Thursday, October 14, 2010

If You Don't Like Twitter, Then You Must Not Be Using It reported Tuesday that 71 percent of all tweets on Twitter are ignored. I don't believe that. Just because only 29 percent of the things posted on the social network get an @ reply or a retweet, that doesn't mean the others are being ignored. I'm sure people are clicking on the links in those tweets, or reading the tweets and moving on (they're only 140 characters long, after all). I'm an active user of Twitter, and even though I don't reply to a lot of tweets I see, and I don't retweet everything people post, I'm hardly ignoring everything in my timeline.

I'm mentioning this because a friend of mine posted the article on Facebook and added the following note: "See, I thought the figure would have--and should have--been much higher, like at least 100%." Clearly he doesn't get Twitter. When the site launched a couple years back, it was a place where people could — and often did — post silly updates about what they were up to. "I'm on line at Starbucks" or "I just had a sandwich," for example. And he's right: those kinds of posts should be ignored.

But these days, that's far from the kind of stuff you'll find on Twitter. Pick the right people to follow, spend the time, and you'll laugh, you'll learn things, you'll make new connections, and you'll be part of a conversation. You'll actually find value in being on the site. Anyone who uses Twitter actively knows that. It's only the people who don't use it who think it's full of lame postings. Clearly, my friend is one of those people.

When I first joined Twitter, I didn't understand it either. Like many people, I did it more out of obligation than interest. "How can you really say anything of value in 140 characters?" I asked. "Do I really need to see the random Tweets of random celeb folks and other people? Why would I want to 'follow' someone if all they did was link to other sites? What is with the people who seem to Tweet all the time? And isn't Twitter really just a marketing site now — a place for companies and celebs to promote themselves? Sounds like a waste of time to me."

Flash forward about a year. Now I'm an active tweeter. I don't just listen and read other people's tweets. I post my own content — in fact, I do so with almost obsessive regularity (HootSuite allows me to schedule new tweets as often and as frequently as I want). I engage with other people, retweeting and replying to their tweets or starting up brand-new conversations. I go to conferences and I live tweet, which forces me to pay better attention to the speakers and increases my overall enjoyment — and even better, allows me to meet a whole lot of new people. I've found lots of interesting and entertaining (and sometimes infuriating) people to follow — actual, smart people, who are relevant to my life, not just celebrity types. I've developed my own following (as of this writing, 772 people — more than half of whom I don't even know). Oh, and I laugh at and share the posts by "fake" tweeters (like Average Batman and Fake AP Stylebook). I wouldn't say I'm an expert on how to use Twitter (chances are good I overtweet), but I've come to really enjoy using this social network.

It took me some time, but I've gone from Twitter skeptic to evangelist. I don't hesitate to tell anyone that I really like Twitter, and because I'm so into it, I've even been asked to teach folks how the site works. I enjoy being a part of global conversations (especially during big events like the Oscars or the Lost finale), learning about new and interesting things, and just being in the mix. To put it most simply, Twitter is fun. I mean, how can you not like something that results in tons of free ice cream being delivered to your office? But that's just one of the benefits of being on and actually engaging on Twitter.

So that's why I have to take issue with people like my friend, who think Twitter is lame. As a counter-argument, I often direct people to the blog post "Twitter’s not stupid — you just have boring friends," by Andrew Dubber, because I think he hit the nail on the head: You can't possibly like Twitter if you follow uninteresting people who have nothing of value to say, and you don't really engage with other people on the site.

I am a firm believer that if you spend the time to get to know Twitter, then you'll find there's a lot to like about it. And then you'll agree with Mitch Joel, who wrote earlier this week that "Social media is only a waste of time if you’re using it to waste your time."

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Blogger Tracy Lee said...

This is a great and honest post. Clearly, you get it! I've been on Twitter for well over three years now and you have no idea of the things I have learned, the friends I have made and the things I have done...all thanks to Twitter. :)

October 14, 2010 3:49 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

Thanks, Tracy! I appreciate it.

October 15, 2010 8:31 AM  

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