Monday, January 07, 2008

Giving Twitter another look...

Ten months ago I wrote here that I just didn't see what the big deal was about Twitter. But recently I've been thinking that perhaps I should give the service another chance, and CK mentioning how much she enjoyed being on Twitter was the clincher for me.

But I decided that if I was going to dive head-first into Twitter, that I needed to change how I was using the site. When I wrote last March that I didn't 'get' Twitter, it was mainly because I was only following about 40 people, and most of those people wouldn't be on the site when I was. If someone would follow me, I would follow them back IF I knew them. If not, I wouldn't. IOW, I was basically trying to see what value I could extract from Twitter. It didn't seem like much to me, so I stopped using it.

So when I decided to give Twitter a second chance a few days ago, I decided to switch gears. I went from only following a few dozen people, to following as many people as possible. I quickly added any friends that I wasn't following. Then I went through the lists of people my friends were following and added any people that I noticed several of my friends following. Finally, I added people/bloggers/marketers that I knew of, but that hadn't really talked to before. People like Chris Messina, Micki Krimmel, Jim Long, etc.

The hundreds of diverse points of view made for an absolutely fascinating experience. In between amazing marketing/social media discussions with people like Shel Israel, Ike Pigott and Connie Reece, I read about Xeni Jardin's account of what she was experiencing on her vacation in Guatemala, and New Media Jim detailing a high-speed chase with a carjacker.

This experience has hammered home this point for me about social media: it works best when you view it as a way to create value, not as a tool to extract value. When I didn't 'get' Twitter before, it was because I was trying to extract value from it, without really providing any. For example, before I was only following a few dozen people, and used Twitter mainly as a way to link to my own blog posts. I wanted more followers, but was using the service mainly as a way to pimp my own posts.

But now by following everyone first, I am using Twitter as a tool to create value, instead of just extracting it. I still link to many of my new posts, but I also link to posts and articles that OTHER people write that I believe the people I am following will find VALUE in. I try to contribute to discussions as I can, and treat Twitter as a community.

I've gone from following about 100 people a couple of weeks ago, to over 500 now. I've 'only' gone from about 150 followers to over 300, but that's ok. Now that I am viewing Twitter as a community, I'm getting far more value from it than I can give back.

The end lesson for companies, and myself, is that if you want to get value from social media, you need to first create value for others. Attempting to extract value without providing any is a recipe for frustration.

Thanks to Armano for suggesting I write this.

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Anonymous said...


Good insights. Like you, I struggled with Twitter but am now a fan and also have it on my post schedule for this week. Thanks for sharing.

Chris Brogan said...

My feeling is that Twitter is part of a toolset of new applications that will give us social computing powers we didn't have before. For instance, I ask Twitter for advice and directions all the time. Both work way better than your standard Google search.

I think Twitter is a core element of a shift we only barely perceive, and so I'm glad you're still in the game, Mack.

Dave Fleet said...

Great post Mack.

I think you've nailed it here. First and foremost you need to provide value to people, be it through insights, opinion or useful links. If you do that well over time, more people will follow you. Only then (in my opinion) can you start to take as well as give.


Mack Collier said...

Let me clarify how I previously used Twitter:

When I started I tried to use Twitter mainly as a conversational tool. But I only added the people that I knew very well online. So that was only 2-3 dozen people. I noticed that when I was 'on' Twitter, there was usually only a small handful of people I was following on at the same time. So updates were coming 20 every 30 mins, instead of 20 every minute or 2 like they are now.

So I then tried using Twitter mainly as a way to promote my new posts. But I felt bad doing that, like I was 'misusing' Twitter, so I stopped using Twitter altogether.

Then I saw how several people I knew were enjoying it, and then CK getting excited about it was the kicker for me to give it another go. Glad I did!

Mike Chapman said...

I can appreciate your "before and after" on Twitter. I'm Connie Reece's biz partner and I played the skeptic while she enthusiastically embraced it. Now we're both seeing how the experience of Twitter can be applied in other areas as well. Nice post.

Mack Collier said...

Dave I've noticed something else, in that I am leaning more and more on the people I follow on Twitter to find links for me. I'm noticing that the more time I spend with Twitter, the less time I spend with Bloglines. Is anyone else noticing this as well?

Mack Collier said...

"I can appreciate your "before and after" on Twitter. I'm Connie Reece's biz partner and I played the skeptic while she enthusiastically embraced it. Now we're both seeing how the experience of Twitter can be applied in other areas as well. Nice post."

And this brings up another point. Back in 2005 prior to entering the blogosphere, I bought into every stereotype about blogging and bloggers, and thought blogging was a total waste of time. But I decided to give it a shot, and have never looked back. Being wrong about blogging has made it easier to assume that I might be wrong about MySpace, Facebook, Twitter etc. It's made me more willing to experiment and try new things.

Which is definitely a must as social media tools are expanding and being created so quickly.

Mike Chapman said...

Oops, I accidentally used a pseudonym before. I came upon this very post because of your twitter notice, which I appreciate. I also really like the openness for improvement twitter has demonstrated, in spite of its growing pains. So it's not perfect, they didn't begin with that premise.

Kathyrn Milette said...

I think there are many people who see potential in twitter but are unsure of what it is or how to use it. i am slowly getting the hang of it and getting more comfortable with the way it blurs the line between my professional and personal life. I agree with you that the best way to "get" the experience is to follow a bunch of people, hope they follow you, and try to join in the conversation.

Anyone interested in following me, I will follow you back! Good to meet you (in advance)!

Mack Collier said...

Kathy I just requested that you add me, thanks for commenting!

Anonymous said...

Twitter has helped cement my branding as Social Media's Court Jester.

We're all people squeezing wisdom, humor, and horror into 140 characters.

There are no sidebars, no blogrolls, and no room for linkbait games.

There is no J-List on Twitter.

Luis said...

Thanks to specailists like you helping wet-in-the-gills wannabes like me.

I always notice, however, that the chat's easy only to other techies.

Would you know of a site more comprehensible to tyros like me?

An alternative, of course, is to buy over-thecounter knowledge, e.g., James Brausch's. That way, he does all the thinking.

Mack Collier said...

Luis most of the people I talk to on Twitter are marketing folk. We are all learning as we go. There are very few 'experts' out there in social media, since the current tools are evolving so quickly, and new ones are being created at a break-neck pace.

Unknown said...

Hi Mack. I just read this post as a result of your latest one (about blogging) where you linked to it. That was a great post as well!

Like you, I too did not see much value in using Twitter and did not "get" it. I embraced it in mid-October of this year and now love it as another way to connect. It is a great resource for finding interesting people and information, knowing what people are talking about/trends and for support of a job search. I now am sharing my learnings with others since I cannot imagine being without it!

Twitter: cbruemmer