To Twitter or not to Twitter?: The Perils of Micromedia

Update: If you’re new to this post, be sure to read the comments thread. It’s an amazing discussion. I’m still not convinced Twitter’s worth the time investment for most people, but there are some great examples of ways that it could make an impact for some. Oh, and since I didn’t mention it earlier, follow me on Twitter and I’ll follow you too – though no promises that I’ll be reading the feed that often.

Update 2: Apparently there are a lot of people who care about what you’re eating for breakfast, so while I still could do without them, you Cheerio Twitterers, tweet away!

Update 3: Thanks, Jeremiah, for sharing this in Twitter – and sharing the feedback. It’s fun biting the hand that feeds me (traffic, not Cheerios), since my blog traffic is well above average today, and the comment volume’s through the roof. But I also find it ironic that the way to get this surge in traffic is to talk about Twitter, which is inherently so insular. It’s like that Gapingvoid cartoon where one guy says, "We have nothing to say," and the other goes, "Quick! Let’s talk about blogs!" Replace "blogs" with "Twitter."

Jeremiah Owyang posted yesterday on the value of Twitter. Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve been using Twitter more each week, it’s become a great way to
communicate and learn about others. Why do I like Twitter but don’t use
instant messaging? Because Twitter respects my time, I don’t have to
respond to individuals if I don’t want to, and I can communicate to
many people (over 1000 are following me) at any given time. I’ve really started to incorporate this tool into my communication mix…

I’m not convinced yet. I still tell marketers this is something they don’t need to worry about yet, even if it’s worth briefly understanding before they move onto the next thing. Here’s the response I posted on his blog. What’s your take?

I’m still not sold on it. One of the problem with micromedia is the superfragmentation. Jeremiah, you’re one of my favorite bloggers, but I don’t have time to follow you everywhere you are. I also don’t have time to communicate everything I want on email and on my blog and on Twitter and on Jaiku and Facebook and dopplr and a bunch of those sites Allen mentioned. Yet I do appreciate the value of being everywhere, creating this pervasive brand presence online, which is why I syndicate my blog feed to Twitter and a bunch of other sites.

At what point do we finally peak and have some universal social media dashboard? Here’s what I need: a simple interface where I can just tag the content with what it is and it goes up to those spots. An event appears on Facebook and Upcoming, with my travel schedule posting to dopplr, a blog post appears on my blog with a snippet on Jaiku and Twitter, etc. If it really works how I want it to, it’s integrated with my address book so that when I post a message about an event that’s occurring in a certain city, I can also quickly look up which of my contacts live there and then email the update to them as well. That helps with the posting, but then a similar service will have to help with managing reading all of it. The Facebook news feed comes closest, but it only highlights some of the updates even from people I want to follow closely.

Meanwhile, Twitter has two other problems: Most people don’t use it well (posting pointless personal updates like they’re napping or eating Cheerios), diluting the value of it for those trying to follow more substantive updates; and the network effect hasn’t taken hold, with a few early adopters using it but without significant traction outside of it.

Here’s the question I can’t quite figure out: why should the non-Jeremiahs of the world use Twitter?

16 thoughts on “To Twitter or not to Twitter?: The Perils of Micromedia

  1. There’s some great case studies mentioned here, so I can definitely see the value here.
    Having said that….I’m going to go take a shower now.

  2. Oh, and I forgot to add – there will still be those who don’t quite get how to utilize the medium.
    The VMA Twitters proved that in abundance… one can only scroll past so many vapid ‘I’m in a limo!!’ and ‘I see another celebrity!’ twitters before ‘unfollowing’ the feed.
    (and for some reason it doesn’t show my name above – so call me yndy)

  3. Twitter is to Blogging as the Scroll at the bottom of CNN et al is to Newscasting.
    Granted, it’s a new medium – and just as there are still a plethora of blogs today that have the ‘let me tell you the minutia of my day’ mindset, there will always be those Twitterers (Twits? Tweeters?) who will say nothing more than ‘my cat’s breath smells like cat food’ on a regular basis.
    But the Ralph Wiggums of Twitter will still have their followers.
    Where it is a good idea for those who network or market through the blogosphere is in a different arena. A few of the more famous folks on my Subscription list are those who also have successful blogs – and their typepad blogs have the Twitterbox somewhere therein for their audience to see…
    But honestly? I don’t have the time or inclination to bookmark dozens of blogs to see if PersonX actually had something interesting to say today. But if s/he Twits (as Jeremiah often does) something that is pithy but intriguing, I will follow the link out.
    In a way, it is the same as the front page of Digg – there is a link, there is a brief blurb that hooks you or doesn’t, and you either click through or don’t.
    Twitter has brought to the blog concept something that was missing previously – the ability to ‘scan headlines’ and opt-in to a story.
    As for that, I’ll follow you on Twitter – but consider that “posted in blog” is not particularly intriguing to anyone unless they just want notification of blog posts – use a hook.

  4. In the spirit of spherical communications, I tweeted to my 1000 followers on twitter about this post, here’s some of the feedback:
    vruz @jowyang just replied to david, hope that gives some insight for non-jeremiahs, hehe about 1 hour ago from Snitter in reply to jowyang Icon_star_empty
    Robert Payne rpayne @jowyang – Well, I’m now reading David Berkowitz’s blog post because of your Twitter. about 1 hour ago from web in reply to jowyang Icon_star_empty
    Researchagain Researchagain @jowyang nevermind, I see David wrote it. David needs a lesson or 3 in human relations. about 1 hour ago from web in reply to jowyang Icon_star_empty
    Researchagain Researchagain @jowyang Did you or David write about napping and Cheerios eating and “why should the non-Jeremiahs of the world use Twitter?” about 1 hour ago from web in reply to jowyang Icon_star_empty
    Hans Jagath @jowyang they were all relevant though. Relevance is key. You have to ensure the tip-tail marketing messages are relevant about 1 hour ago from web in reply to jowyang Icon_star_empty
    Hans Jagath @jowyang I have been getting sms updates since 3 weeks. Gapingvoid MS conference was interesting with a gust of 47 sms’s – live from Paris about 2 hours ago from web in reply to jowyang Icon_star_empty
    Hans Jagath @jowyang love it. I get to pick the content and if the ‘theme’ of topic changes -just sms “off” Could see tip-tails become marketinmsgs about 2 hours ago from web in reply to jowyang Icon_star_empty
    Steven Livingstone weblivz @jowyang:it’s an interesting post – but misses the boat when he says “posting pointless personal updates” – all relative about 2 hours ago from im in reply to jowyang Icon_star_empty

  5. Everyone on Twitter is experimenting with it at the moment to a greater or lesser extent – even Jeremiah! Don’t try to over-think it. Just have fun (if that’s what turns you on!) and see where it takes you. For me, I’m more interested in thinking about once its no longer just a means of relating with my geek chums. It would be great for organising playdates for the kids, or getting day-to-day tomato growing guidence, the applications just aren’t there yet. Interesting to see the impact Google purchase of Jaiku will have on this.

  6. I’m a huge fan of Twitter for keeping in touch with people, especially while on the go. But there are some difficulties: for example, when Ann mentioned Jim Long in the comment above I went right to his Twitter feed to check it out. It consists almost entirely of his end of about a dozen conversations with other users. I guess if I’m patient I’ll get to read breaking news before it hits the air, but those gems will be buried amid a hundred other posts like “very interesting thought!”, “good TV citizen!”, and “ha! duly noted!”
    This in my opinion is why Twitter doesn’t scale as a chat room. To understand the threads, you have to Follow every single person that everyone else on your list Follows.

  7. General Mills would be thrilled to know that you’re eating Cheerios; some brand manager should have an alert set.
    It’s rare that “one-way updates” are appropriate, but that said, a carefully done and clever bot doing automated posts can be really useful.
    Mostly though, it’s about the network effect. Your value from Twitter is based on how carefully you cultivate a network of friends who are also carefully cultivating their networks.

  8. Here’s a case study:
    At my last job, I kept Twitter open and would scan. One day, I found a prominent technology blogger complaining about a client and problems with Customer Service.
    I was able to send the Twitter URL to the client, and the blogger was contacted by the head of customer service and the issue was take care of.
    So, if one of the monitoring companies could integrate THAT into their services, they’d really rock.

  9. Agreed that all these web applications would be more useful if they worked together better. I disagree that people’s personal updates about Cheerios are pointless. Anything that helps me know the people I follow in a more three dimensional way helps keep the “social” element in social media. It adds context, depth, and perspective to the words these folks write. Without it, wouldn’t we merely be left with a flood of sterile quips, opinions, and self-promotion?

  10. precisely, because not everyone is the supermarketer kind Jeremiah is, Twitter helps others to engage into conversations and market themselves (hopefully if they have something interesting to share)
    the way I see it, the role of the professional marketer is not limited to using the tool (a tactic) but actually to assist *others* on how to exploit this potential. (part of a strategy)

  11. All valid points, on both sides of the equation. But there are numerous reasons to use Twitter that exceed the boundaries of the “eating Cheerios” set.
    Examples:
    http://twitter.com/newmediajim is Jim Long, an NBC camerman who often tweets from the road while on assignment. I’ve learned about breaking news faster from Jim than from any other news source.
    Several weeks ago, http://twitter.com/LenEdgerly mentioned that his mother was in need of a rare, off-market medication. By re-twittering his need far and wide, his followers helped him make contact with pharmacists and drug company employees from the US and Canada to Europe and Asia.
    More locally, we who create social media in Pittsburgh — and our extended family of fans, friends and followers — use Twitter to keep up with social events, track reviews in the local media, and brainstorm ideas on the spot. (When I had a question about HTML etiquette, one tweet resulted in over a dozen responses within moments.)
    As with any social app, your experience on Twitter will only be as useful as the strength of your network.
    Oh, and thanks for warning marketers away from Twitter; unless they’re interested in a dialogue — which is the primary value of the app — they’re likely to get shunned for posting one-way updates.

  12. I was with you (although not necessarily agreeing) until you said “posting pointless personal updates”.
    In Twitter IMHO, you need to be aware that one persons personal update is another’s useful or interesting info. I do agree that current products don’t do much to help this though.
    Still, it’s early days and what i think posts like this will do it to help improve what will be their evolution.

  13. Here’s a practical example
    I’m going to buy an iPhone soon, and I had questions about Verizon to ATT transferring, phone number transferring and other portablilty questions.
    I asked one question, an hour later I had over 12 responses answering my question, with a VERY clear trend on next steps.
    It’s a chat room, with a highly engaged, early tech adopter audience, and many I know and trust.
    Sure, not for everyone, but it’s working well for those who know how to use it.

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