I've been using Twitter for a few weeks now and although I'm not a 'pro' at using the tool by any means, I've made some observations that have raised a number of questions about its usefulness and I'd really like to get other's opinions and experiences before I determine that Twitter, like much of the other highly touted 'social media,' is a lot of hype and little practical application.
Here's what I noticed about Twitter:
Preaching to the Choir: I've spent a bit of time looking at the followers of a number of people who are obviously seeking to use Twitter as a marketing tool and I've noticed a pattern-the overwhelming majority, often in the area of 85 to 90% of the followers, are not prospects for the person's company but are instead friends, competitors, or co-workers.
The Numbers Don't Add Up: Assuming that their message is getting a broader play from being 'retweeted,' I chose three people and followed their followers to see how often a tweet would be disseminated through being retweeted. The results, I'm sure, would be very disappointing to these three Twitter users if they knew the numbers. Although they did have several of their tweets retweeted, most of the retweets were of tweets that promoted an article the person had read that had been written by someone else and was posted on the article author's website or blog.
One of the primary uses of tweets is to post things that are helpful to one's followers and letting them know of a useful article is one of the most common forms of this. The problem is if you're trying to get yourself out to as many people as possible, being retweeted doesn't seem to be doing a very good job-other than letting people know what you read and then sending them to that author's site. It appears being the author of the article is far more beneficial than being the tweeter of the article.
Inane Information: The content of tweets is often ridiculous. From 'tips' that are either so obvious or trite as to be silly, to the minutia of someone's existence, the content often leaves one wondering whether or not the posters of these tweets really have a meaningful job-or are capable of meaningful thought. Twitter sometimes borders on a 140 character version of the theater of the absurd.
Hyper Promotion: Some, by no means all-just the most obnoxious, use Twitter to shamelessly name drop, unrelentingly promote their newsletter or blog, continually proclaim their own guru status, or repeatedly tweet about their latest article.
Where most would post a tweet about their latest article or newsletter, these hyper self promoters will post the same tweet about their article or newsletter four, five, six times a day, day in and day out until they've written another article and then they start the cycle over again. Where most will mention the new edition of their newsletter, hyper promoters will post tweet after tweet after tweet encouraging readers to go sign up for the newsletter, thinking, I guess, that if you didn't do it the first 19 times they told you to, you'll do it the 20th time they mention it.
Not only is this hyper self-promotion annoying, it makes the person doing it appears desperate.
Twitter appears to be a great way to maintain contact with family and friends. If you want to create a casual network of co-workers and acquaintances-or even others within your industry-Twitter seems quite the tool.
But for serious business promotion? I'm far from convinced.
To be fair, I've spoken to one gentleman who is a firm believer in using Twitter to promote his business. He says that since he has been using twitter his website traffic has really increased. Unfortunately, his sales haven't, his newsletter subscribers haven't increased that much, and his repeat traffic to his site hasn't increased that much. Has Twitter really helped him? I don't know, but he believes it has.
I have another friend who is certain that Twitter is helping him get the word out about himself. He points to the fact that he has over 2,200 followers (he dismisses the fact he follows over 2,000 of them), and that he regularly has his tweets retweeted. A cursor y look at his followers-it doesn't appear that his message is getting out to many viable prospects.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I'm very skeptical of Twitter's usefulness as a business tool, but I'd really like to get other's experiences and opinions. The floor's yours.
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