A few Twitter issues

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.

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A few Twitter issues

2 thoughts on “A few Twitter issues

  1. I’ve done a fair bit a looking at Twitter as well as using it and I think there is a crucial misunderstanding about its purpose that is leading people to dismiss it and encounter the very problems you are experiencing.

    If you get away from the idea of it as a social networking tool or conversation starter and regard it as a news or RSS feed then a whole different take on it emerges. Sure, like the link above dramatises the unique vapidity of those that choose to disseminate their most banal thoughts but that is not the fault of the technology, merely a group of its users. I hear a lot that as an SN tool, it’s biggest usership is 30 somethings trying to stay cool but not really getting what it’s for, hence 30+ somethings having a go at it. But forget all that, instead follow your favoured news, tech, coolhunting etc providers and you’ll be informed of news incredibly quickly. Better still, download an agregator like Tweetdeck and get this torrent of information streamlined into something that feels like it makes sense, that way you’ll be able to add some semblance of focus.

    The consequences here are myriad for brands. I’m far from convinced that it can play much of a persuasive roll, and even if it can, it’s so unbelievably conversational if viewed as an SN tool that managing its direction is, at best, difficult and, at worst, out of control. My instinct is that if you approach it as a news feed, and you are convinced your audience will be interested in following you then it’s all about simply being interesting. Again, to quote something else I can’t remember the source of, ‘Facebook (and its ilk) is for people I used to know and Twitter is for people I want to know’. Significantly, this is not about people I know and want to share interesting musings with but more about keeping track of what is fascinating in a convenient and immediate way.

    So, of course you might decide to continue updating people on snippets of information, and in that case there will remain links such as the above, but there is much more that is useful in this tool, at least for the near future.

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