool like many others. And it’s a new type of tool that has incredible network effects. While it is popular, the value of Twitter is incredible. The more people who use it, the more valuable it is. But whether Twitter is the CB radio of our decade — or the next form of IM and email, but for broadcasting to the masses — is entirely uncertain. It will only remain as valuable as the number of people who really read it (or at least mine it and use analytics to tap into the mass-mind.)
Oh — and you can follow me at @ericpicard. I’m really active on the tweeter.