This post has been a long time coming. About six months, in fact.
Let me explain: Back in late April, and early May, a Nielsen report caused quite a stir when it revealed that about 60% of new Twitter users (twitterers, twits, tweeters or tweople, depending on your preferred Twitter parlance) quit within one month of signing up. I had been on Twitter, but around the same time, my flow of updates slowed to an unenthusiastic trickle and then quietly died altogether. It was nice to know I wasn't alone. Since we talk to a lot of clients and prospects about social media (and Twitter is often one of the hot topics), I thought a post on my reasons for abandoning Twitter might be helpful. I stopped though, not wanting to sabotage the efforts of my Twitter-guru colleagues. Well, I'm back on Twitter now, so I figure confessions are fair game, and I've learned a few things — about Twitter and myself — along the way.
Confession: I didn't see the benefit.
Sure, Twitter was (and is) a great distraction, with seemingly infinite people, articles and comments much more interesting than the task at hand. I was on twitter, I posted, I followed, a few people followed me back. But, 'so what?' I asked. I was surrounded by talk about the incredible value of social media for building relationships, but I wasn't getting the warm-fuzzy feeling. I tweeted with journalists, but it didn't result in a great story for a client. I had followers, but did anyone really care about what I posted? I found plenty of neat stories, interesting people, and good tips, but was it any more valuable than what I'd find with random Web surfing? I wasn't getting anything out of using Twitter, so I stopped putting anything into it.
Lesson: Have a goal in mind.
I wasn't sure what value I wanted to get out of Twitter. So no wonder I wasn't getting it. Twitter is a tool and a channel, not a thing to be achieved. Whether you want to become a thought leader in your industry, improve customer service or reach prospects, how you use Twitter will be different. Right now, my goal is simply to be a part of the community, learn to use the tool and enjoy it. Not very ambitious, I know. But I'm no longer trying to live up to the expectations someone else has set for their Twitter use. If my needs change, I can adjust what I'm aiming for with Twitter, but for now, things are going well.
Confession: Twitter is easy but not that easy.
I started to feel guilty if I didn't post. And that just made me less motivated. Somehow, I'd inevitably be knee deep in the middle of a project, and in the back of my brain I'd feel a nagging voice reminding me I hadn't posted. I'd open Twitter, waste 15 minutes looking for something interesting to spur a thought, and — if I was lucky — squeak out a hundred or so characters on the topic. Rookie mistake, sure, but I fell victim to it.
Lesson: Make twitter easy and don't overthink it.
I put a Twitter gadget front and center on my iGoogle page and added HootSuite to my bookmarks toolbar. There are new applications practically every day that make Twitter more accessible and embedded in your work than the day before. Twitter's right in front of me now, right where I see the news. Now, decisions to tweet are impulse decisions. If it takes longer than a few seconds to decide if I should post something, I usually don't post. 140 characters isn't a lot, and like they say… don't sweat the small stuff.
Confession: Twitter made me uncomfortable.
I'd posted a few updates, but I wasn't convinced I wanted people to see them. And despite the advice of just about every list of Twitter best practices sent around our agency e-mail list, I adamantly did not want to put my picture up there. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, maybe I'm paranoid, maybe I just haven't settled into my skin yet — but the idea of my face, my opinions and my interests being on display and accessible for everyone and anyone with an internet connection was (and is) a bit unsettling. I felt that to use Twitter successfully, I needed to be "out there" – sharing my opinions confidently, engaging in friendly debate and proving transparency by sharing more about my personal life. The aversion to those things was stronger than my desire to embrace Twitter and helped bring my use to halt.
Lesson: Acknowledge and embrace your comfort level.
Mine's pretty low, and that's fine. A high follow count is often purported to be the holy grail of the twitterverse, but I'll be honest: I don't want tens of thousands of people tracking every virtual utterance. And speaking of virtual utterances, I keep those pretty tame too, usually sticking to re-tweeting others, posting links to thoughtful articles and sharing interesting quotes or facts. There's not a lot of strong opinion, original thought, or insight into my daily life. (I’m happy to share those things, but not on Twitter.) Apparently, that's okay — ask my followers. (Concession: I caved and posted a picture. I'm not convinced I like it there, but I'll admit, it did help boost my follower count.)
There’s plenty of great advice about Twitter and social media from those who have invested more and reaped more benefit than I. I found their tips and strategies helpful myself, but failure can be a great teacher too.
– Contributed by Catharine Morgan. Follow her @c_morgan