Twitter first impressions: 5 things I like, 5 things I don't ~ Brand Mix

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Twitter first impressions: 5 things I like, 5 things I don't

I'm not the early adopter type generally. I like to wait for bugs to be figured out and the format standard to be decided before I take the plunge with a new technology. So take these comments about my first impressions of Twitter as coming from someone who has arrived at the party earlier than he usually would. I know that many of Twitter's quirks and bugs will be fixed sooner or later and that, one day, the fail whale won't be needed anymore and will be released back to the ocean whence it came.

5 Things I Like

1) Quick capture: The main reason I started my blog was as a way to record ideas and observations. But there are plenty of mini-ideas that don't warrant a whole post. Twitter is perfect for recording those, especially when I'm traveling and can quickly type something into my Blackberry.

2) The 140 character limit: I think the 140 character limit forces efficiency, encourages creativity and makes Twitter unique. But perhaps Flutter would be even better?

3) Information finding and sharing: I'm using Twitter more and more both as a source of interesting things to read and as a way to find out what people are thinking in real time about an issue or a company. I'm not ready to give up on Google quite yet but Twitter has given me a new source of information that's already eating into my Google usage.

4) Events: I started using Twitter at the Economist Marketing Forum (#ecsf09) and it's perfect for events like these. I'd previously tried blogging live but that didn't work out very well. Twitter works because it's fast and immediate, plus I got to meet the band of fellow Twitterers.

5) The Twitter revolution: It's fun being part of a social media phenomenon. Twitter is growing at 1382% right now with over six million more users joining in the last year. I've already connected with some great people with interesting things to say about brands and business.

5 Things I Don't

1) Reply all: Twitter is set up so that the default reply goes to all followers. You can send a direct message but that requires an extra step making it the less chosen path. So, you end up seeing a lot of tweets that don't make any sense because you didn't see the original message. (Made-up but realistic example: "Thanks @xyz I agree with you. Brilliant idea. 46 sounds right.") Overall, I think that Twitter's format encourages poor netiquette and the only recourse is to remove frequent offenders from the people you are following.

2) Chaos and disorganization: There is very little and not enough organization: no way to group people and no easy way to classify or categorize tweets. There are some workarounds and perhaps some applications I haven't discovered yet but, overall, it's a big mess, and a mess that gets in the way of efficient use.

3) Tweets about twitterers who tweet about tweeting: The self-referential dial on Twitter is turned all the way up to eleven, past the point of comfortable and easy listening. (And, yes, I know that the content of this post takes away my right to criticize but I'm doing it anyway.) Also, while I'm at it, I'm no big fan of The Great Twitter Race where people are trying to amass more followers than anyone else. Quality over quantity, my friends.

4) Boosterism: Ever been in an audience where the people in the front lead a standing ovation and you're not quite sure that you want to join in but then you have to because everyone else is? To switch analogies, Twitter is sometimes too much like the Mexican wave.

5) Empty Calories: The key question is: Do the benefits of Twitter outweigh the inevitable distraction of having another application open which entices you to click on it and see what's happening. With the current level of chaos, there's a lot of time wasted making the cost side of this equation higher than it needs to be. That said, I'm still giving Twitter the benefit of the doubt for now. I'll keep you posted.


Jeffry Pilcher said...

Martin, there's an option/preference setting whereby you can specify to see only @Replies that are pointed at you. I recommend this setting. While seeing the occasional @Reply may help you find someone you wish to Follow (example: "@xyz Thanks for that article about Landor!"), it doesn't happen often enough.

Generally speaking, the absence of "threaded" conversations in Twitter is annoying. I just stopped listening.

There are applications for organizing Tweets. I've been told the best one is Tweetdeck. I've used it for two weeks and give it a C-. It's a littttllle better than just using your browser, but still a long way off from the ideal tweet manager. The other popular application is Twhirl.

Diana said...

I especially agree with your critique of Twitter. I, a graphic design consultant, am also just trying it out for a while, and agree with everything you say. I switched to Tweetdeck, which helped me organize the flood of tweets(after right away changing the horrid color scheme). At least it's visually organized, and if you "Search: Design" (for example) you get a discrete column that only addresses that subject. Or just "Search: (your name)" and you'll get a column that organizes tweets that have to do with you.

SO much of the population is Social Networking related, so, for now, there's way too much navel gazing.
We'll see...
(ps I'm dianajhoward in the land of twits)

Donna Brewington White said...

Hi Martin -- That's funny about being an early adopter because I, like you, am rarely in this league. I am having a blast on Twitter as you can probably tell -- a whole new world has opened to me -- not to mention new friends and colleagues. However, this is a good reminder to use DM more often since I am probably one of the offenders you mentioned.

I want to ditto what Jeffry said about adjusting @replies to only see those between people you are following and a MAJOR ditto to the advice about TweetDeck. I personally use the "all @replies" feature because I am constantly looking for interesting new people to learn from. And, in my profession, I want as much exposure as possible -- as you can imagine.

What I want to add is that you can create groups on TweetDeck. I have both A-list and a B-list columns and then the default All Friends column. I check A's frequently, B's regularly but less frequently, and All Friends as I have time -- and often just to determine whether there is anyone else who should be assigned to a priority group. You, by the way, are on my A-list. It's great to have you on Twitter. Take care, @donnawhite

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Christopher Richards said...

I got a laugh out of your reference to Spinal Tap: the dial being turned up to eleven. I’m very cautious of being distracted and haven’t set up a Twitter account. I used to be an early adopter, no longer. I may be showing my age, but I need real proof that anything I do that involves my time is going to be worthwhile. Reading your blog is. Thanks.

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