I form first impressions very fast, and since I make a lot of friends through Twitter I’ve figured out some different ways of evaluating their profile to make some generalizations about who they talk to, how engaged they are with people, and what they’re interested in. It’s much faster to read someone’s last 100 tweets than to read their last 10 blog posts. One thing I look at is the ratio of followers to following. The reason is that I’ve discovered there is a balance between the two – if someone is following too many people (far more than are following them) then they are likely a spammer. Twitter controls for this by making it so that you can’t follow more than 2000 people until you have at least 1800 people following you. On the other end of the spectrum are those who are followed by many many people but make themselves seem inaccessible by following back only a tiny percentage.
What this says to me is, “I’m not listening to you – I’m listening to tweets that come up with my name in them”. Bleagh.
Yesterday, I gave a talk with An Bui to a group of business women about how they can use Twitter to benefit themselves and their businesses. At one point, a hand was raised and the person said “a lightbulb just went off for me – this is a way for me to broadcast what my company is doing”. Damn! This is the danger with Twitter, if you look at it as an outside observer its easy to see why people think this – but broadcasting is truly a small percentage of what you need to do to realize the real benefits of Twitter.
What real benefits, let me list the ones I’ve seen:
- rapid information sharing where friends are the filter through which you hear about the world
- ability to discover people with similar niche interests and find places to expand those interests
- random meetings of people you read, admire, compete with, etc. in cities while travelling
- chance to come up with cool content creation partnerships (blog posts, talks, video, etc.) on the fly with other creatives
- sense of being more intimately connected to friends, even when you’re a workaholic (and proud of it!) like me
- way to discover products/services friends LOVE that are improving their quality of life (yeah – I do listen to my friends for this stuff)
- hear a random thing and search it on Twitter to find out what it is related to… long tail searches of conversation work
- find out what people are saying about you, your content, brand, customers, competitors, ANYTHING!
- feel like you’re much closer to the people you admire (internet personalities, celebrities) and be the first to hear about their work
There’s probably more, but I’m dashing this off fast and found I couldn’t type fast enough to write these benefits down.
Someone Tell Them: It’s the Conversation that Counts
Why? Because even for big time celebrities they are still real people, who can endear themselves to new fans, find new opportunities, share in the richness of the world, provide a useful filter to their followers, and be more deeply connected. Also, celebri-twits are battling against a deeply entrenched early-adopter culture that is both excited and horrified by the way these newest converts are using Twitter. On one hand, I can admire that they are even better at shameless self-promotion than what I’ve seen so far — but I’m disappointed because I expected this new media to peel back another layer of the onion and make these people more accessible. Wasn’t that what all the hype was fundamentally about?
Would I be excited if one of these celebrities followed me? Yes, I admit I would be briefly. Would I be converted? No, not unless they took the time to read something I said and respond with something relevant. To join the small conversation that is my life. That’s how I can be reached, touched, and impressed.
Hell, even internet-famous Julia Allison (or one of her assistants) emailed me when I commented that I continued to read Valleywag due to “my love/hate relationship with Julia Allison” and asked me why the hate. I was impressed, she was listening – and even went to the effort to get my email address from my blog. Yeah I realize she’s not famous on the same level as these celebrities – I just thought it was thoughtful and a good example.
Celebri-Twit Yer Doin it Wron
Look, for example at some celebrit-twits who are making a splash on Twitter like Ashton Kutcher, Oprah,
Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk)
Oprah Winfrey (@oprah)
Larry King (@kingsthings)
Breaking (bwhaha!) update: sounds like Spencer (of Spencer and Hill on that MTV show “The Hills”) wants to compete with Ashton on Twitter. Even the radio commentators on KISS 106.1 FM were like… “oh god, have’t we heard enough of this yet?” Yeah, bleagh. I bet I’ll blog it, for some reason I just can’t stay away from this topic, disgruntled semi-early adopter that I am.