Why Twitter Matters – And Why I Just Might Follow You
I use Twitter, the micro-blogging platform. Each post is limited to 140 characters, so it instills succinct, efficient expression. And you only receive regular posts from those people you choose to follow, so you can eliminate attention polluters. While Twitter is significant in its own right, most significant is what it represents: the arrival of short-form communications, specially tailored for our growing attention deficit and love for instant gratification.
So someone recently asked me what value I get out of Twitter. Here’s the deal:
First, it fulfills basic human needs of self-expression, and I’m not afraid to admit that. Sometimes I spontaneously express how I’m feeling, while others times what I’m doing. Sometimes I document events, while at other times I express deep thoughts or analysis. Sometimes I’m too preoccupied for Twitter, but most times it works itself regularly into my workflow of life.
Second, it has become an important means of one-to-one and one-to-group communications. I estimate that 10% of my one-to-one communications take place on Twitter now. While it’s contributed to my problem of socialnetworkitis, sometimes it’s just the most convenient way to reach someone directly with a private message. This is especially true if you want to respond directly to something someone said on Twitter, and even more so if you know someone is more apt to respond on Twitter versus some other digital platform, like email. For one to many communications, it’s simple, straightforward and selective.
Third, Twitter’s a great platform to cultivate trusted members in a customized community – to solicit feedback and spark interaction on real questions and issues of everyday life and business. I can pose a question to my community and almost always expect numerous responses back – whether a request for a restaurant recommendation, a proposal to meet spontaneously for a social meeting, or to secure participants for a mini-brainstorm. This week I even announced the death of a family member and received several thoughtful gestures – both public and private. Your Twitter community tends to reward you in proportion to how much time you spend nurturing and pruning it.
Finally, Twitter posts are published quickly and, usually, publicly. While there are risks and obligations with that, there’re also huge benefits and opportunities associated with being spontaneous and visible. It’s part of being in the conversation, and managing your digital reputation. Twitter has critical mass – at least with several of my personal and business circles.
If I’ve convinced you there’s value in Twitter, the next question is: How do you grow and prune your Twitter community? Minding the values above, I’m open to anyone following me, but I’m relatively selective in who I’ll follow. This is fundamental to cultivating a meaningful Twitter community – something that develops over time, and requires maintenance. So below are my five strategies for deciding whom I follow and whom I won’t.
- If I’m interested in you, and you are on Twitter, I may follow you. In other words, I’ll initiate the connection.
- If you follow me and I already know and like you, I’ll most likely follow you back.
- If you follow me and I don’t know you, I’ll quickly check out your Twitter page. If you link to a blog, I’ll review that. Next, I’ll review your most recent 10 Twitter posts. If they are aligned with me, and offer value, I’ll follow you.
- If you have exponentially more follows versus followers, I probably won’t follow you back. That probably means you’re either following me for no other reason than to pollute my attention (spam), or you’re just completely random and unselective in whom you allow to cloud your own attention. I suspect Twitter users with a 3:1 ratio of follows versus followers, or any number of follows greater than 500.
- If I follow you and you become actively misaligned with my Twitter values, I’ll probably stop following you very quickly.
That’s my strategy for extracting value out of Twitter. What’s yours?
(This column also ran inÂ MediaPost.)