Stephen Baker

The Numerati
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How not to use Twitter

January 25, 2010Final Jeopardy

I have to disagree with Sean Nelson, who provides Twittering advice on Social Media Today (disclosure). His advice reads a bit like the social media snake oil I wrote about in my last BusinessWeek article. He seems to regard Twitter largely as a branding and broadcasting platform, and he pays almost no attention to the social dynamics.

His advice: For every month, prepare some 60 Tweets and release at least two a day. Follow lots of people, because they're likely to follow you back.

If you’re following 1,000 people and 800 are following you thats fine. Keep in mind that as you follow more people you’re going to have to remove those that do not follow you back to keep your ratio balanced.

What's missing here? Conversation. He says little about listening to the people he follows, or interacting with them. They're simply audience. All kinds of services exist where people can acquire Twitter audiences, or even buy them. But communication with all those people broadcasting to each other has scant value, because, chances are, they aren't listening either. Everyone's spamming.

For an experiment, I joined a service called a service called FastFollowers (since redubbed "Twiends"). I blogged about it. The result was that I got lots of followers, and none of them paid me the least bit of attention.

I'll confess, I started on Twitter two years ago with the intention of building an audience around my upcoming book. I was thinking largely along Sean's line. But the greatest value of Twitter, I found, is that you surround yourself with people who point to all kinds of interesting news, articles, photos, and ideas. And looking at it from a marketing point of view, if you follow people that you find interesting, good chance they'll listen to you.  

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