Not yet a’twitter for Twitter

3 Apr

I’ve been reading a lot of hype about Twitter, the service that offers what one colleague calls “IM on the web”.  Essentially, Twitter lets you sign up for quick, instant, online updates from … well, anyone … on what you’re doing. 

Allen Weiner at the Gartner Media Blog sums my view pretty nicely:

My biggest issue is that these consumer generated GPS services force us to operate in interrupt mode as if the latest Tweet making its way to my email, IM client or mobile phone is more important than what I am doing now. With so much media grabbing at small strands of our daily lives, I think being bombarded with atomized messages will eventually lead to consumer backlash and consumer media meltdown. Maybe it’s the digital immigrant in me speaking, but if I really cared that a fellow Twitter thought about his daily commuter, I’d ask. Or, as my digital native daughter says, that’s just TMI.

 Weiner also notes that there are about 800,000 people current signed up, which seems rather low, but the hype remains strong enough that the brilliant Matt Dickman at Techno//Marketer feels compelled to ask, “Do you accept the fact that people are talking and you can’t listen?”, and to offer advice on how to manage too many messages (he follows 700 people on Twitter).

As a communicator, Twitter sounds great. I love the idea of dozens or even hundreds of fans jumping to for the latest news of me.  I hope that your customers and fans do the same for you. 

But as a grown-up person with a job to do, it’s a potential disaster.  It’s easy enough to be distracted by competing — but welcome! — client demands; but being alerted to the every move of even a handful of folks — even highly intelligent and fascinating folks — would be about as helpful as hiring an intern to throw ping-pong balls at my head.

I bet I’m not alone.  


5 Responses to “Not yet a’twitter for Twitter”

  1. Matt Dickman April 4, 2008 at 12:04 am #

    Ken — Thanks for the shout out on the post. I think Twitter has a lot of potential, it’s just riding high on the hype machine right now. The value is there, but you have to dig for it. The real power of Twitter, however, is the platform itself and how it hooks to the web, mobile and applications. Thanks again!

  2. Mike Keliher April 5, 2008 at 10:44 am #

    If I may quote the person you quoted: “…these consumer generated GPS services force us to operate in interrupt mode as if the latest Tweet … is more important than what I am doing now.”

    That’s not even remotely true, this presumed “forced interruption.”

    I follow more than 1,000 people on Twitter. It’s rarely, if ever, truly a distraction. When it becomes one, I turn it off. I feel no compulsion whatsoever to pay attention to every single message sent my way.

    At the same time, the thousand people in my Twitter community are incredibly entertaining, helpful, smart and eye-opening.

    There are three other people in the house right now – two of them are quite loud, attention-needing kids – and I don’t feel compelled to catch everything each one of them says. When one directs a message at me – which you do on Twitter by saying “@mjkeliher I thought you might like this blog post about…” – I tend to pay closer attention.

    When I’m at my favorite Irish pub, I don’t dare try to follow every conversation that’s going on, nor should I. Twitter is hardly different. If Twitter could pour me a Guinness, I might not need that Irish pub.

  3. kadetcomm April 6, 2008 at 11:29 am #

    Good points, all, Mike…of course you can always turn it off … and you don’t need to feel compelled to pay attention … but if you’re do, you’re not really following all 1,000, right?

    Or is Twitter like creating your own personal Irish pub filled with people you’d like to hangout with and sometimes hear what they’re up to?

    Regardless, even if you’re not being alerted to every new post, it’s one more thing to keep track of, along with email and newsfeeds and media and websites and, you know, work.

    But I’m going to spend a little more time with it… we’ll see what catches on…

  4. Mike Keliher April 7, 2008 at 2:29 pm #

    It’s definitely similar to establishing a group of people I’d like to hang out with and occasionally interact with.

    And yes, it is “one more thing.” But like RSS/newsfeeds, if you use them a certain way, it’s not “one more thing” but a way to consolidate and create “three less things.”

    Example: I don’t read the local papers all that often. I get headlines via RSS. I don’t read every blog I’d like to, but I follow (loosely) many, many, many bloggers on Twitter; if I happen to see them mention a blog post that sounds interesting, I read that.

    Also, even if it is just that – one more thing – it’s a place where active, often loud-mouthed people congregate. And here’s a real-world example of why that matters for a really big company:

  5. kadetcomm April 7, 2008 at 2:39 pm #

    Well stated! And definitely a good idea for Comcast — there’s a lot of hate out there for the cable company (and I’ll tell you all about some time during a 4-hour window three days from now)…

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