Posted by: Mike Whitmore | May 12, 2010

Twitter Becoming Anti-Social

I’m sure you’ve seen this pattern before, but please share your experiences.

In Seattle there is an IT tech group that consists of professional practitioners. In fact, there are chapters similar to this group throughout the US. The original intent was to bring knowledgeable IT resources together to present and discuss trends, solutions, opportunities and threats, build connections and share ideas within the tech community. The group became influential and gathered many of the top CTO’s, CIO’s and other IT business leaders from the area on a regular basis.

Then, over time, it happened…

As staffing, tech, IT and solutions vendors realized their prime sales contacts were all gathered regularly in one place the vendors started sending their reps to troll the events. It was easy to spot the sales-types from the technical professionals because the sales folks were handing out business cards faster than a Blackjack dealer in Vegas. This behavior by the vendors spoiled the events for the participants and, ultimately, even for the vendors themselves as the events were attended by more sales people than the clientele they were pursuing.

Another example of this type of behavior is when The Beatles stopped touring in 1966 in large measure because the band could not hear themselves playing over their fans screaming. (See http://bit.ly/daHF80) The fans themselves not only spoiled the event for the band, but for all the fans as well.

Now there’s a new study released just this week about Twitter, one of the quintessential Social Media platforms, becoming decidedly anti-social. (See http://bit.ly/bfjiSq)

The study convincingly illustrates how Twitter is becoming more of a broadcast news outlet than a social network and supports this premise upon several factors.

  1. Instead of 2-way connections and conversations Marketers are pushing their messaging.
  2. Only 22% of Twitter Follower/Following relationships are reciprocal and
  3. Many tweets themselves are merely pushing timely or newsworthy events rather than carrying on a conversation.

Will Twitter become so infested with tweeple pushing sales & marketing messages that the users will ultimately kill the service?

This would be an unfortunate outcome, but the momentum is decidedly in that direction. And yes, I’ve been guilty of the same behaviors myself and have added to the problem.

Can we fix it?

I don’t know. But I believe Twitter itself is aware of these trends. Users who tweet too frequently or send out too many links are often muted by Twitter (and in many cases they don’t realize they have been muted). Accounts with too much Follower/Following churn are suspended and we all know of the senseless spammers out there. So Twitter has Terms of Use that are helping.

Some additional ideas that might help:

  • One thing you can do to change this trend is converse “more” and broadcast “less.” Don’t blast tweets constantly about your company products or services or about your MLM expertise.
  • An astounding idea – follow back people who follow you. Why are you so picky when they weren’t? (See my thoughts on Following Back http://bit.ly/8tBjwP)
  • Don’t set up auto DM’s that pollute the environment. Go Green, I say, and don’t litter Twitter with spam DM’s. Experienced users don’t like them or trust the links within them.

Twitter can become social again and we can change the trend. If we don’t then Twitter will soon go the way of AM Radio or Newspapers and the only people tuning in will be the pitchmen.

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Responses

  1. I think that providing both solutions is an advantage for Twitter. Let me explain : Twitter is a really fast medium to share conversations or ideas with friends but it is also the quickest way to see what happens over the internet. For instance, I’m following you (Harok_Seb) or Adobe and it’s always interesting to learn more about different subjects.
    The real problem is the “overkill”. I have a friend who spams his life on Twitter (I want to to buy this or that, I will eat this…) and a someone else who sends almost 50 messages /day about website templates…

    • You’re right and you’ve hit on an excellent point a lot of Tweeps overlook, namely that Twitter is a powerful search engine for real-time conversations. That can be very useful is managed well and conversational etiquette is followed.

      Now I’m not any better than other Twitter users as I blast one-way messages and news stories and blog posts too (!!), but I hope I can improve my behaviors and encourage others to do the same. 🙂

  2. This is exactly what I’ve been exploring during my first week on Twitter. And it’s related to the topic of how social media is driving a merge between our personal lives and our professional lives, I think. Should I tweet about yoga and dancing, which are part of my life, or will these tweets dilute my ‘official,’ professional tweets? Maybe this is just a newbie struggling to find her voice…But observing the tweets as they go by, there seems to be a fairly clear distinction between “I’m on Twitter cause I have to be for my job” and “I’m on Twitter cause I want to connect and engage and I’m just going to be myself”…. And maybe in practice many of us are somewhere in the middle of this spectrum…
    OK, gotta run and send a tweet about what I had for breakfast with a link to the latest article about Flash vs HTML5!

  3. Wow, your blog is so timely for me as well. I’ve been trying to drink from the firehose of tweets from the rather large group I’m following, and musing about how to keep up with the people I really want to learn from, while skimming over the auto-bots and Foursquare checkins. I almost wish there were a way to segregate my feed into “people whose Tweets I want to read” and “people I’m giving a courtesy followback.” I know you can use lists to sort a bit, but I find them a bit cumbersome.

    How are you dealing with it, are you using lists a lot?

    • Hello Rosemary, I use Tweetdeck to manage my followers. Have you tried any of the Twitter interfaces such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite? It definitely helps to use lists as well, but I’m not as active of a list user as I could be. One other idea is to use RSS feeds for Tweeps when you don’t want to miss a single tweet from them. An RSS feed will capture them all for you.

  4. Thanks for the RSS idea…I might give that a try! I’m using HootSuite (and I love it), but I haven’t taken the time to put lists together. I guess I have to pour a giant cup of coffee and just do it 🙂

  5. I completely agree about no auto direct messages. I typically follow people that are either directly related to my interests or engage with me. I keep my process simple.

  6. […] are killing the service by making it less enjoyable to use. The title of the post is “Twitter Becoming Anti-Social” and I suggest reading Mike’s possible solutions. What I love most about this post is […]

  7. Interesting article. I completely agree with your observations. In my opinion the biggest problem is actually Twitter itself which I don’t think is helping, and if anything, makes it worse.

    How else would you explain Twitter Jail? A punishment for *people* – not marketers – who ‘talk’ too much. Twitter could very easily change this so only marketers – people who send links – would be affected, but they chose not too from some inexplicable reason.


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