Inspired by Lindsay’s post about Pinterest, I wanted to discuss Twitter.
I joined the site in 2009 after loudly proclaiming my sheer and total disgust at the thought of telling people so regularly what I was doing. What an invasion of privacy! And professionally? Why would anyone ever be interested in that?! I was a serious Twitter hater to the core. If you wanted me to shout at you and dismiss you from my office (not really because then I would be fired), all you had to do was say “What do you think about Twitter?” I had an unfortunate childhood tie to the name as well, but that’s for another time.
And then we (I work for a non-profit) received a bunch of donations all citing “Twitter” as what encouraged them to donate. I got a call from our donor department asking what was going on. So, I entered my organization’s name in the search bar at search.twitter.com and up came a long thread about Twitter users in our city who would donate if the weather reached a certain temperature that day. I immediately signed us up, signed me up, tweeted “Hi, this is my first tweet!” and never looked back.
I use Twitter every day both personally and professionally. I’ve
forced it on encouraged a lot of our staff, and I’m happy when my real-life friends adopt it and realize its potential. But there’s the thing: realize its potential. Twitter is its own, stand-alone platform; a beautifully imagined and well-crafted site, that luckily (cough) streams and compiles feeds from basically any other contribution-based site on the internet. Twitter is a lot of things, but Twitter is not all things, and definitely not to all people.
The Things Twitter Is Not
Instagram – Ok, I know I like to see everyone’s pictures, and I take photos myself (on my archaic smartphone whose name I will not utter here), but if you are only on Twitter to feed your instagram photos to it, you’re not on Twitter. You’re on Instagram.
Foursquare – Don’t even get me started on this one. Twitter is not Foursquare, and people on Twitter who are not stalkers do not care where you are. They want to know what great content you have for them. As well, if you tell your 1000 followers that you’ve checked in at “Sarah’s House! Totally fun times lol” and they click on it and see my address, you will immediately be forced to takeover my lease.
Facebook – I’ve softened on this since that last blood pressure check, but when I’m teaching Twitter to folks at work, or anywhere, I make sure to explicitly mention that Twitter and Facebook are different, and to never, under any circumstances, feed your Twitter feed to Facebook. The audience, familiarity and language are different, and if you post a #hashtag or include “RT” or a bloody @ mention in your status update, you immediately alienate everyone reading it. They know that they’re the hand-me-down audience and that you originally meant for it to be read by your much cooler and better looking Twitter followers. And if you feed your Facebook updates to Twitter, they’ll constantly be truncated because you typed an entire paragraph in your status instead of 140 characters. Then your Twitter followers see a link and click it, and are taken to Facebook where they can’t see the content because you aren’t friends with them. That’s almost as bad as the “This content cannot be viewed in your country” error message, but this time – it’s personal.
Pinterest – Now this one is new. Twitter used to be, for me, a way to show others awesome products, photos etc that I find on the internet. I still do post some links to great content (playing it pretty fast and loose with the word ‘great’ here), but now some of that has shifted to Pinterest. People on Twitter, if they like my links, can probably find that content in my pins. But I will never, ever, ever, link all my pins to Twitter.
Basically, Twitter is not an RSS feed on steroids. It is a way to bring new content to new people, strangers and friends alike. If you automatically feed something to Twitter, more often than not it looks spammy and impersonal to your followers. And the last thing you want to do is alienate your followers. Well actually, the last thing you want to do is alienate blogging moms, but the second last thing you want to do is alienate your followers.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.