Why Twitter is Useless

I’ve given Twitter an honest effort, and am finally prepared to pass judgment: it’s ineffective for some people, and utterly useless for the preponderance of the population. Here’s why:

Time Suck 2.0

I can hear the cries now: “But there are some real gems posted on Twitter!” Sure there are, but how much detritus did you have to wade through to find those diamonds? For every compelling insight from a business leader or truly witty nugget in Exhibit A, Exhibit B has 7,423 cat-related tweets, 19,743 tweets about what someone ate for breakfast, 954,235 tweets lamenting Monday and/or celebrating Friday, and 6,278 tweets that are so deeply encoded with tweet-speak that no human actually understands them (#RT @patgrayjr #lol #failwhale http://a.b.cd.efg.net.com.is.not.so.gd/hHjh34x).

While you can certainly find an occasional needle in a haystack, I’d rather just pull one from a sewing kit.

The “great man” theory of the Internet

When I started on twitter I followed the Twitter 101 textbook, and listened to all the breathless admonishments that “you simply must follow [Guy Kawasaki/Jeff Pulver/Laura Fitton/Robert Scoble/twitter celeb du jour]!” While I enjoy reading articles and commentary from some of these folks, 160 character insights into every aspect of their life, delivered with an annoying beep or pop-up window every 6.34 seconds gets old really fast. Do I want to read an insightful article about effective presentations from one of these folks? Sure. Do I want to hear about the author’s bowel movements? Not so much.

But your customers are out there!

Most of us have been told our customers are lurking on twitter, dying to interact with the makers of their toothbrushes, autos, and favorite ice cream. “Get on twitter, and you’ll get a great view of your customers,” the pundits say. The problem is that twitter gives you a narrow, self-selected demographic. If the only customers you care about are young, tech-savvy, moderate to high wealth individuals who are obsessive, bored, or deranged enough to interact with you constantly, by all means, do your customer research on twitter. You’ll get a skewed and outlier view (funny how everyone on twitter is really mad, or really excited about nearly everything), but it’s worth about what you paid for it.

Where twitter can be powerful is pushing out promotions, early news about your company and products, or other “broadcast” style communications, but as a tool for market research and customer interaction, realize you’re working with a very narrow base.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t retweet at all

In addition to wading through cat tweets, the retweet feature further reduces twitter’s questionable value. Essentially, retweeting is just passing along the work of someone else, creating an electronic echo chamber that soon drowns out any semblance of value.

Why the twitteratti are so interested in making other people look smart eludes me, but in effect, by retweeting someone else’s work that’s all you’re doing. If you don’t have something original or compelling to say, silence may be far more golden than shining the spotlight on others.

So, should I care about twitter at all?

At the risk of sounding like a total curmudgeon, I won’t harp on the other entropy created by twitter, from the (thankfully dying) trend of “live tweeting” meetings and conferences, to that friend who can’t pry themselves away from diddling a digital device rather than participating in a live conversation. So is there any value to twitter?

If you’re shilling products, or what the cool kids call a “content creator,” twitter is one more channel to promote your stuff. Use it to push high-value content, and it may shine up your brand, or perhaps even entice someone to do business with you, but twitter is certainly not a business strategy (unless you’re a “social media consultant” who makes money tweeting all day, trying to convince companies to spend more time on twitter), and shouldn’t consume more than 3% of your day.

It may also fill some deep-rooted void with the illusory “personal connection” of following a famous CEO or celebrity, and if you want a twitter hobby in your spare time, be my guest. Just don’t kid yourself that those 6 hours you spent twiddling are any better than if they had been invested watching The Real Housewives of Peoria.

Now to go tweet about what I had for breakfast…

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  1. Thanks! I’ve had a Twitter account that I haven’t used at all, and this article gave me the impetus I needed to delete it.

  2. I think you are 100% right…period!
    And besides the software is way overpriced and after you purchase you have to buy 3 more software to make the original tweeter works.
    I am so convinced about your comments that I went ahead and asked for a refund -no questions asked.

  3. Just how much can one business tweet about a mop? How would people like to subscribe to the twenty tweets of a mop a day? People want free entertainments they go there. I don’t go there to look for products, I go to Amazon or Ebay, so what do those businesses think twitter is so great about promoting and selling their mops? You guessed it, pretty much nothing……

  4. The only thing I can find Twitter useful for is as a subscriber to texts for ongoing and changing events. I hate to say it, but Facebook is leaps above Twitter in user friendly intuitiveness and actually connecting me with people I want to interact with.

    (“I hate to say it” because Facebook has a boatload of drawbacks — start with privacy and go from there — but that is a different topic.)

    • Hi Scott,

      I agree that Facebook is better for true interpersonal interactions (and also scary for the reasons that you mention). Twitter seems to be going through the same evolution as blogging did a few years ago, generating massive hype and supposedly becoming “the next big thing” in marketing, and now being rather passee. It’s both interesting and troubling to watch these evolutions, that are too often disconnected from their historical precedent.

  5. Its weird, twitter is everywhere, however none of my friends (and I have lots of them) don’t use it at all, me included. What am I doing wrong? :)

  6. Thank you. Never had it. Never will. Hopefully, the rest of the world will realize how much time has been wasted “tweeting” (?). Leave that to the birds.

  7. Well said, DW. People go on encouraging me to get a twitter but I’ll never. I’ve seen people wasting their lives tweeting and tweeting over mundane things. Hours and Hours spent in front of the computer screen. (Don’t get me started on Facebook!) Seriously, get a life.

  8. I networked for 8 months as karenkingtarot and built up 900 followers it wasnt the be all but I would tweet some nice pics and obviously had my site details on my profile – the result was very little traffic, lots of freeloaders and one day the account was just suspended apparently over 100 saudis followed me in a short space of time, twitters automated system kicked in and suspended the account – after several attempts and considerable man hours spent trying to get it back – nothing. Everyrequest was met with an automated email after several attempts I realised my twitter business was gone on twitter and probably for the best, let be honest do u really want to build up thousands of followers to then be just automatically swtiched off because u have somehow contravened their limited and many rules you don’t quite understand, no thanks. I willnever use twitter again for anything let alone my business, its your life in their hands and what clumsy hands they are. The fact they watch how many follow u and if its too many they wipe u out limits any business and limits in business we do not need. The business I got from twitter was zero, the old tried and trusted advertising in real time and my own website bring in the business, twitter just wasted alot of my time and energy. Its not free the time u have to spend building up followers is immense and quite frankly just not worth it. Twitter is fine for those of you who have nothing better to do to further your business. Whilst you are concentrating on the global market you miss that which is in your home town and country. Its a gimmick to make money for those who own twitter. Spend your time on a more stable platform for your business x

  9. Thoroughly enjoyed your ranting.

    I hate Twiiter almost as much as I despise Facebook (Facebook’s only redeeming feature is it’s ability to connect with old friends & classmates).

    In addition, I’d like to add…Twitter has ZERO customer service. In a way I don’t fully understand, someone managed to have follow a measly 300 or so people. Tried to get help from Twitter…zip…zero…nada!

    I relish the idea of watching Twitter fade into obscurity.

    Did I mention I hate Twitter?

    Cheers :)

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