Like most people, I was skeptical to jump on the Twitter bandwagon.  I assumed every post was from some geek telling me about his lunch or what sci-fi flick he’d just seen.  Boy was I wrong!

Just hours after logging on for the first time some just over one year ago (my first tweet was October 9th of last year), I was hooked!  I immediately saw the power in it.  Here are a handful of the great things twitter has done for me:

  • Helped me meet and actually interact with people I’d never have met otherwise either due to geography or status.
  • Allowed me to strengthen relationships.  I’m more in tune with what my clients and leads are up to, as well as family and friends.
  • Helped me keep on top of industry and other news as it happens.  I’ve found some amazing articles randomly, and been able to share them with my followers.
  • I’ve been able to connect with reporters that cover my industry.  As a result I’ve been quoted several times in articles I’d never had heard of before.  Easiest thing to do is to follow @helpareporter

All of these things were great, and everything was going along very well.  I had 25 followers.  Then 50.  Then 200.  And that’s where things got sticky.  Twitter with 200 followers with you following 200 people back is manageable.  But anything beyond that is just noise.  That made me realize that nobody really cares what others have to say.  It’s about getting their message out to the masses.  That’s a gross oversimplification, and there are still some great ways to use twitter, but at least for me, that magic is gone.

The way I see it, there are just a few types of twitterers out there…

First there are the transparent social marketing celebrity.  These people are at least honest about the fact that they don’t care what you have to say.  Take late night host Jimmy Fallon for example (who I unfollowed yesterday).  As of right now, he has 2,123,399 followers.  And in exchange, he’s following 144 people.  Then there’s Ashton Kutcher, with his 3.8 million followers, of which he’s following 254 back.  I don’t have any problem with that.  I know from experience that nobody, especially not a working actor, has the time to keep up with more people than that.  And his followers aren’t trying to interact…they just want to know what he and Demi are up to.

The next type of twitterer is the  “industry experts.”  The self-proclaimed gurus of social media.  Their goal is to get as many followers as they can and to really “connect” with them.  But when someone is following 15,000 people, there’s no way they’re actually reading their tweets.  Do they expect me to believe they are interested in what I have to say?  That they’re clicking every link, reading my blog posts, and really interested in interacting?  Not a chance.  Their purpose is to follow me solely so I’ll reciprocate, giving them another person to send their “insights” to.  And by insights, I mean spam.

Side note.  I spoke recently at the American Marketing Association in Jacksonville about applying traditional marketing principles to social marketing.  Afterwards, I was approached by a guy who was so proud of his twitter strategy.  He’d used one of the countless apps out there to automatically tweet.  Basically, he writes about 100 tweets, then the app sends them out one at a time, a couple a day.  When all 100 are up, they start again.  I’m not mad at him…he’s taking advantage of the way things are.  But this is why we can’t have legitimate conversations on twitter.

And then there are the worst twitterers of all: the Spammers.  They’re not even good at it.  They’re treating twitter just like email, not even trying to mask their agenda.  These are the people that send you an automatic DM right after you follow them saying something like this:

Thanks for following, now show me some tweets! If you’re new to making cash online, then I recommend starting here. http://… – @yourOnlineCash

or my favorite:

Hey, thanks for hooking up. If you got to choose between more time or more money, which would you choose? Glad I’m finally getting both. – @ChrisKilber

Well gee, I’ll take both too!  How do I do that?  Do I have to start at the bottom of the pyramid scheme, or will I be selling Monavie wine?  Tell me more!

For me, and automatic DM upon following almost always equals me unfollowing you.  If you don’t have anything personal to say, don’t say anything at all.

So where do we go from here?  How do we use twitter effectively to continue to get those great benefits?  Sure, I want to get my message out, promote my company, and get more business.  But I also want to know what other people I care about have to say.  Not robots.  People.

The only way I’ve managed to keep sane on twitter is through the use of tweetdeck.  It’s an app that runs on the desktop that allows you to manage your account.  You can see tweets about specific keywords like your company or brand name.  You can filter tweets from specific groups.  It allows you to easily see mentions and direct messages from one screen.  So here’s what I’ve done.  I’ve setup an app to automatically follow everyone that follows me.  There are so many people out there that will follow you, wait to see if you follow back, and then drop you if you don’t.  So rather than try to figure out who is a spammer and who actually interests me, I just automatically follow back.  As a result, I’m following way more people than I can actually pay attention to.  That’s where tweetdeck comes in.

I’ve setup a tab in there called “real friends.”  Those are the people I actually care about listening to.  Their not posting Gandhi quotes or pre-scheduled words of inspiration.  They’re my friends, my family, my coworkers, and experts and reporters in my industry.  It’s the only tab I care about.  It makes me wonder…if I’m actually ignoring over 3/4 of the people I follow, how many of my followers are ignoring me?  A bunch, I’d guess.  Because most people, especially the newcomers, only care about getting their message out, not interacting.

Seems like a waste to me.  It was such a good tool.  And now it’s ruined, or at least evolved, as every communication medium eventually is.  All thanks to advertising. 

If I could change things, I’d close the twitter API.  If people are forced to use to see their friends, they’ll be more selective in who they follow.  But as long as you can filter out the spam, what’s the point?  Let’s just get as many followers as we can.  Let’s see how many people we can have ignoring each other.



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