Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
September 20, 2011 6:38 PM

The Value (And Waste) Of Twitter

I often feel like I suck at Twitter.

Besides the fact that I'm not all that comfortable with the public back and forth of platitudes, handshaking and baby kissing that I feel diminishes the authentic tweets from brewing to the top, and forgetting the mad dash that many individuals engage with to follow (and follow back) as many people as possible, there's something more about Twitter that makes me a little bit uncomfortable lately. It goes beyond my self-admitted social flaws (more on that here: The Gentle Art Of The Retweet).

Tweet too often. Tweet too little.

While this could be a relic of the mass media advertising mindset, there's no doubt that being persistent (having a constant and consistent message in market) and repetition (repeating messages to ensure that everyone you connect with can see it) is key to being successful at Twitter. Now, before we all run to the hills in an attempt to define "success," I'm going to say that success is defined by having an active audience (a group that not only cares about what you tweet, but interacts and shares those messages with their own social graphs). I'd add on to that that someone who is "successful" on Twitter (by my estimation) is also someone who has a growing community. So, if you want to be active on Twitter, you have to hunker down, tweet a lot, sometimes repeat yourself and - in general - be in people's faces.

Ugh, if that's the case... I'm never going to be great at Twitter.

There is a fine line between a valuable tweet and a total waste. I think about every tweet before I put it out there (maybe I shouldn't?). I wonder if what I am tweeting serves the audience or if it's too much naval gazing. I wonder if the tweet is truly adding value to your stream or if it's just one of many. Yes, I probably think a little too much about these 140 characters.

We live in two second intervals.

It's the new reality. A Blog post, a tweet, a video on YouTube... all of this content has a short half-life. It has to. And therein lies the challenge: will there ever be serious value out of tweets? If you look at some of the people that we would consider "successful" on Twitter, they are cramming their feeds with content. Clearly, this technique works because more and more people follow these individuals and more and more people point to these individuals as ideal case studies in how to make Twitter work in the most effective manner. In the history of the world, content probably never had this short of a shelf life... ever. It seems like smoke signals stuck around longer than many of the tweets that fill a screen these days.

Frequency does not equal quality... but it can on Twitter.

To be considered good at Twitter, I would have to tweet more. In fact, there are many days (sometimes in a row), where I don't tweet at all. It's not that I don't like Twitter (in fact, I kinda still love it), it's just that life happens and I don't ever feel any pressure to tweet. When time gets crunched, my priorities always start with the client work at Twist Image and ends with a Blog post. I also don't want to be the person that is constantly tweeting everything just to get more followers or social media validation. But, the fact remains that if I don't tweet often and consistently, none of my tweets get heard... they seem to get lost in the shuffle.

I'm wondering if you think we'll all mature beyond this point or if Twitter and success will always be about the person shouting the most (and the loudest)?

By Mitch Joel