I’m falling out of love, ending an affair that sometimes monopolised my thoughts and actions. A series of circumstances led to this obsession. Let me tell you how it began.
It started during a catch up with an old colleague of mine, Nigel Horrocks. You may recognise his name. He’s been involved with the internet since 1991, been a conference speaker, helped set up Telecom’s Xtra, was the award winning editor of NetGuide during its heyday.
“What do you think about Twitter?” I asked.
If anyone knows their internet, it’s Nigel. He is now a pioneer in social media, helping companies through this new marketing opportunity.
Up to this point, I had just flirted with this social media phenomena. With five billion tweets and used by 20 percent of those on the internet, you’ve assuredly read about or Tweet (a Twitter message with a 140 character maximum).
Nigel said “Well Debbie, Twitter began as a place to send txt-type messages about what you’re doing right now. It has now evolved as a recommendation engine. You follow people you trust and take note of whatever they say or advocate. Movies. Products, services. Interesting news and web links. Some sites especially blogs are finding the “referrals” from Twitter links are now becoming bigger than “referrals” from Google.”
My curiosity was piqued, but the affair didn’t start until two days later. Midnight.
I was invited to the launch of sy-engage.com, Simon and Marie Young’s new social media consultancy. I felt like the black sheep in the paddock of avid – some hard core Twitterers.
I left their launch with a Cinderella midnight resolve to get on Twitter more. I wanted to be popular like the others with thousands of followers!!! Something I never had in high school.
Like a kid in a candy store with moms credit card, my wireless internet, an iPhone and Telecoms XT 3G fed my obsession.
Business use I could see that Twitter could be everything Nigel said it was, especially a superb vehicle for promotion. Just think of the exponential audience possibilities.
For instance, you have 2000 followers and each in turn have 2000 (small numbers by Twitter standards). If only 20 of them retweet (akin to forwarding an email) a contest, an event, a news item, your blog that you Tweeted your message is instantly in front of 40,000 people. For free.
You can use it as a type of focus group for feedback and testing ideas. Twitter search will assist you finding who’s talking or complaining about your company, then you can put the fire out instantly.
With the overwhelming quantity of information available on the internet – you let the thought leaders, industry movers and shakers or even your friends sort through it for you, filtering the wheat from the chaff tweeting to direct your attention to relevant and useful content.
Personal use Something I didn’t anticipate and why my affair lasted so long is the personal impact Twitter can have on you.
Many of us are in one or more of these situations: overworked and under socialised. Work from home with little outside contact. Single, or in my case married with too many (teen) children whose only purpose is to give you grief and argument.
For me, all of a sudden I was having conversations I normally wouldn’t have – albeit short ones. I was part of a group instead of alone.
I had the feeling of being connected even though some of the connections were nebulous at best. People were following me out of the blue! Oh how popular and sage like that makes you feel. Plus the joy of having celebrities talking to me several times a day.
Obsession On one hand – it’s great having the applications on your phone. On the other hand it means at every red light you’re checking for new tweets below the steering wheel. At midnight you’re still on your computer or phone when you should be catching some shut eye. You can’t stop even at meetings and networking events.
Serial Tweeters So may people rattle off tweets like they’re blowing a dandelion going to seed. When you get 20 in a row from the same person – you start ignoring them all. Less is more in my book. Then you have the people who must search the internet looking for every inspirational business message they can get their hands on. After five or six daily even Moses with his forty days couldn’t help but gag. Or do the next best thing. Un-follow.
Celebrity watch Yes I like having Stephen Fry, Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake and more talking to me. But really. Is even one thing they say relevant to me or my world?
My business As Nigel nicely put it “personal tweeting is easy; but businesses need experienced eyes to use it as a marketing device. The wrong comment could easily be retweeted and damage your brand.
Time wasters How could you ever get one thing done if you read the tweets of your hundreds or thousands of followers? Yes, there is the facility to split whom you’re following into different groups to prioritise what you read. But even your high priority list will have people replying ‘out loud’ to all instead of by a direct message. You become witness to a multitude of conversations going back and forth – all which have no relevance to you at all. Blink – and 500 tweets pass you by in 20 minutes. You can’t help wondering if you might have missed something. This all tallies up to a lot of wasted time.
Inscrutable Normally you can look at a hyperlink and have a feel for where it will take you. The brevity required in Twitter means most people shorten the links. You’ll have no idea of a click payoff.
Accepted form of plagiarism While retweets are the golden reward for Tweeters, dear me spare me from the plethora of plain boring unoriginal people on Twitter who primarily retweet. Why bother with these people in the first place?
Spam followers Being na�ve I would almost clap my hands when I saw a new follower come on. Over coffee the brilliant Dave Cooper (king of Search engine optimization and now Technical Director at Saatchi and Saatchi) told me that many of the Twitter apps such as Tweet Deck have automatic follow features. For example you type a Twitter search looking for Tweets with the words ‘motivation’. The search gives you 5,000 people. The applications enable you to follow all with a single click. Then let’s not forget the automatically follow who follows me button and there you go. The building of an irrelevant list. So now when I get a message like Desta Jones (who?) with 33,885 followers is now following me and I’m one of the 35,987 she is following, I don’t even bother to become her 33,886 follower.
Married couple stage Now that my intense desire to be with this internet ‘mistress’ has cooled (like a married couple getting familiar and working out their complaints) I’m on twitter to stay, but at more of an arm’s length.
It can be used well as a powerful and relatively low cost device for engaging with customers, another channel for your relationship marketing, running a type of focus group for feedback about your product, trying out new ideas and answering complaints or dealing with problems before they escalate.