Using Twitter My Way

Probably two months ago I moved from just listening to engaging in the conversation. I started with a few comments on articles, sending some tweets, and most recently writing this blog.

Along with a couple dozen others I responded to Jon Fine’s March 31 article in Business Week Twitter And (Not) Monetizing The Attention Economy. Please note that I just learned how to embed a link like that and am presently quite proud of myself. The small victories.

Fine’s article prompted me to think about the different ways that individuals use Twitter. As I pointed out his biggest error is that he isn’t really listening and as a result doesn’t see Twitter’s richness as an information and even news source.

Here are my April 1 comments to his article:

I’ll try to help you make sense of your “notion” from a different perspective. I’ve been engaged in Twitter over the past few months just trying to understand it. My first reaction was “Why the heck would anyone do this? I’m not interested in what Jon Fine had for breakfast.”

I disagree with your “attention is the only payment” argument.

Each morning I read my Google Reader news aggregation. I read Slate for its summary of the major newspaper stories. Slate typically leads me to the New York Times. I read my mediabistro email (where I found your article). Sometimes I check my RSS reader to read blogs to which I subscribe. I ALWAYS scan Twitter.

For me Twitter is news, research, information. A rich, live stream of news, research, information. Yes, there are the self-indulgent (“my cat is stuck up the tree”) and self-serving tweets(“link to my website for fun & profit”), but I either ignore or eventually unfollow those people. But I have to admit that sometimes even the self-serving, self-indulgent tweets can be entertaining.

You need a tool like TweetDeck to filter and organize the constant stream; otherwise, you’re dealing with an amorphous information blob. But once you define what you’re trying to learn from the stream, Twitter becomes an addictive, daily news and information source.

I followed the link to your Twitter profile and scanned your messages. From politics to the state of the media industry to your resemblance to Elvis Costello, you offer some insightful, interesting, and yes, even sometimes self-indulgent comments. Don’t be frightened in a stalker-sort-of-way but I’ll probably start to follow you.

You have 1531 followers and you’re following twenty-six. You’ve made 334 updates. You’ve embedded shortened URLs to preserve the allotted 140 characters. Scattered through your tweets are some @replies but not too many. I didn’t notice any retweets in which you pass along someone else’s message.

Here’s the perspective. There’s no right way to use twitter but you’re on the other side of the user spectrum from me. I’ve spent most my time listening. You’ve spent most your time talking. I’ve started to send more tweets and engage in the conversation. I’m trying to do my fair share and contribute more. To see your “attention” argument from a different perspective I’d recommend that you follow more people, listen to what they have to say, and react to their ideas.

Twitter or something like Twitter will figure out how to best monetize microblogging as will some users. And, yes, there will be a small tier of users for whom the main payment will be “attention”. But even though I haven’t come close to truly understanding the impact of Twitter and microblogging, the one big click I’ve had about Twitter and social media is that it isn’t a “thing” or a “tool”, it’s more an underlying philosophy about how we communicate and exchange information and ideas. Not just the 140 character limit but more the underlying concept of openly sharing and collaborating. Not to go off a Zen-like deep-end, but that represents a far different payment for most users than just attention.

I’ll stop here as it appears I got carried away on a heavy roll. Good thing I wasn’t limited to 140 characters.

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