The Second Coming of Twitter

PeopleTwitter is all the rage.  CNN talks about it at every opportunity.  Famous people from Shaquille O’Neal to MCHammer to Demi Moore are using it to share snippets of their daily lives.  Legions of new joiners are popping up each day.  Books are being published left and right about Twitter for business and monetizing Twitter accounts (some questionable, others focusing on the community in microsharing – the most anticipated one I’m looking forward to is Laura Fitton‘s (aka Pistachio) Twitter for Dummies).  Blog posts about Twitter are profilic.  Yep, I’m full of irony by adding to the mix – and there are some that would probably say what is happening now is a third or even fourth coming of Twitter.

Observations

I’ve been on Twitter for a year and a half and here are some observations about what has changed, for better or worse:

  • Spammers have become more advanced, using bots, auto-follow/un-follows, and other nefarious ways to collect followers.
  • Gone are the days of “Twitter Karma” where we all try to maintain equilibrium of follower to following ratios.  Now it’s more focused on how we can be useful or interesting to each other.
  • People are very caught up in numbers – of followers, of retweets, of conversations.  New tools continue to crop up to grade your twitter participation, experience and influence.
  • The more followers you have, the more reliant you become on solid third party tools like Tweetdeck and Tweetworks to manage groups and connections that are most important. Tags and search capability are key functions in day to day use.
  • Twitter is no longer solely for the early adopter tech crowd or the social media consulting/services crowd. It’s clearly a useful platform for lawyers, real estate agents, graphic artists, moms, dads, sports fans, you name it.
  • The coverage of Twitter use in traditional media, like the evening news on TV, to me seems like hunting and pecking for needles in a haystack.  It can be devoid of metrics or real analysis, using it more like finding a funny tweet and showing it to the audience.  It reminds me of the Chris Farley show on SNL.  (“Do you remember that?…That was AWESOME.”)
  • The echo chamber of people on Twitter talking about Twitter has grown louder, stronger and more frequent, which can be good and bad.  It’s good for educating folks on what tweetups are, how to use hashtags to help track conversations, which 3rd party apps are great for desktop and iPhone use.  It’s also good when businesses are leveraging the platform to connect with customers and resolve or acknowledge challenges.  It’s bad when people presume to know about someone’s intentions or preach too strongly about how to use Twitter.

Back to the Basics

With all of the hype, there are many who forget or neglect what I would describe as some basic guidelines on Twitter.  I am by no means an authority but am sharing my thoughts as a long time (in technology terms, anyway) user, and I would welcome your suggestions and input.

  • Twitter is for conversations.  Find people who like to talk about topics you’re interested in, connect and participate.
  • It’s a great tool for sharing useful or fun information.
  • Sure, Twitter can be a promotion vehicle, but spend less than 10% of your time on Twitter promoting your own wares (hat tip to Chris Brogan who mentions this approach often).  Would you go into a large networking event and start shouting?  How successful would it be?
  • I try to look at all of the numbers and measurements of grading one’s Twitter use with a grain of salt – they can be indicators of intent, suggestions and guides on what to do differently, and in some cases show influence, but in the same regard do you keep measure of offline conversations with friends, families and coworkers?  I don’t, especially not to decimal points.  I like to check out the tools but I don’t get too caught up in them.
  • Twitter enables meaningful connections, but they are not a given.  Building relationships, just like meeting new people at a conference, party or event, takes time, patience and sincere interest in connecting with other people.
  • Twitter represents a way to build relationships, find useful information, gain access to expertise and connect.  Here is a representation (definitely a subset) of many folks who I have met through Twitter and others who I hope to meet but follow because they share something useful and meaningful – they are real people.  (Twitter Mosaic courtesy of sxoop.com, get your own here).

Have you been on Twitter for a long time?  If so, how have you seen the community and use evolve?  If you’re new to Twitter, what brought you to the platform and what do you think so far?

Photo credit: left-hand via Flickr

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  • Adam, I can echo everything you’ve said here. I first noted Twitter not too long after it came into being (h/t @MikeSansone) but at the time I was interested in business tools and it’s only business purpose seemed to be to provide status updates among people working on a project. (i.e. – “Case study is done, team. what’s next?”) It took me quite some time to come back to it and give it a fairer shake.

    Obviously, it has evolved into more of a micro-blogging tool – share resources, fun bits, occasional self-promotion – which I find immensely more useful. I also noted the follow-spam; signed my husband up for a new account the other night and he was immediately followed by someone pitching free cell phone, free laptop, etc. I coached him to ID it as spam and block it, though I had never encountered that myself.

    Mainly, for me Twitter has changed the way I think about blogging. I am constantly looking for useful things to tweet, and not spending as much time as I used to thinking about in-depth blog posts. I miss that – I absolutely LOVE blogging. So in that sense, Twitter is taking me away from something I enjoy – but some of the folks I’ve connected with are absolutely invaluable to me personally and professionally, so it’s hard to ignore.

    Finally, I am VERY interested in how businesses can measure the effectiveness of being active on Twitter. So much of it is in the intangibles of relationship- and trust-building… but surely there must be a way to point to some measure of sales and say, “This much is because of Twitter.” I normally hate metrics, but measuring the intangible is a very interesting challenge indeed.

  • Adam, I can echo everything you’ve said here. I first noted Twitter not too long after it came into being (h/t @MikeSansone) but at the time I was interested in business tools and it’s only business purpose seemed to be to provide status updates among people working on a project. (i.e. – “Case study is done, team. what’s next?”) It took me quite some time to come back to it and give it a fairer shake.

    Obviously, it has evolved into more of a micro-blogging tool – share resources, fun bits, occasional self-promotion – which I find immensely more useful. I also noted the follow-spam; signed my husband up for a new account the other night and he was immediately followed by someone pitching free cell phone, free laptop, etc. I coached him to ID it as spam and block it, though I had never encountered that myself.

    Mainly, for me Twitter has changed the way I think about blogging. I am constantly looking for useful things to tweet, and not spending as much time as I used to thinking about in-depth blog posts. I miss that – I absolutely LOVE blogging. So in that sense, Twitter is taking me away from something I enjoy – but some of the folks I’ve connected with are absolutely invaluable to me personally and professionally, so it’s hard to ignore.

    Finally, I am VERY interested in how businesses can measure the effectiveness of being active on Twitter. So much of it is in the intangibles of relationship- and trust-building… but surely there must be a way to point to some measure of sales and say, “This much is because of Twitter.” I normally hate metrics, but measuring the intangible is a very interesting challenge indeed.

  • Hi Adam – It’s that exactly that powerful simplicity that sucked all of us in. Hopefully we can collectively figure out how to keep it simple, natural, and fun. Your Twitter grid makes me smile – so many of those people are also in my Twittersphere but two years ago I knew few (if any) of them yet many of them are part of what has enriched my life over the last couple of years.

  • Hi Adam – It’s that exactly that powerful simplicity that sucked all of us in. Hopefully we can collectively figure out how to keep it simple, natural, and fun. Your Twitter grid makes me smile – so many of those people are also in my Twittersphere but two years ago I knew few (if any) of them yet many of them are part of what has enriched my life over the last couple of years.

  • @Janet Thanks for the input and thoughts. I have the same interest in looking for was to quantify activity on twitter for businesses. Dell and Comcast have made some steps in getting there but I think we’re a ways away from the same type of analytics that we can measure eCommerce. Separately, Twitter actually hooked me on blogging – I think I am one of the few that started on Twitter first for 5-6 months before starting to blog, and I’ve been able to learn so much about blogging in the process. (For that matter I’d love tips, I’m still learning!)

    @Rachel You sum it up perfectly – let’s “keep it simple, natural, and fun.” Glad you like the mosaic – it’s only a sample of followers but it was easy to make, and I actually did manually filter to real connections. Twitter has helped accelerate personal connections in a lot of ways and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon, we just have to adapt to avoid the folks trying to game the system.

  • adam

    @Janet Thanks for the input and thoughts. I have the same interest in looking for was to quantify activity on twitter for businesses. Dell and Comcast have made some steps in getting there but I think we’re a ways away from the same type of analytics that we can measure eCommerce. Separately, Twitter actually hooked me on blogging – I think I am one of the few that started on Twitter first for 5-6 months before starting to blog, and I’ve been able to learn so much about blogging in the process. (For that matter I’d love tips, I’m still learning!)

    @Rachel You sum it up perfectly – let’s “keep it simple, natural, and fun.” Glad you like the mosaic – it’s only a sample of followers but it was easy to make, and I actually did manually filter to real connections. Twitter has helped accelerate personal connections in a lot of ways and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon, we just have to adapt to avoid the folks trying to game the system.

  • I’m sensitive to the noise ratio…

    In the good old days, it was largely about status updates… I mean WAY back when… “Having toast for breakfast”, etc;. It’s come a long way as the community has found new ways to leverage, improve and engage.

    For me, it’s about the noise ratio. I often encourage new folks to watch their tweet habits. There’s no right or wrong here – clearly – but, in the spirit of contributing, watch your Tweets carefully. I’d suggest the majority should have an @ , a # , A link, etc… Each of these indicate there’s some level of sharing going on – and it’s not all about what you happen to be eating for your midday snack.

    btw – who’s the guy in the extreme upper left of your Mosaic… Not sure what the vibe is – he just *looks* smart.

  • I’m sensitive to the noise ratio…

    In the good old days, it was largely about status updates… I mean WAY back when… “Having toast for breakfast”, etc;. It’s come a long way as the community has found new ways to leverage, improve and engage.

    For me, it’s about the noise ratio. I often encourage new folks to watch their tweet habits. There’s no right or wrong here – clearly – but, in the spirit of contributing, watch your Tweets carefully. I’d suggest the majority should have an @ , a # , A link, etc… Each of these indicate there’s some level of sharing going on – and it’s not all about what you happen to be eating for your midday snack.

    btw – who’s the guy in the extreme upper left of your Mosaic… Not sure what the vibe is – he just *looks* smart.

  • Greetings. I read on another blog that you taught someone how to track hashtags on TweetDeck. Have you written a post about it, and if not, can you tell me how to do it also? Thanks.

    • Hi Mitch – Apologies for the delayed reply. I have not posted on using Tweetdeck, but essentially all you need to do is click the search icon at the top. It will create a new column – you can use a hastag as your search term or any word combination. I hope that helps.

  • Greetings. I read on another blog that you taught someone how to track hashtags on TweetDeck. Have you written a post about it, and if not, can you tell me how to do it also? Thanks.

    • adam

      Hi Mitch – Apologies for the delayed reply. I have not posted on using Tweetdeck, but essentially all you need to do is click the search icon at the top. It will create a new column – you can use a hastag as your search term or any word combination. I hope that helps.

  • Thanks Adam. Actually, after I hadn’t heard from you, I went to Google and did some research, and finally came up with the answer.

  • Thanks Adam. Actually, after I hadn’t heard from you, I went to Google and did some research, and finally came up with the answer.

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