There are a number Twitter-centric issues that have been vexing me.
I’m really struggling with using it. At an emotional level I feel like there’s something good and vibrant and connected and ultimately useful about Twitter, but I just can’t get comfortable using it. So I kind of blunder my way along, my enthusiasm ebbing and flowing.
I thought for a while that the issue was with the need for concision. Brevity is not, as many have observed, my strong suit. But I’m not sure it’s that, because while it might take me a while to get to a point, I like the point.
I’m starting to think the issue is more about the need for it to be off the cuff. A tweet feels like it should be a bit throwaway. What I struggle with is just throwing an idea out there without having thought it through. I’m probably one of the few people who feels the need to draft a tweet.
(This is a real problem for me with blogging, too. I really want to post more often, but I don’t really feel comfortable just throwing something out knowing that I might not agree with myself in a few days. So, and I beg your indulgence here, I’m going to force myself to spend the next week just writing stuff down and posting it. If it doesn’t make sense later, I’ll claim that my cat got on the keyboard, padded back and forth, and by remarkable coincidence churned out a couple of posts that resembled something I might write, only I didn’t write them, the cat did.)
Anyway, back to Twitter.
I had a meeting with a client the other day who was talking about wanting to get a brand ‘involved with Twitter, but I need to be confident we’re going to get a return’. I asked what kind of return he was after and he said ‘financial’ (accompanied by a withering look that asked “what other kind is there?”). Which led to an interesting discussion about conversations.
The role of Twitter for that client is really a kind of elaborate chat-up line. They have a brand people recognise, but that isn’t particularly approachable. Which makes buying from it difficult. So we talked about the courtship process, and how Twitter could represent the first tentative contact, a noncommittal testing of the waters, before, hopefully, a courtship that might take someone from Twitter through a website, a promotion, into store and finally a purchase. So we agreed that if Twitter offers a return it’s about getting to first base. It’s brand hand-holding.
Which then got me thinking about my own Twitter reticence. And my conclusion is that I’m thinking about it far too hard. Maybe a tweet is best seen as an opening conversational gambit, thrown out there for anyone to pick up. If it’s interesting they will. If it’s not, they won’t. In ten minutes it’s gone, and the conversation’s moved on in a more interesting direction. There’s not much value in the tweet, just like there’s not much value in the start of a conversation. But there’s potentially massive value in the body of a conversation and it’s conclusion.
The first words I said to my now wife were “I’m sorry, I seem to be sitting in your chair”. (I really was sitting in it. It wasn’t some kind of David Copperfield illusion where I just seemed to be sitting in it while actually standing atop an elaborately curtained plinth 30 feet away.)
The start to our conversation was utterly inconsequential, just like the vast majority of tweets. But it started a conversation that proved to be enormously important. So I need to stop thinking about Twitter as being about tweets. The value of Twitter is the conversations that grow from them.