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Defense of Twitter

03 Oct

My brother and a friend came over tonight to play games and we wound up talking about twitter. Both of them, see minimal benefits to a twitter account but far greater benefits within a facebook account. I, rather obviously, feel the opposite. Their issues with twitter however, have excellent points. Most I’ve heard before but I’m always open to a dialogue about anything to understand the advantages and disadvantages. To be clear, while I personally see a number of advantages to twitter, I would not say it is for everyone. We all have those people who just don’t get it. The bathroom and breakfast activity tweeters come to mind. So, we discussed a few things and came down to a few conclusions that I thought I’d share. I’m hoping to be as clear and concise as possible so that if you know someone who takes issue with the idea of twitter, you can send them to this entry (or simply reference it) to better explain all the joys that Twitter entails.

1) The most important aspect of any social media is to understand which program best serves your needs and desires. Within that, there are three things you should ask yourself (credit to Bobby for nailing down these points):

  • Know Yourself.
  • Know Your Purpose.
  • Know Your Audience.

Before we break those down further, the next thing to define is Twitter itself. Most of us understand that Twitter is social media. But social media can encompass a number of things. The boys initially compared to Twitter to the iPad. It’s cool and it has its uses but it can’t do anything that Facebook can’t do and it actually does a lot less. I however (and they agreed) prefer to compare Twitter to an eReader. An eReader has a very specific use–to read books–with a few other bonus features. But what that eReader is designed to do, it does exceedingly well. I’d argue that Twitter is the same. It has limited, truly useful functionality; it’s what you can do within those limitations that makes Twitter so wonderful.

The second aspect of Twitter is that it is entertainment based. I can guarantee you that if you do not have an interest in entertainment, be it television, movies, actors, music, sports or games, you will not reap the full benefits of Twitter. You might ask why the need for entertainment interests. You are conversing with other people about common interests and your daily activity. How you feel about eggs for breakfast or how long of a run you went on is not interesting. In addition, there’s a minimal audience that will share those interests. Entertainment has many fans though and so you can talk to a number of people about such topics. Because new music, shows, sports games, etc are constantly occurring, there are always conversations available. The one exception to this, is celebrities. They can talk about their eating habits but that is because their job (in an entertainment field) has often garnered them a large enough audience to be interested in the day to day activities. This is not to say that you can’t talk about your day to day activities but if the only purpose of joining Twitter is for such comments, Twitter probably isn’t for you.

Now let’s break down those three categories.

Know Yourself

  • Who are you? Are you a business or an individual? Are your interests in food, entertainment, sports, faith, politics, comedy, crafts, etc? Knowing who you are is the first step to understanding what type of social media is best for you.

Know Your Purpose

  • What do you want to accomplish out of social media? Are you looking to talk to friends and family, keeping up to date on people’s lives, looking at pictures and blog like entries? Facebook may be a better fit. Are you a business or business-like, needing to promote regular activity? Twitter may have the greater advantage. Within this, know what you want to accomplish as well. If you want the complete rundown of people’s lives, Twitter isn’t too helpful. If you want soundbites, with more flexibility to pick and choose the topics you are interested in, Twitter serves a greater purpose.

Know Your Audience

  • A very important point. Are you trying to reach strangers, clients, customers or the general public? Facebook probably isn’t for you. Is your audience family and friends who want to keep up with you via online media? They are probably better served through a medium other than Twitter that allows for more expansive updates. Social media is all about creating an audience and knowing where that audience is will go a long way in determining which aspect of social media best fits you.

Finally, we should talk about how to use Twitter. There are endless debates on this but I’m going to condense this down to a concept and a few key rules.

Twitter, at its core, is about marketing yourself as a brand. That works from a personal or business standpoint but the key is finding the balance. Your tweets should make it clear who you are while working on a personal level. I’ll use myself (@onlymystory) and Starbucks (@Starbucks) as examples. Starbucks is a business that tweets and they are very successful. I would suggest that a major factor in their success is the blend between personalized tweets and promotional tweets. If there’s a new drink, CD or promotion happening at Starbucks, believe me, you’ll hear about it via their Twitter. But you can also ask questions, share a good experience or address a complaint. There’s a personal aspect and that gives Starbucks the advantage over businesses who only self-promote. People want to follow Starbucks, they check in on other businesses. As a personal tweeter, you should consider how you want to present yourself. This means knowing how people define you as a person based on your tweets alone. You can tweet about anything you like but complete randomness (from a non-celebrity) won’t get you very far. I’m a magazine editor for a entertainment magazine that focuses on a younger generation, the creator of a TV recap site and an aspiring screenwriter. Taking a guess at how people see me on Twitter; I love television, am very sarcastic, cuss a fair amount, have a dirty mind, and love football. I stop sometimes and think, does this tweet fit who I am or confuse that? I personally consider my faith to be very important to  me but I don’t use Twitter so often to promote that, in large part because I think I do better at explaining that aspect of my life via a blog. An entertainment minded person is who I am, insofar as my Twitter identity is concerned.

So when tweeting, try to understand that balance. Don’t freak out about it or stress over every tweet. Just understand that you are creating an image of yourself and creating a dialogue with other people. Finding that balance will make you a very successful tweeter.

Rules:

Don’t spam tweet. This includes constantly linking to sales, deals, promotions and the like, consistently twittering nonsense or tweeting a celebrity the same thing over and over again. It is always obnoxious and is likely to get you blocked.

Follow a few celebrities at a time. I say this more as a suggestion. Some celebrities have mastered Twitter to an uncanny degree, others are worse than your grandmother trying to update her profile picture. Don’t follow every actor or musician you’ve ever liked. Many use Twitter as pure PR, leaving very little advantage to following or they tweet a bunch of nonsense.

Create a list. This really helps with celebrities, businesses, or keeping track of a select group. You don’t have to follow people to create a list, which can be a huge advantage if you want to know what is going on but don’t want that tweeter crowding your Twitter feed.

Fill out your profile page and background. Pictures go a long way. There’s no need to put a personal picture up but allow it to show one of your interests. As more spam bots try to use Twitter, having a page that clearly defines who you are and why you’re on Twitter is an advantage to gaining followers.

Know where to draw the line. Twitter can be a very dirty minded place (just look at my feed on a Thursday night) but you need to understand a balance within that. Making something sound dirty, ala “That’s What She Said” style comments is mostly acceptable (though businesses might want to be more discerning). Talking about your personal preferences walks a fine line. The major faux pas is in tweeting celebrities how they make you feel. I’m sorry to be blunt here but telling an actor that they make your pussy wet is inappropriate no matter what. I guarantee you would not walk up to them and do that in person. Don’t do it on Twitter.

Don’t follow people because they followed you or asked you too. This is the advantage Twitter has over Facebook. (Well, one advantage). You don’t have to mutually friend people, even if you do know them in real life. Follow the people you are interested in. You’ll find Twitter much more enjoyable.

Use Twitter. This last one may seem obvious but many people ignore it. If you use Twitter on a regular basis, you will see the benefits. If not, it will fast become just one more thing you signed up for.

Obviously I only touched on a few things here. But hopefully, this can give you a starting point for those critics who like to insist that Twitter has no purpose. Twitter’s purpose is clear, the question is whether you need it.

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9 Comments

Posted by on October 3, 2011 in Pull Out the Soapbox

 

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