The Hyping of Twitter

Twitter is a social networking platform. Notice the word “social,” and that it precedes “networking.” Recently I’ve seen a lot of articles on  the relevancy of Twitter, how to make money on Twitter, how to judge your product marketing on Twitter, how to use those 140 characters for Search Engine Optimization, and how to be a “viral Twitter expert.”

Sign posted on Jayzooz (J. Campbell)'s website

Sign posted on Jayzooz (J. Campbell)'s website

Quit trying to make Twitter into a hyper-relevant marketing tool worth controlling, managing and becoming the major part of your business plan. Twitter is not going to make you sales because you want it to, no matter how often you Re-Tweet your own posts under another name.

Are we a culture so obsessed with consumerism that we can not, for one minute, have fun? Does every mild social chat have to have a business plan?

Please, for the gullible among you–no one can “make” your tweet, blog, or YouTube video “go viral.” It’s a phenomenon that happens when a lot of people like the same thing and pass it around. So far, it can’t be planned or forced. Don’t believe people who tell you they are so in touch with the zeitgeist that they control how “viral” works.

Even the Twitterati are obsessed. I don’t mean the “internet marketing experts” who follow you and when you click on their sites to see who they are, immediately send you a “free” link that demands registration and giving up personal information. No, I mean seemingly normal people on Twitter who are focused on getting 1,000 or 10,000 followers.

If you don’t know Twitter, you can’t possibly sensibly read that many posts, even with the Twitter dashboard to organize it for you. This is the virtual equivalent of crazy cat ladies collecting 47 cats and not neutering them.

Gathering a huge list of followers may be an ego thing, it could be an obsessive action of people who have no life, but I really think it is triggered by the part of our brain that is senselessly competitive. You know, the part that doesn’t want to win because they have trained and practiced, but rather the one that wants to win to make someone else lose. It’s the same part of your brain that tells you watching “The Real Housewives of [fill in some city here]” is culturally important.

The kids who fanatically collected Beanie Babies grew up and are now collecting “Follows” on Twitter and “Friends” on Facebook. It’s a game. It is not about knowing people or caring about them. It’s about numbers.

Shortly, these people will become your boss and raise your sales goals. If you are a writer, they will raise your words-per-hour, but insist you make all your emails no more than 140 characters long.

So all you analysts our there–stop trying to figure out how to make money from Twitter. Stop calling yourself an SEO expert and Web 2.0 marketing expert just because you spend 21 hours a day on Twitter and consider it your social life.

Some things in life are just better for being uncomplicated. Twitter is like standing in line in a supermarket. A slice of life passes you by, mentioning things. The guy in the net undershirt and inked arm-sleeves walks by, flexing to be admired. The cute chick in the Daisy Dukes walks by, working it hard for raised eyebrows. A couple holding coffee cups and a basket of  whole grain discusses locovore diets and slow food. A mom explains why the sugary cereals are at kids-eye-level to her 10-year old. Snatches of conversation, posing, preening, explaining, helping, all flow by. It’s not a whole life, but it can be interesting. It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s short and it’s a form of communicating that doesn’t allow for background, details, or much analyzing.

Let’s not try to frame it as an intellectual pursuit or a brilliant marketing tool. Social networking is not really any of that. The people posting a good read or a good lunch are just documenting their life as a form of communication. Let’s not become the snake-oil shil at the travelling circus and claim it’s a cure-all for the new economy. The economy collapsed because of greed, because we built one bubble after the next. The economy needs meaningful communication, problem solving skills, creativity and imagination. Maybe we can overhear snatches of information on Twitter, but it’s not the answer all by itself.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach who teaches people how to write for business and for themselves.