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Stupid Twitter (and Social Media) Tricks

by David Brock on July 15th, 2009
Many of you know I’m very enthusiastic about Twitter. I believe it has potential to be a very powerful tool for business professionals. Right now, we are just scratching the surface of potential applications.

I’m seeing people use it in very clever ways for competitive and market insight. I read stories of amazing customer service (though one wonders why people had to resort to Twitter to get action and why the normal channels of customer service do not work). Through Twitter, I’ve met people I would never have had the opportunity to reach before. Our twitter relationships have expanded and we have great telephone conversations, and yes—even drive new business.

While the business I’ve developed is not yet large, it has covered the investment I have made in tweeting. And this does not even begin to count the value of the new relationships I am developing.

However, any easy tool like Twitter, with virtually no barriers to entry from a cost point of view, stimulates some of the most bizarre behaviors and results.

The thing that has set me off now is this whole debate on Followers and Following. I just was followed by someone. I went to this individual’s profile: This person is following 1473 and being followed by 1213. This individual has the grand total of 1 tweet.

Are people following this person because of the tremendous content they are providing? Is this person being followed by the quality of the pithy comments and observations? Is the person being followed by interest in the profile provided?

Undoubtedly, not, it is the Twitter practice of “auto-follow.” So what result does this produce — this individual can brag about their 1000 + followers (Maybe I’m displaying a little bit of follower envy—for months I have been organically building my following of 492 as of this writing.) But is this an audience the person really wants to reach, will relationships be initiated and built? Will business result?

What about the followers, what do they get out of it? Are they now the proud recipients of the electronic analog of : Dear Occupant??? I always try to focus my followership to people who provide interesting commentary that I can use (either professionally or personally). I have this strange quirk, I don’t like junk mail, spam, or wasting my time — maybe I’m different from the rest of the community.

One of the problems with Twitter and many of the other Social Media communications vehicles is the relatively low cost of entry (discounting the person’s time), creates a vast wasteland of meaningless, self promotional drivel. The problem is, it makes it difficult for all of us to find meaningful content. We waste more time, leverage more tools (this is great for tools developers, tools filtering through the junk). It makes it harder for me to use these channels–both for marketing and for insight.

I’m not sure there is any resolution to this. But I certainly understand when I talk to business clients and they have trouble seeing the value of many of these new channels. I understand their reluctance to invest in it, because at the same time, they have to invest in navigating through the mountains of crap.

Anyway, I’m done with whining. For a more substantive set of tips on the use of Twitter (whine free), visit my friend Niall Devitt’s blog. He has done a couple of thoughtful commentaries on his use of Twitter.

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