This post has been sitting in draft for nearly 2 weeks now. It’s been added to and written about in different moods and moved around and pondered upon. It may not make cohesive sense but it’s time to bite the bullet and publish!!!
Obviously, the blog post title, like the cake, is a lie. I do care about Twitter, having used the service almost daily for over 2 years but sometimes you just have to let things out. Fair warning, this is just a grumpy rant – not necessarily a coherent argument – about the tool, just my feelings about it, so don’t let it put you off.
So where is this coming from? Primarily from reading lots of posts and tweets over the last few weeks that tries to define and argue about the ‘right’ way to use Twitter. Now, the common sense thing for me to do with this information is ignore it, to not care about it, but as I’m ranting about it in person at the moment, I thought I’d share it with the blog.
It started with a simple tweet exchange between me and Jeremy:
rachelclarke: sometimes, I think I’m doing Twitter all wrong. well, at least all different. Then remember I can use it how the hell I like!!!
jeremywright: @rachelclarke – shhhhhhh
rachelclarke: @jeremywright why? I want to SHOUT it. There’s NO right or wrong. I don’t have to follow you. I don’t have to say anything interesting,
jeremywright: @rachelclarke – And then it’ll be CHAOS! CHAOS I tell you!
rachelclarke: @jeremywright ahhh. understand now. I’ll go and whisper over here then :-p
Which sort of summarises my feelings about it. I look at lots of ‘experts’ and they all seem to be trying to tell me how to use Twitter, but how I, and you, use it is up to ourselves. So the first ‘I don’t care’. Which is I don’t care how you think I should use it, I’ll carry on using it the way that suits me.
Then there was another conversation over at Tris Hussey’s blog. where I came to the conclusion that not only do I dislike auto-DMs on a follow, but I dislike thankyou tweets in general. As I said in a comment, if someone thanks you after you follow them, doesn’t that mean that you have done them a favour? That they owe you something for following them. Here, the issue is that in my personal use of Twitter, I don’t look on the action of following me as a favour to me. I follow people for the benefit that I obtain from it, the ambient intimacy from friends, the chance of entertainment, the weird stalkiness bit of following the odd celebrity. So I assign the same rational to people who want to follow me. Don’t thank me for following you and don’t expect thanks back – and yes, I know how grumpy, selfish and non-altruistic this sounds but I use Twitter for me, not for ‘my community’ nor yours.
Celebrities on Twitter are interesting and provide endless entertainment – and not just because of the tweets from the celebrities. There’s at least 2 kinds of celebrity on the site, the internet famous and the real world famous. In the former category you can put people like @scobleizer, @chrisbrogan and @kevinrose. In the latter you have people like @wossy, @stephenfry and @mrskutcher (Demi Moore). But with both types, you can get an unfortunate set of fanboy behaviour, where almost every tweet is addressed to one or more of these celebrities, as people look for attention. Now, I do jollow a few of these and have answered a few of their queries but try and keep the cyberstalking to a minimum.
A few Friday night’s ago, Twitter in the UK was a source of endless entertainment as Fry and Ross discussed the service (briefly) on the TV – which led to further mentions on the BBC news and more newspaper articles. And then on Something for the Weekend and the radio and The One Show and lots of other programmes. This seemed to be a source of endless glee to many or a threat of doom and the end of the service. The odds of that happening is pretty low – and what seemed to be missing by many is that it does not matter how many people joined the service they can be completely ignored. Twitter is a permission based system, you don’t have to see anything unless you want to.
As Twitter goes through these periodic bursts of popularity and growth – and believe me, it’s now pretty mainstream in the UK – I keep being followed by people I don’t know. The odds of me following you back are pretty low at this point in time – see earlier post about why. But expectations of the ‘audience’ can be pretty high, as these tweets show:
Girlonetrack: Someone’s informed me they’ve unfollowed because I didn’t reply to their @. News: I get a LOT of @ s. Also: I have a life. Sorry about that.
gapingvoid: @1938media Somebody just sent me an a LONG email EXPLAINING why they’re unfollowing me on Twitter. Too funny…
There’s a whole bunch of people on the service now who use it to self-promote, not just celebrities who do tend to post ‘real stuff’ even if they are being followed by 10s of 1000’s, too many to interact with, but social media experts, SEO experts, sales guys etc, all jumping on a service that is hot and has proven success in increasing audience and relevance. Of course, what they forget is that for most people, they get that influence over a long period, not by joining and immediately following 2000 people.
There’s a lot of baffling behaviour out there, that can confuse, astound and amaze people who’ve been around for a while.
I go private, I still get a whole bunch of requests from a) social media idiots who appear to want to follow me because other people follow me, and b) people I don’t know who want to follow me in, presumably, a business sense, but don’t seem to have twigged that the danhon account is private for a reason – it’s about my personal life
A friend joined, and I noticed that his entire following list was of famous people with the exception of about 3 actual friends. Hehas a bit of a public profile, so to be honest, I looked in on what he was saying and didn’t bother following it up. The only “@” tweets in his list were replies to people he didn’t really seem to know. I haven’t seen a single message to an actual friend, about anything. And I realised that @StephenFry is the same. Isn’t that weird?
Now of course, their views are just as wrong – or right – as anyone else’s. That’s the joy about Twitter. It does not matter how you use it as long as how you use it matters to you. Join in, have fun, follow and @ and tweet about your breakfast, being stuck in a lift or how boring everyone else is. Post your affiliate links or your SEO guidelines or or your endless stream of links to blog posts or your blip lyrics or your Magpie ads or whatever else you want. I don’t care. You all have your reasons for using it as I have mine, just please don’t expect them to tally 😉
Spot on – sick and tired of blog posts offering 10 ways to increase your followers as if that was the holy grail of Twitter – to have more followers than anyone else – excellent post.
Rachel – I completely agree with you. While there are elements of etiquette for communicating through any medium, these are generally common sense and are standards that have developed over time to aid in comprehension and acceptance of what is being said or written. But to your point, the beauty of portals such as Twitter or other web-based communication platforms is that they become whatever we want them to be – not guided by a strict set of rules that others try to enforce. If Twitter is to survive in the long run, we need to be free to make it our own and continually find new ways to use it.
To your point as well, it is permission-based. Frankly if someone isn’t interested in how another uses Twitter, then they can opt-out.
Having agreed with much of what you say… BUT had a great ‘thank you’ experience today from the eConsultancy team. I commented following their link post this morning but the comments engine wouldn’t accept my post. So I told them about it [have a sneaking suspicion that I did this 2 weeks ago too] and they tweeted back that they were working on it and thanked me for pointing it out.
I copied and saved my comment on notepad.
Later this afternoon they DM me to say it’s fixed. I go back to the site and find they ahve already posted up my comment (liked that).
And then back on Twitter the PR lady, customer service geek and the MD all separately Tweet a thank you to me, publicly.
I’m not even a customer!!!
“don’t expect them to tally” Neat summary.
Rachel, this is BRILLIANT. I have been *massively* annoyed by people who either tell me how I or others should be using Twitter or by people who have been miffed because I don’t follow them back! I’ve also got annoyed by people complaining about certain ‘celebs’ joining Twitter. “Now that so-and-so has joined, I don’t think Twitter is the kind of place I want to be.” Er… just don’t follow those celebrities. And if you’re terribly annoyed by people you follow who choose to @ those celebs, then unfollow those people!
There’s no compulsion in Twitter. The brilliance of it is that anyone can make it what they want it to be…
Again, this is brilliant. x
The way jugglers describe what they’re doing doesn’t help other people learn it. They don’t focus on the balls, they don’t focus on their movements. They unfocus. A learned state of consciousness. (I stole this quote from Stowe Boyd) http://bit.ly/3I8V0C
I agree about auto DMs and ‘thank you for the follow’ tweets.
Personally it did take me a little bit of time to get used to not being followed back by certain people I followed- but I’m fine with this now. Peoples feeds are theirs to choose and if I really want to talk to them I can always send an @. Which is why it now really annoys me when I get followed by someone and loose them a week later seemingly as I chose not reciprocate. Now I don’t mind loosing their follow- but it does make me think that they only pick up friends to bulk up their following list which is egotistical and negates so many of the ways twitter can be useful and interesting.
Hear hear Rachel. Although isn’t all this relatively self-evident? I don’t particularly get annoyed by people who follow me then de-follow me a week later since it’s usually obvious that they’re literally trawling for followers. (My username is unfortunately near the top of the alphabet)
OYG! It was great to read this! This is how I use Twitter. I am not crazy. I do not have brain cancer. Thank you for proving my doctors wrong! lol
And thanks for the RT @giagia!
This is most informing. I know not much about Twitter so I try to use it for the blogging aspect. Much of what you say is true and interest. I have only been using the service for less than a week and was unsure of how it work. I did see someone on here complaining that he keeps loosing follwers. So what? It does not matter.
Thank you all for the comments, really appreciate them. It’s an interesting phenomenon, this whole Twitter thing, the fact that it can create such passion on people, me included. In a way, the rant about how I don’t care how others use it is just as polarising as a rant by someone who really does care. I can see the irony. I also see the irony that the reason most of the comments are is because I used Twitter to tell people about the post. 😉
A few comments back
@Marie F “Personally it did take me a little bit of time to get used to not being followed back by certain people I followed- but I’m fine with this now.” To be honest, I do get a twinge of ‘why don’t they follow me’, I think it’s pretty much a basic human nature, but I get over it quickly!
@almost witty. I get this as well, as I’m have an early id number so high on many lists. I tend to ignore them.
@Charles. agree about the followers. It’s the same model about blogs and traffic, but here you – and everyone else – can see actual numbers which brings out the game/competitive element.
@Olaf Legend Keep going with Twitter. I always advise people to start slow, follow a few they know (and now you can add a few celebrities as well) and just play with the service. Don;t dive in a follow loads!
Really good post Rachel. There are no rules really. That’s the truth and anyone who says otherwise is a pompous fool!!!