I’ve been using Twitter for a few months now(*), and I can’t imagine life without it. But I’m still not sure how I’ll want to use it in the long run. I see many people trying to get as many followers as possible and then using it as a glorified marketing tool (similar to RSS or email newsletters). I know ‘me marketing’ is hot, but the longer I think about it I believe these people will eventually kill Twitter. And I’m way too fond of it to let it die without a fight.
The way I see it there are three basic ways to use Twitter.
1. Inner circle only.
This is how I’m doing it right now. I follow a limited number of people, most of whom are either personal friends or Dutch WordPress experts. This keeps the number of incoming messages manageable, and I enjoy reading (and replying to) most of them. I can handle a few more, but I’ll probably never reach triple digits.
Other people put up a “follow me on Twitter” badge on their blog. And in their email signature. And on a bumper sticker. They have thousands of followers and mostly send out mostly uninteresting messages about their professional efforts. I’m sure there are benefits to being in the spotlight like this, but I’d feel really silly tweeting about what I had for lunch to thousands of total strangers. Getting a large following works best if you’re a celebrity or a well-known expert in your field. If you’re not, there’s options 3.
3. Total mayhem.
Most of the follow email notifications I get now are from users who not only have a huge following, but who also follow thousands of others. Probably because following someone back on Twitter is considered good karma. They expect me to follow them simply because them follow me. And they’ve done this to all their other followers too.
I can only imagine what their update list must look like. How can they possibly keep track of it all? My guess is most of them don’t. They probably don’t read most incoming tweets. They broadcast to their following and probably only read direct replies. And so do most of their ‘friends’. This totally bypasses the social element that makes Twitter fun and will eventually ruin the experience for this type of user. If not for all of us. The number of these type of ‘invites’ seems to be on the increase.
I’m becoming more and more certain that option 1 is right for me. I tweet about WP-Cumulus from time to time, but if you want to know about its development you’re way better off using this blog’s RSS feed. Twitter has been called the social media equivalent of a bar, and I like smaller, more intimate venues best. I might eventually even make my updates private to keep you from listening at the door. This is my inner circle. If you like shouting short messages to a football stadium full of people, be my guest. The arena is down the street.
* = Actually, I signed up once before, in March of 2007, but being an early adopter and trying to keep it ‘inner circle’ was no fun.