The Forgotten Purpose of Twitter

Please read the next three sentence slowly and thoughtfully:

Relationships can’t be measured.

Relationships can’t be quantified.

Relationships can’t be R.O.I.ed

I’m getting really weary of reading articles like this one that talk about the value of Twitter in terms of whether people click on them or “ReTweet” them as though they are a waste of time otherwise. So what if only 29% of tweets are “acted” upon and of those only 6% are “retweeted” or if 71% of tweets have a “shelf life” of one hour and get no “reaction?” They were never intended to be works of literature to last the ages. They were intended to be flashes of data sent out to those who might be watching and might be following who might find it interesting.

I’m on Twitter because I value relationship with people not geographically close to me. It provides a stream of humor, links, photos and information of a nature Facebook simply can’t.

Society has gotten obsessed with “making money” on Twitter. As one who DOES make money on Twitter – I still do not primarily see it as a money maker, nor is that WHY I am on Twitter. The money I make via Twitter is merely as a side benefit because of the increased presence my company has because of Twitter.

I know it works because as soon we launch a new Twitter account, sales will increase. Case in point, this week I launched the ToyBoxTales twitter account – but it proved all the “experts” wrong, as the account had NO click throughs and NO retweets (other than the few I did myself with other accounts) and yet sales spiked as soon as that account launched.

Should I write an eBook on making money on Twitter? No.

Quite the opposite. I think too many people are ONLY trying to make money on Twitter and have forgotten it original purpose. Yes, Twitter can be used for communicating resources and products you have that have been forgotten – get the word out there. Go for it!

But the vast majority of what I Tweet is just personal stuff – fun stuff – humorous things I experience, stuff I’d laugh with a friend about, things I find interesting, new blog posts, so I share with my “friends” that are following me, my friends all over the world. I allow Kidology folks (and anyone else for that matter) who wants to see the “man behind Kidology.org” a little more personally, to follow me on Twitter.

It backfires sometimes – they don’t like things I say politically sometimes, so I’ve chilled out there and set up a separate political Twitter account for that. (No, I won’t say what it is, you’ll just have to figure that out on your own, some have.)

But for all these articles that only measure Twitter success by click throughs and retweets:

THEY ARE WRONG. Twitter success is not limited to click throughs and retweets and “actions taken upon tweets.” This is near sighted and shallow thinking.

But, of course, it is because it is all they can measure. Think about it, if actions were all you could measure, why would anyone advertise in a magazine? You can’t click on a magazine ad? And I’ve advertised in a magazine and put a discount code or offer thinking that would give me measurement and gotten ZERO results – did that mean the magazine ad was useless? No. That would be faulty thinking too.

Magazine ads are visual advertising. They get your brand under the eyes of viewers. They get you into their consciousness. They say you are successful. They say you are innovative. Your message – if done well – will stick in their head and alter their thinking. It will cause reaction in your competitors. It works. And it pecks away at their misconceptions.

Twitter is the same way. People read them. Over and over they read about your company. They get to know you. They learn about you. They change their perception about you. As they interact with you, perceptions can change. As they DO click through they will gain insights into you, but even if they don’t, they see you making an effort to be relational – to reach out.

I also know as a user, I read over a hundred tweets a day (at least) and “act” on very few, but am influenced by many, and enjoy many – and have deepened many relationships as a result. Many of my friends I read daily, even if I don’t actually “talk” to them every day, I’m aware of what’s going on in their life. Often, as a Christian, I stop to pray for them. That’s an action that never makes a chart! But certainly impacts them!

Twitter works best when you focus on what you give TO it, not what you get FROM it.

You have to decide to contribute to it consistently. When you do that, in turn, you benefit. But otherwise, you are just a consumer or focused on results, and you’ll never be satisfied. When focused on what you can share and contribute – you enrich others and indirectly benefit as a result. I meet people all the time who let me know they enjoy my tweeter feed, and I’m always surprised because they have NEVER responded or retweeted. But the relationship is there nonetheless. That’s the key.

But as a business tweeter, here is another aspect to consider, if YOU click through, retweet, respond – if YOU are relational, then you show yourself to be relational, to care – to be engaged with your audience.

Twitter isn’t about click throughs and retweets. Twitter is about relationships.

It is about talking to your customers and to those who have an interest in you. Duh, that is why they choose to follow you – they have an interest in you at some level. It may be a one direction conversation for a long time – you talking at them, but talk. They are reading. Yes, they will miss a lot of your tweets, that’s the nature of the beast, but keep talking, keep tweeting. It’s like sending messages into space and hoping they get picked up someday. But the more followers you have – they DO get picked up, and read – and you ARE being read, even if no one “acts” on them.

So all these experts who measure effectiveness by click throughs and retweets – don’t listen to them, because you can’t measure relationships on action.

Imagine life before Twitter. YOU HAD NO WAY TO TALK TO THESE PEOPLE! Now you have a direct connection to their commuters, their cell phones, iPads and a growing number of other reading devices.

The purpose of Twitter isn’t to make money. It is to engage in a relationship with your friends, family — oh, and customers too. Keep it in that order.

Yes, you can make money. But if that is first, you will give up. Because you will be focused on that and will be disappointed and trying to make the numbers work – and the numbers won’t add up,

…because you can’t fit relationships into charts and graphs.

But if you focus on relationships, you will love Twitter! Because it connects you to PEOPLE every day, all over the world you share common interests with you. And then your company will get some benefit on the side.

It’s all about focus. Focus on People and Relationships and you will always come out ahead and satisfied.

Related: Why Twitter?

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10 Comments:

  1. This is exactly why I love Twitter…for the quick 140 characters that relate and connect me and all my cyber friends to the world….love it! Thanks for the great post!! Love your blog!

  2. Thanks Karl for tapping into the forgotten world of social media. Despite all the criticisms that twitter can get for causing people to not communicate, we sometimes forget that we can use it to create and maintain connections, so a relationship doesn’t have to fade away when the face-to-face is not possible. Thanks for reminding us of how we can focus.

  3. Yes, Twitter works best when you focus on what you give to it, not what you get FROM it. You have to decide to contribute to it consistently. When you do that, in turn, you benefit. But otherwise, you are just a consumer or focused on results, and you’ll never be satisfied. When focused on what you can share and contribute – you enrich others and indirectly benefit as a result. I meet people all the time who let me know they enjoy my tweeter feed, and I’m always surprised because they have NEVER responded or retweeted. But the relationship is there nonetheless.

  4. I think I would be able to contribute with more and better content if I had the tools to do so, such as an iphone or other smartphone. Txt tweeting on my little phone is too cumbersome, and by the time I get home the inspiration is usually gone. I like how you link photos to your tweets to show us what is going on in the moment. Keep up the great work!

  5. Twitter is a 140 character “snapshot” of a person or company. If I was bee-bopping through Red Robin with my camera and I spotted Karl and Glen having lunch, I’d snap a quick pick and label it something like “Kidmin Giants enjoy bottomless fries.” I’d file it in my album and smile when I see it. With Twitter, I have a written picture of what’s happening…and it still brings a smile, whether it’s someone having lunch at a favorite eatery, or a blessing someone had at church, or even a heads up about a great blog or article. And it’s all there in real time for everyone to enjoy. That is the value of Twitter.

  6. Twitter is a great but one thing seems to be a problem to me. That is when some of my fellow Twitter’s twitt and re-twitt extensively, causing many tweets from others to drop off of the first page. I seldom go further than the first page, so I miss some things. I have stopped following some Twitter’s just because many times they about filled up the front page with back-to-back Twitts, some useful and some not really. I wish Twitter could come out with a feature that made a folder for multiple tweeters. :) chirp chirp

  7. Great and insightful post. I would like to say a hearty “Amen!!”

    Randy

  8. Karl,
    Excellent reminder of the WHY we used Twitter in the first place. Connecting with like-minded people for relationship.
    Looking Up,
    Keith

  9. Twitter is constantly evolving and one description as of October, 2010 might be “information funnel” where the user is able to direct a flow of news and information from interest areas into their awareness. Varying levels of this funneling are potentially available depending on social connections. A user might focus on one particular news event or social group and maintain a constant vigil over any changes or someone could use their settings to receive and send a more generic data-stream, creating new social and business relationships. This type of use does not seem to be marketed by Twitter, but perhaps that is changing as this is being written. Nice article…especially pointing out that people were recently unable to create these new relationships. Oh, I did see a few days ago where Sarah Silverman was able to put out a need for a Nintendo game system and within a few hours a fan had provided one to her…so…nice to be a celebrity on Twitter, MUCH! She might have been testing a comedy bit though…which leads to discussion of the identity arena, another looming issue.

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