Twitter Thoughts Flittering around in my head

Twitter’s exponential  growth continues unabated and like millions of other twitter scofflaws, I’ve stepped into Twitter’s waters teeming with 140 character missives. (You can follow me @jobhuntin ) It took a little time, but I’ve quickly found it to be an interesting way of sharing information and finding people with new and interesting points of view. Twitter is like a river – it’s always there and yet it’s never the same river. I find it a very Zen experience because its whole purpose is to live in the now – not dwelling on the past or the future. And unlike a blog or an email stream, there isn’t the requirement to read every post since the last time you checked the feed in order to get up to speed.

Like many users I’ve decided not to have my messages sent to my phone although there are certainly users who do that, how they handle the volume of messages is beyond me. Personally,  I  check my feed a few times during the day – usually via the web glancing quickly at list of posts and following the links that interest me.  

Okay, so now I’m Twittering. What should my Tweets be about? When I started Twittering I decided to Twitter primarily around business and other professional topics with the occasional post about something fun or interesting on the weekends – because all work and no play makes for one heck of boring guy.  I have a wide variety of interests and read fairly extensively, so I post interesting articles from McKinsey, HBR, WSJ and NYT that people may have missed. I also repost interesting tweets related to looking for work, networking, marketing and customer service. And like most things, Tweeting gets easier the more you do it. I’m not going around claiming to be a WEB 2.0 social media expert, but I’ve already helped a few organizations think about how they can use social media to better connect with their audience.

Although hats are rarely doffed in this day and age, etiquette is still important.

Although hats are rarely doffed in this day and age, etiquette is still important.

Is it about the numbers? Some people seem to think Twitter is a contest –  and he or she with the most followers wins. The recent Ashton Kutcher v. CNN contest was a prime example of this mindset which resembled more or less a variation of the old bar bet “I’m more popular than you”.  Not that being popular is bad but really is that why everyone tweets? A little background might be in order. Twitter Etiquette strongly suggests that if you follow someone they in turn should follow you back.  So if you decide to follow 500 or 1,000 or 5,000 people you could quickly have a very large audience.

We all know people who can’t resist a microphone and for those people Twitter is no different – they just can’t tweet enough and love to see their own posts. Some people  even have auto-search and auto-follow software so they can find and follow every person who posts on a topic or company they are interested in.  For example: As soon as I posted a “tweet” about organic gardening four or five people started following me within 5 minutes. Ditto for posts about Marketing, customer service, outsourcing, or any other generic business word.  Given that twitter etiquette strongly suggests that if someone follows you, it’s expected that you’ll follow them. I used to go dutifully go to their profiles and follow each person but I quickly realized not all of them were saying much of anything worth listening to.

Let me define quality. Quality is not posting 10-15 tweets in a matter of minutes because how can anyone expect the reader to separate the wheat from the chaff. I much prefer to follow people who post something of substance at reasonable intervals. Sure some personal tweets are interesting and provide a fuller picture of the individual but I almost never want to know what you had for breakfast. Yes that’s a cliche but some people, not naming names, like to tell their followers how good the blueberry muffins they are having for breakfast are. Now that might be perfect fodder for facebook friends but not for your 5,000 followers. At least not for this follower.


While you may not use this for every meal it's nice to know what everything is for

 My followers aren’t exactly numerous because I’m trying to go for quality and not quantity in who I follow. However my numbers are slowly going up week by week through organic growth.

Another Twitter obligation or tradition is Follow Friday. Originally I have very mixed feelings about this. Highlighting interesting people is something you should do on a regular basis without being told to so, much like thanking a host or visiting a sick friend, but lately I’ve seen people suggest that you follow 20, 30 or more people. Again, are they all must follow individuals? It appears, to quote Thoreau, to be nothing more than a mutual admiration society. 

Now I’ve found some interesting people using FollowFriday but there does seem to be an inverse relationship between the number of FollowFriday recomendations  and the quality of those being recommended. If a person names just one person – invariably that person is interesting and worth following, but if they name 20 names I rarely make it through the first 4 or 5 names listed and almost never follow them.  It’s not that I’m being rude , it’s just that time is valuable and dumping a laundry list of people all at once doesn’t respect anyone’s time nor does it appear that much thought went into naming them. We’ll see how long this “tradition” lasts with the new waves of users entering the twittersphere.

Ultimately I think Twitter will be surpassed by something else – sure it’s popular now, fun and useful even but I doubt that it will maintain it’s mindshare for that many more years. Eventually Twitter will figure out how to make money to pay for itself, and before long  it will be acquired by someone, possibly Google,  Microsoft or Amazon, and then over time Twitter  will eventually go the way of Geocities once several next new things have also come and gone.

What do you think? Is Twitter the end all be all? Is Twitter Hot or Not? Do you Tweet? If so let me know. -t

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