Twitter isn’t artful, it isn’t deep, it is sometimes even silly, but it certainly can be powerful. Many people I run into in my travels don’t seem to get it.
This Techcrunch article entitled, “Why I don’t Use Twitter” has motivated me to blog on this concern of mine. Forget for a moment that someone who admits he doesn’t use it is criticizing it and lets look at a few arguments he makes against Twitter (and I’ll expand it to the broader microblogging movement) that really are shared by many.
- A 140 character message is trivial
- A 140 character message is abridged
- It isn’t elegant
- Indiscriminate broadcasts
Certainly there must be something to Twitter and Microblogging or people wouldn’t do it, right? Each medium has it’s pros and cons and you can choose the wrong medium for a message. So when is microblogging the right medium? Mass awareness and mass coordination. I’ve posted on this before but I’ll expand on it by addressing the above arguments.
A 140 character message is trivial. Triviality is in the eyes of the beholder. My wife certainly has taught me that exchanging what might seem like trivial information can be strong bonding glue for a relationship. Since a large value proposition for blogging (and microblogging) is mass relationship building, it makes perfect sense that Twitter is used in this fashion. Celebrities with fans are a great example. I may not care about every move Ashton Kutcher makes but obviously many do and it makes them feel closer to him. Bonding is what some of this is all about and knowing the trivial can be intimate. Now if we move away from the personal and get to the professional realm there are many examples of non-trivial use that are not the exception but the rule. Here are but a few;
“The fire is now moving at 25 MPH in a southeasterly direction”
“Refugees at the X camp are now down to 100 gallons of fresh water”
“Spotted ~10 enemy at hill 203 armed with automatic weapons and an RPG”
“Just published my findings on the ROI for Social Media Solutions see [link]”
“TechCrunch Blogger Devin Coldewey doesn’t get Twitter see [link]. Do you? See [link]”
“My father passed away yesterday. Funeral Tuesday 9AM @ Sacred Heart”
“Google Stock up 3%, execute Plan B”
A 140 character message is abridged and It isn’t elegant There is a place for artfulness and a place for depth. Microblogging isn’t it. It is for expediency and breadth. This reminds me of a personal story. I’ll never forget when as a young USMC Captain I was briefing a 2 star general and man I was waxing eloquent when he stopped me and said, “Don’t tell me what you want to tell me, tell me only what I want to know.” He had no desire for my artfulness but wanted me out of his office as fast as possible. A rough but important lesson. Micorblogging is for making people aware not imparting an understanding (which is why all this is in my blog not a steady stream of tweets). Elegance is a luxury in the information age when the sheer volume of information is unmanageable. If I can get 50 carefully selected Tweeters to filter that morass for me then I’ll take abridged any day. If I want elegance I’ll pick up Emily Bronte.
Indiscriminate broadcasts If you think microblogging (and Twitter) is indiscriminate broadcasting then you really don’t get it. It is the opposite of broadcasting. It is not a distribution, it is a collective. I don’t broadcast anything. I tweet and those that are interested collect around my tweets. Unlike my e-mail distribution list, with microblogging I don’t decide who receives my messages. The reader decides if my messages are worth reading. That is a very, very, very big difference and the distinction between a distribution and a collective. If I’m a bad microblogger and I post messages that are unnecessarily trivial then you can stop following me and NEVER see another message from me.
The potential goes on and on when you think of the value in terms of mass awareness and mass coordination. If you think of microblogging as a way to artfully impart deep insights then you are going to be disappointed just like you would be if you wanted to pack up and move your 4 bedroom house in a Mini Cooper.
What do you think?
BTW, my Twitter name is bradleyanthonyj in case you want to know what I had for lunch 🙂
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