Twitter: what’s it all about then?

The Essential Twitter Dichotomy…twitter_logo_header1

It’s quite funny.  The amount of tweets on Twitter I see that say, “Just joined Twitter, what’s it all about?” or “New to Twitter – help!”. I do have to laugh because that was me about two months ago.

I had heard of Twitter – I think the first time I heard about it was last summer – say August 08. But apart from knowing it was some kind of social media tool I had absolutely no idea what it what was, what it was for and why on earth I should care!

Oh the beauty and benefit of hindsight! I wouldn’t be without Twitter now, but the question is still posed by many – both newbies and veterans and me on occasion – “what’s it all about then?” And by that I mean some people are still struggling to understand the uses and benefits of Twitter; others are having ‘discussions’ on how best to use Twitter or what it’s greatest strengths are.

twitter_birdie1I say… IT DEPENDS! Just like any other marketing strategy in the stable, Twitter and social media at large, does what you need it to do – if you know what that is! Those people who join because they think they should are the same people who have a blog but no idea why (or what to do with it). On the flip side those Twitterati, the IM gurus, the 10k plus followers people have a vastly different viewpoint.

This post examines what Twitter means to different people and how it can be used to suit both different marketing strategies and different agendas – i.e. what they hope Twitter will do for them.

Is twitter just a number?golden-number-1

I had a conversation with someone recently who has over 10,000 followers. I have around 550 (gained in just 2 months) and I struggle to keep up with that number and to remember them all, let alone interact with them all. (Sorry guys, I do try my best but I have never known that many people my whole life – it’s a bit overwhelming!)

Just as – even with Tweetdeck – I struggle to manage the 400+ people I follow. So how do these people with even just 1000 followers manage?

You see, in my (humble) opinion, a social media tool should be just that… Social. That means you are part of a community, a group and you are communicating with that group through this particular medium. Communicating WITH, not talking TO. (Yes some Tweeple can get away with that – after all twitter is the perfect vehicle for celebrities to come down from the stars and mix with us ordinary folk!)

However, for us mere mortals, Twitter was created as and is a social communication tool. And that’s how I try to use it. OK, for those of you who think I am being overly naive – no I don’t expect to build intimate relationships with my 550 or so followers – frankly the thought scares the beejesus out of me. BUT what I do expect is that if anyone – even a non-follower contacts me – that I respond. And I expect the same courtesy in return although unfortunately some (NOT all) of the ‘big boys’ don’t play it like that.

100% Pure Twitter – what social media really means…

little-girl-with-heartSo I try to use Twitter in what I see as it’s purest form. A social media and communication tool, which I can utilise to promote my brand, establish my credibility, entertain others, engage in relationships and basically be social! Yes I have a business strategy behind it all but I am not prepared to corrupt the essence of Twitter just to make a quick buck or scam others or to proudly announce a 100,000 plus following. For me quality not quantity has never more true than with Twitter – which some people see as simply a numbers game.

And for their purposes – they are absolutely right and savvy to see it this way. These are the people who’s ‘job’ it is to grow their following to gigantic proportions (compared to my proud, yet measly 550 followers) simply because they are using Twitter as a list building tool. These are the people trying to sell you something via Twitter and often relying on their massive follower numbers to prove their credibility. (The rest of us have to prove it in other ways!)

I don’t have an issue with this type of Twitter activity (OK not much of an issue because they are corrupting my beloved Twitter) – but after all Twitter is not just social, it’s also a medium (method of mass communication) and seeing it as a channel to market is sound marketing strategy. But in my heart I can’t accept it and no matter how alluring the thought of a plus 10k follower list may seem I don’t think I will ever go there. It just isn’t right.

Twitter Marketing – savvy communication or savvy selling?road-to-the-world

BUT, this is where we come full circle on this article: using Twitter but understanding why and how you are using it and what you expect to get out of it.  Just like any other marketing strategy if you don’t know why you are doing it, you might as well not bother. If you don’t know why, you won’t have focus, it won’t make sense and it won’t yield results unless you are incredibly lucky.

Therefore, whether Twitter is a pure social communication tool or a mass marketing & sales channel is completely up to you.  More importantly what your business needs from Twitter is a consideration that shouldn’t be overlooked – I – as a marketing consultant etc – could not cope with an extra 100 clients tomorrow. But someone selling an online software product or membership group or information product needs the numbers to get the conversions.

So, what is Twitter for you? A new and exciting way to communicate and build relationships OR a new and exciting way to build massive lists?

For me this is not just “What’s it all about then?” but “The Essential Dichotomy of Twitter”.