Sunday, March 8, 2009

5 Rants and 5 Raves About Twitter.

I had a great phone call last week with an old friend of mine who has been charged by her workplace to become their 'social media expert'. In the next couple of weeks, of course. She called asking for some help and insight.

Talking with my friend gave me the opportunity to talk frankly about this business, the tools available and to distill everything I knew to the essential. I had the chance to rant and rave over my view of the social media landscape from the vantage point of one who sees a LOT of social media strategies by major brands up close and personal. Some of whom who do it right, and many of them who don't.

Twitter...all the world is a-twitter about Twitter.

One of the first things she asked about was Twitter...and that core question that newcomers to Twitter always have--what is it good for?

Now, like many people, I have mixed emotions about Twitter. I spend a fair amount of time on it. I find it often amusing, sometimes useful, frequently addictive and occasionally infuriating. I'm part of the culture, part of the hype and...

...I'm still not sold on it, even though I embrace it as a tool and source of connectivity.

There's much that I like about Twitter, and more than a few things that I DON'T like about Twitter.

Rants: 5 Things I Don't Like About Twitter

1. Traditional media doing stories whenever someone 'mainstream' uses Twitter.

Like, it MUST be worthwhile if Barack Obama, Paris Hilton, Arnold Scharzenegger, Shaquille O'Neal and other celebrities are using it. If they're doing it, we must do it too.

It's not news that Barack Obama sends text messages. Or emails. Or uses the telephone. Ergo, it's not news if he Twitters. Which he doesn't, btw. Someone on his staff does it in his name.

2. Folks on Twitter who twitter about every time the traditional media does a story about someone famous using Twitter.

The media talking about a form of media.

Hey look! I have a belly button! Whoaaaaaaa....dude...YOU have a belly button too?! That's AWESOME! We must be, like the only two people who have belly buttons! mean THEY have belly buttons too? That is JUST SO F'IN AMAZING! Let's tweet that!

3. News agencies (CNN) who incorporate Twitter feeds into their on-air broadcast.

"Let's see what they're saying about the collapse of our economy on Twitter."

Twitter: "Skittles fit perfectly in my cat's anus!

I don't give a frack about what the person in the street (Twitter) is saying about the news of the day, bucko. I'm paying YOU to tell me what's going on. If I wanted to know what the people on Twitter were saying about something, I'd log on and find out for myself.

4. Creating new nouns and verbs based on variance of 'twitter'.

ie: Twittersphere, twips, tweets, twestions, twaffic, twatrix, tweepers, tweeples, tweetaholism, tweet-bombs, tweetcred, tweethearts, tweetups, twirlfriend, get the point. It's not cute or clever and this practice must stop.

It only serves to further devolve the English language and create a special insider vocabularly that makes Twitter LESS inclusive.

Those that persist in this odious practice are just a bunch of twankers.

5. The use of the term "followers".

I am not a follower. I learn, I engage, I listen and I connect on Twitter, but I don't follow anyone.

The term is creepy, like I'm a stalker, a disciple or a fan. I do not solicit a cult following, nor do I necessarily agree with the thoughts and practices of those I am connected to via Twitter, so I don't know how I can be considered a follower. More properly, I'm a listener--I connect to people who have interesting things to say with whom I might want to engage in conversation.

"Following" leads to a cult of personality and I think we all see this on Twitter--getting followers seems to be a way of claiming either special status or knowledge, when it does neither. The term needs to change. Language matters.

Raves: 5 Things I Love About Twitter

1. One can connect with a bunch of really smart, articulate people that you ordinarily would not get to talk with.

This is the primary benefit of Twitter for individuals, in my opinion. I can't go up to a superstar in person and just introduce myself and engage in a conversation with them, but I do get that opportunity via Twitter. That's very cool.

2. Twitter blatantly encourages businesses/brands to join the conversation.

Most brands need to do an end-around to actually converse with their customers and find out what people really think of them. They build elaborate customer service, public relations and marketing departments, all of whom have a vested interest in diluting or distorting the feedback they get from actual customers.

Twitters levels that playing field and brings some honesty to the conversation, which is good for both brand AND consumer.

3. The ethos on Twitter (for now) is sharing and transparency.

You gotta love a place where you build cred and status by giving away your best thoughts, links to resources and making connections for people, whether doing so benefits you directly or not.

And as an added bonus, Twitter is a no-bullshit zone--there are too many people with too many resources at their fingertips for anyone to try and spread propoganda or falsehoods.

4. You can deliver a message to a lot of people very quickly--IF it's the right message.

I have very modest standing on Twitter--there are 450 people on my 'followers' list. But according to one Twitter influence tool, I have a reach of slightly more than 2.5 million people in my network. That's pretty cool--if I have the right message that is important enough, clever enough or vital, I can broadcast to a lot of people in a very short period of time.

That's a power that I couldn't possibly obtain thru any other social media.

Of course, with great power comes with great responsibility. Which brings me to #5...

5. Twitter is chaos in action and demonstrates how people will self-regulate and govern given the opportunity.

It's a wide-open frontier on Twitter and there are very few rules. By and large, people will organize themselves in social groups in the way that works best for everyone and do not need a lot of outside regulation or direction.

So far, Twitter is a place where interesting conversations take place, good deeds get done, information gets shared, connections are made, friendships are formed and the general ethos is to help the 'have-nots' have more.

It's pretty cool to see the best of humanity come out on such a visible playing field.

So that's my list. What are YOUR rants and raves about Twitter?


Angela Connor said...

It was interesting reading the things you don't like about twitter and I like that you listed them first. You know, as one who hails from traditional media who is now all about new and social media, I fully understand the myriad of reasons why traditional media report on celebrity use on any product. it;s unfortunate but there is a huge audience for that and we can't change it. But you can certainly hate it. We feel as though we don't need them to validate what we do. We know it's great. I also chuckled at your mention of CNN because I was just mentioning in a news meeting that we need to do more of that-- bringing in other voices and how social media allows us to do that easily and to be more diverse with our efforts. Guess what, there are more twitter news shows on the horizon! And I'll give you another term to hate. The stations are doign this to connect with the, ready..."Digital natives."
Good post!

Actor, director, adventurer, community manager and social media geek. said...

Hahaha..."digital natives". I love/hate it!

My mind instantly jumps to inappropriate places and images of National Geographic TV specials from my childhood. People in loincloths dancing around a computer, laying gifts at the altar, sacrifices to the computer gods...

...while James Earl Jones does a voice over explaining the strange cultural behaviors of these digital natives and why their natural habitat must be protected. :-)

My problem with twitter on the news is really twofold:

1. News broadcasting is not a conversation, it's a presentation. Tweets do not add anything new to the information.

Then again, I'm kind of grumpy about the news. I want the facts and as much information from those involved as possible. I'm not so interested in other people's reactions or opinions to the news.

2. We already live in a culture where news must be told in 15 second to 1 minute sound bites carefully crafted to convey a message.

Adding more sound bites in the form of a 140 character tweet does nothing to enhance or deepen my understanding of complex events.

I totally agree with you about the inevitability of integration. What was it that Donovan sang about in the 60's?

"I may as well try to stop the wind."

Keeps me in material to write about, though. :-)

(thanks for commenting!)