Twitter Signal to Noise Ratio: Trying to Find Meaning & Losing Friends

The end of Twitter as we knew itI don’t think this is a stretch. Nobody really has any idea how to use Twitter. And each month I find more and more people on my “haven’t tweeted in 30-days” list. And some of these folks are SEO workers, social media mavens, or otherwiseknownas “people in the business.” And they’re dropping off Twitter at an alarming rate.

So as things go with technology these days, if it’s solving a problem you use it, when it ceases to be useful you drop it. Twitter is falling into the latter category.

Social: The friendly part of Twitter is quickly dying off. I have very few social conversations on Twitter these days. When I am active, and posting odd and skewed perspectives on Twitter, I get maybe one response in twenty tweets. I using to get some witty reparte going on Twitter with friends and frenemies. But not more, the line has gone dead for social fun. (Update 11-28-11: Try this. Ask a question on Twitter. I used to get 3 – 5 responses, often from people I didn’t know. Now I’m lucky to get one reply for every 10 questions. I miss the interactions.)

Small Business: Other than tweeting coupons for weekend food and drink specials and a mad rush of Black Friday sale tweets. Small business simply has no idea why or what to tweet. And I don’t blame them. I’m not really listening for that, are you? In fact, I use a filter on Tweetdeck that completely removes “coupon” or “on sale” tweets from my feed.

Big Business: The case study of all case studies is DellFactoryOutlet. It seems so routine today, but tweeting special deals with specific OFFER CODES that could be tracked back to Twitter was a pretty big deal. The first million made using Twitter was Dell’s claim to fame for quite some time. Well, everyone has caught on to the idea. Entire businesses have sprung up to do the DFO-concept to the extreme. And I couldn’t care less.

Social Evangelists: So what exactly do I listen for? What do I tweet these days? As much as I would like to think I am a tasteful tweeter, and I have put some time into trying to figure out what that means, I too am broadcasting more than I’m listening. I still hope for conversation tweets, but it seems people have less time and less patience for tweeting. If it’s not part of their job, most normal people are turning off Twitter. So a lot of time time what we get is people tweeting about tweeting. Or better yet, people tweeting about Facebook and Google+, I guess because Twitter is a better place to rant than the actual networks themselves.

And one thing that Twitter still has is tools to measure, listen, parse, search, graph and track Tweets. So it is a social media marketer’s dream. You can get real-time graphs on sentiment, on esoteric measurements like “share of voice.” And the couponers must be making a killing on Twitter because a new group-coup business seems to start up every week.

But if the only people really listening are the social media marketers, it becomes the proverbial echo chamber. We are only hearing ourselves talk about ourselves.

Oh, and I guess there are a lot of people who are the exact opposite of me, who are tuning IN to the COUPONS. Making decisions on where to eat or go to happy hour based on the #hashtag or deal of the moment.

Have your Twitter habits changed? Do you value the conversation you are having on Twitter? Have you stopped tweeting all together? I sure hope Facebook has not really won!

I’m not saying I’ve given up on Twitter. In fact I’m working even harder, see links below, to educate people on how to tweet better and do research on Twitter. But if I’m growing tired and cynical about Twitter, it’s no wonder the non-social-media-focused person has much patience to learn something that seems so time consuming.

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

Wonder what I am talking about when I say Twitter porn? Here is a list of recent followers on a new account I set up for a client. We’re already up to 200+ followers! Only 40 of them are real.
Porn is choaking Twitter - Twitter Spam

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. I know what you mean, but I think it could be in part a perception artifact rather than a real change.  I haven’t been on twitter as much in the past few months.  As such, I haven’t done as much conversing on twitter as I did before.  I also note that some of the people I follow aren’t conversing as much either.  However, with that being said, when I can get a day of real twitter use, I still find that there are people putting out treats of real value and I don’t think that has diminished.  So, I think annecdotal insight in this case is likely to be misleading.  One would have to do a real survey to determine if twitter traffic is changing (and it might be) and how it is changing.

    1. Thanks for your comment Christopher. Setting up a new Twitter account today I have over 200 followers, 90% are porn spam. ARRRGH!

  2. I’ve gotten much more out of my RSS feeds than Twitter. I’m using Twitter now to DM and @ a small circle of friends and trusted colleagues. I definitely use Twitter to discover new RSS feeds to subscribe to. Also I have a feed so people who do follow me have a broader view of my interests and can hopefully discover something new for themselves.

    1. PJ – Thanks for the comment. I love the model, but I’m not so sold on the current use. I’ve found a couple I like, but mostly it’s repackaging the noise, IMHO.

  3. I find value in Twitter, but I have several circles (to use Google’s paradigm) with which I interact. Lists help me to keep track of the people with whom I wish to tweet. I will be thinking of different ways to use Twitter as I make some changes with my business, but I am, for the most part, still happy with Twitter. 

    1. Erin, there is certainly value in Twitter, I wouldn’t be so passionate about it otherwise. I do want us to remember to converse with each other and not @ each other.

  4. Great points in your post.

    It’s true.  Social media marketers know they need to know it but I suspect most of them are faking it until they can make sense of it. I’m still learning…

    Those folks dropping off are probably buried in the blizzard of information.

    With twitter, the lifespan of a tweet is so short that if nobody retweets it in the first hour, chances are nobody will. Unless you are on it 24/7, things will be missed or yesterday’s news.

    So what is the best use for twitter?

    1. Thanks Judi. In fact the lifespan of a tweet is about 10 minutes. Best use is updates to your audience, helpful information, and research. Hence the tools I share in the post.

  5. I hear you – I was VERY active in 2009 and then dropped back a LOT for a few years really and only recently have been picking back up – and the response whether it be retweets or replies has really dropped down – but I do still have some meaningful conversations and connections and have found I’m meeting new people etc. 

    Regarding ‘twitter pron’ – I know this is maybe not ‘cool’ to say, but I actually don’t mind the spam accounts – because I’m a real person with real tweets, I find that when I follow people back, follower count – especially with regards to the number of people they’re following is one of the metrics I judge whether the person is ‘worth’ following or not. And so, a few extra spam followers to boost a total will help in you picking up more ‘real’ followers, I think. – I’d sooner follow someone with 200 people than 40  – but that said, a 40/200 ratio is pretty insane. mine – I think – is inverse – where I’d say about 10-20% of my followers are probably spammers. not 80/90.. 

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