A great indicator of whether a topic is relevant or not is to make a statement on your social network of choice and see what kind of conversation gets going. So, I posted the following question on Facebook yesterday:
I got quite a few responses and most people seemed to be of the same mindset as me and were using Twitter less and less. It seems as though many people have been getting less value out of Twitter and are not using it as much as they used to. What’s going on? The technology hasn’t changed that much over the past few years.
So, in the past I was very passionate about people joining Twitter to learn about SharePoint. Back then it was a close tight-knit community that consisted of a bunch of people helping each other. It was like a big support group. All you had to do was tweet about the word SharePoint and people “got you”. Keep in mind, this was also before there was a lot of helpful information online about SharePoint. You could search and search all day and not find the answer you were looking for. People were more interested in learning and helping and connecting with similar SharePoint people. Twitter was a tool that made an unbearable process bearable and helped form camaraderie with like minded folks. I often said, to be part of the SharePoint Community you needed to be on Twitter.
Why is this once critical tool falling to the wayside for some of its previous ardent supporters?
There’s so much noise!
99% of the people I follow on Twitter are “SharePoint” people. This is on purpose. Twitter WAS a business tool for me to help me network, get answers to questions, and help other people. However, these days most of these “SharePoint” people are not posting a thing about SharePoint. At any point of the day I go on Twitter and try to see what’s going on in the SharePoint world I immediately get bombarded with people tweeting about political rants, foursquare check-ins, fundraisers, pictures of kittens, and about 30 different conversations going that I have no context for. Where’s the SharePoint? Where’s the value? How do I weed through all this information to find what’s important? Do I unfollow a lot of people because 90% of what they Tweet is garbage? Well, I’m still interested in that 10%, but it’s almost impossible to find. There’s just so much useless noise (and yes, I’m guilty of adding to it some days). Why is this once content rich ecosystem now filled with so much un-useful (to me) information??
Too many people trying to be relevant
One of the biggest contributors to the noise pollution on Twitter is by people who really have nothing new to say, but feel like they are not being relevant unless they say something, unless they blog something, unless they add to the noise. Don’t believe me? Just look at Twitter on a day that a new iDevice is announced, the number of garbage blogs that people post with their opinions about things they never even used before, and many of those blogs are all just rehashing what someone else already has said before. Nothing new is being said, no new insights are being gained. People don’t care about adding value, they care about being seen. Listen, don’t TRY and be relevant, just BE relevant.
I admit, I have struggled with this in the past, if you want a “for instance” just look at some of MY garbage posts when I felt I just had to blog something. I try not to do that as much anymore. It SHOULD be about quality, and not quantity.
One of the worst things to happen to Twitter was the invention of the scheduled tweet. I have friends who used to be fairly active on Twitter and now all I see from them is a scheduled tweet. And what’s that scheduled tweet? A stupid consolidation of other tweets. I don’t like chatting with robots, and I don’t like reading tweets from them. The thing I liked about Twitter is when I saw a tweet I would think “hey… so-and-so is on Twitter. I can send them a tweet and get a response.”
Those stinking celebrities
I don’t mean the Andrew Connells or the Spencer Harbars of the world… those guys are a pain for a whole different reason! I’m talking about actors, singers, and other self important types that garner national attention. Give these guys a Twitter account and a few adoring fans and you can’t get a tweet in edgewise! Plus, the only person with a more worthless opinion than my own and is more out of touch with reality is a celebrity.
Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam
I’m fairly certain that a good 20% of my followers are not real people, and no, not because they are SharePoint admins but because they are spammers trying to pawn their wares. Either that or I have an inordinate amount of attractive female followers… regardless… it’s annoying even if it is to be expected.
Other social media options
There are so many social media options out there now. Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Yammer, Google+, and many others. Very few people can say what they want to say in 140 characters, so why should they be limited? Also, it’s really hard to follow a conversation on Twitter, so why use it for an ongoing conversation?
These days I’ve migrated a lot of my Twitter contacts that I care to hear from to Facebook where we can have real conversations that are not limited and easier to follow.
So, I should stop using Twitter?
With all the noise and other options out there, is it time to stop using Twitter altogether? I mean, why on earth should you limit yourself to 140 characters when there are so many other choices out there? That’s an excellent question, I’m so glad you asked. Even with all of its headaches, there are some things I still like about Twitter and I will definitely still continue to use it.
I’m fairly certain that most of these pain points and annoyances are due to the fact that Twitter is a maturing product with a growing user base and this kind of evolution is to be expected. Fine, I can understand that, but what’s Twitter good for these days??
Many companies have dedicated support people monitoring their Twitter accounts and it can sometimes be faster to get a response on Twitter than to sit on hold or wait for an email response. I know this is definitely the case for Office 365 related questions as well as dealing with companies like Hilton. Plus, I’m guessing they are standing by ready to ward off any negative publicity. Got a problem with a company? Rant on Twitter about them and see what kind of response you get.
This has to be one of the coolest things about Twitter. The idea that a group of people who don’t know each other at all can get together around a common concept and have a conversation about it real time. The latest example of this is the #Sharknado event that happened last week.
This is of course nothing new to Twitter, but it is one of those aspects that really set Twitter apart from the rest of the pack… and help it stay relevant. Everything from presidential inaugurations and natural disasters to TV Shows can now have a global discussion going on.
And Conferences! I use Twitter the most these days when I’m at a conference. I’ll set up a column in Hootsuite for the hashtag of the event and keep track of the events that are going on, where people are going, and who’s there.
This is definitely the best, most useful, and most entertaining use of Twitter to me and why I’ll continue to use it… until something better comes along.
Shouting into the wind
I hope you aren’t like me, but if you are Twitter is a great place to vent! Sometimes the best therapy for a frustrating day is to vent, and the only thing that makes venting more releasing is when other people justify your frustrations. So, a well timed tweet complaining about a something that gets a few replies like “yeah! I hate that!!!” can make your day a little better… see… you’re not alone… others feel the same way… now get back to work.
How to get the most out of Twitter
So, maybe you aren’t having the problems with Twitter that I’m having, maybe its working just fine for you and you like it that way. Maybe you have such ADHD that the barrage of non-connected irrelevant information has a somewhat calming effect on you. If that’s the case, then kudos! I’m very glad that some people like it just the way it is. However, if you are like me and getting frustrated, here’s some tips to help you get back on track with your Twitter usage and hopefully end some of the frustration.
Create groups / use those hashtags
A few people responded to my question saying that they still get a lot of value out of Twitter by creating groups and using hashtags so that they aren’t reading as much noise. This is a great idea and will take some time to set up and tweak. If you are willing to invest the time in setting up and maintaining this, then it might be possible to use Twitter as we used to in the “good ole days”. Just make sure you download a good Twitter client. I used to use Tweetdeck, but they totally screwed that up. Now I use Hootsuite or MetroTwit. If there is something better, I’d like to hear about it!
Don’t follow so many people!
“But I don’t want to be rude!” When I see a SharePoint person follow me, I feel rude by not following back. I mean, isn’t that a slight? Won’t I appear arrogant or rude? In the beginning I followed EVERYONE back that followed me and that’s part of the reason I’m having these issues with Twitter. Then I started following just those people that had “SharePoint” in their bio and now… I’m left with the mess that is my Twitter timeline. This is a mess of my own making, maybe someone should start a service where they will clean out your followers for you? Hmmmmmm…..
Show some restraint when choosing people to follow and try to keep it all organized.
Maybe part of my frustration is that I’m lazy and don’t want to have to “do” anything to get the value that I used to out of Twitter. You mean I have to DO something? I have to create groups? Set up a search column? Selectively follow people? Unfollow people?? but that’s haaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrd…
Suck it up.
Don’t add to the pollution
Yes…we KNOW xBox One was announced. Yes, we saw the other 35 RT’s about it. No, you don’t need to blog about it too. Like I said, I KNOW I add to the pollution some days, but I try to not do it all the time. One of my favorite Abraham Lincoln quotes is “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” Maybe I should start putting it into practice more often
So… Is Twitter past its prime?
When it comes down to it, I don’t think Twitter is past its prime. I think it is maturing and evolving based upon its growing user base and the way people are using it. It’s just too big to use it like we used to. Gone are the days of following everyone that follows you. The chances are pretty good that your solitary tweet asking for help with a problem will get lost in the noise. Twitter is not the tool it used to be (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
I do think that the social media landscape is pretty well primed for a great “what’s next” though. I think more and more people are getting frustrated Twitter and other social media sites. Facebook could care less about the users and make bad Ux decisions just because they can. The rest of the social media sites seem to be some variation of Twitter and/or Facebook. No one is innovating.
The people have spoken, they’ve embraced social media as part of their work and social lives. It’s interwoven into everything we do. So… what’s the next innovation? I wish I knew! I’d go create it…