Some people claim to fear Twitter (and social media in general) because of its seeming captivity at the hands of the inane. They worry that our culture is being hijacked by the mouth-breathers and the endlessly self-fascinated, and they refuse to give in to the urge to tumble into their own navels.
But an equally large portion of the populace are petrified of Twitter for its disarming ability to cut through the BS and the way it encourages its users to remove their veils. Its 140 character limit is challenging, not just because it enforces brevity, but because it robs many of us of the flowery contexts we’ve come to rely on in blogs, or podcasts, or other social networking tools.
On Twitter, we have to be blunt. We have to be relevant. But most of all, we have to be ourselves.
And that’s when people panic.
Not everyone, obviously, or the site wouldn’t be growing at the rate it is. But, now that it’s entering its 3rd or 4th iteration of acceptance, and ebbing further and further into the mainstream, it brings with it a host of new users who believe these highly-targeted opt-in services are their ticket to insta-marketing dominance.
Boy, Are They Wrong.
Whenever someone "follows" me on Twitter, I check their profile to see if it’s someone I’d like to follow back. I read their most recent page of posts. If those posts are all links to their blog (or someone else’s), I ignore them.
Why? Because Twitter leaves the power of the conversation in my hands — and why would I want to voluntarily be talked at by a company while I’m otherwise engaged in useful conversation?
Likewise, the people who mistake Twitter for an invitation to repost their RSS feed, or to make PR-tinged statements designed to lure people to their own website, are missing the point. Instead of proving their merit through legitimate dialogue and adding value to the ongoing discussion, they believe disrupting that very discussion with a personal announcement — essentially, an ad amidst the content — will somehow be well-received by the participants.
Ask yourself this: who’s more likely to get your business as a wedding photographer — the person who takes great photos, is courteous and witty when approached, and engages you in conversation near the open bar, or the person who usurps the microphone during the best man’s toast to remind the guests that she offers discounts on bulk prints?
Like social media in general, Twitter is all about personality. If you don’t have one, don’t bother.