According to “Experts” – Normal Communication Is Dead?


Experts abound on the Internet. Anyone who can spell social media or networking seems to somehow be an authority these days. We have looked at powerful PR firms who claimed to be experts, and obviously were not, so it seems fair to cast some light in the other direction as well. I was reading some news from Web 2.0 Journal entitled “PR, Social Media and the Non-Profit”, when it struck me that Twitter and micro-blogging has already affected the minds and methods of their users negatively. In short, Twitter has targeted that part of the cerebral cortex that controls laziness, and which is most commonly associated with idiocy.

In the aforementioned article, the author proclaims Facebook and Twitter the quintessential tools for publicists. Directing her public relations clients to these social networks, and chastising any firm that does not, this “would be” expert appears to have lumped 3 or 4 Tweets into an article. Finally, the author throws out an open ended “carrot” to the unsuspecting reader by implying that journalists will only use Twitter in the future for news and articles. Holy Toledo!

Yes, there are thousands of journalists on Facebook and Twitter. However, for anyone who has been immersed in social networks, following or being followed “friended” is one thing, while engaging requires much more than simply being there. Every social network suffers the same dilemma in this respect. From StumbleUpon to Digg and on to Facebook and Twitter, being a listed as in the human race (or on a network) means little as far as engagement is concerned.

Social Media Communications

Speculation about Twitter’s effectiveness is no less nebulous for the Web 2.0 famous either, as an article on Tim O’Reilly’s Radar implies. In this story, the author has called basically some hearsay and unsupported numbers nothing less than a case study. I don’t know about you, but believing, even when confronted with experts like O’Reilly, would seem to require more than an unsupported opinion. A quote from another supposed PR/Twitter expert, pretty much conveys the same “simple” mentality somehow engendered in every Twitter “wanna-be”.

“If you’re “following” and interacting with a bunch of smart people, you will learn more stuff; you will be “in the know” before peers, competitors, and clients. You’ll get first dibs on the coolest Web 2.0 applications.”

What is wrong with this statement? Well, for one thing, it assumes that Twitter is some kind of looking glass into the psyche of the intelligent. In reality, Twitter is far more a fad, and a conduit for the already famous, than it is a real way to learn much of anything except how to use Twitter to holler into the night. Ask yourself one question here if you are a Twitter aficionado; “Just how many times has my company, or my family benefitted from ANY interaction with even the most brilliant follower(ee)?” I know people who’s middle name should be “RT”, who have yet to accomplish anything tangible save being “known” on Twitter.

The above author is so far out on a limb it is funny. I will let the reader figure out who these people are, but this display of “birdy butt kissing” by a notable PR firm just irritates me. The article goes on to suggest that everyone on Twitter is just dying, or desperately needs to know what Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb is up to on Twitter. Madre De Dios! Marshall is up to the same thing we all are, he is doing analysis and writing, and he wants people to see his work. Shift Communications, ooops, I said it, must need a story on RWW pretty bad.

Somehow people seem convinced that everyone on the planet can somehow deeply benefit from using these services. Few out there really have much negative to say about Twitter if you do not know this already. But, there are those pointing to its ultimate demise. I do not think most serious PR firms regard the service as anything more than something to “be seen” on, and without mentioning names, I know for a fact that very few CEO’s even bother to do more than play with it in their spare time. In my view, betting time and money on something so fragile, is just not good business sense.

Okay, I hate Twitter! What I hate even more is how an abbreviated conversation has always ruled the Internet. Okay, if we were all capable of telepathy, instantaneously understanding everyone and everything, perhaps 140 characters over coffee or a beer would make sense. But then, if we were that smart we would not need Twitter would we? In my small little mind I wonder how people, having watched 1000 social startups rise and fall, cannot imagine what happens to their time, and in the end money, when Joost, Friendfeed, and soon Twitter fall by the wayside.

If someone out there has some numbers on hours spent, over numbers of users (or dollars) gained from using Twitter, please enlighten me. Until then, I will maintain a residual presence like so many others do. If the thing turns into a gold mine for our clients, I expect we can catch up quickly given our experience. In fact, my partner in all things in life, is somehow enamored with this tool too. One side of her hates it, while the other cannot keep her busy, brilliant little fingers off Twitter Fox. Having a brilliant partner has its advantages, but I will just follow her around the office or house, that way I am not limited to 140 characters, I get at least 200 characters in edge wise. :)

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  1. says

    Twitter is much like coffee – some can do without it whereas others extol its virtues and inbibe frequently, some needing more frequent hits than others. It can become an addictive habit for some who will defend it and find advantages to justify themselves. Coffee comes in many flavours and types, instant and real, black and white ….. Twitter seems to cater for all sorts of variations too. They both give an instant hit of satisfaction. As for usefulness – the jury is still out even as far as coffee is concerned. I am waiting for a green tea type Twitter.

    • Phil Butler says

      Exactly Sue, 35 million people doing anything can be construed to be useful, but I often wonder what more those 35 million could do with the time spent? Maybe I am too philosophical, I just do not see a big gain in using this past passively. Everyone is saying; “Well Phil, if you do not commit 200 hours, you will not get the gain!” I do not see all that many people becoming millionaires lest they be off of Twitter and on a cruise without even their cell phones.

      Maybe the value is in just chatting or maybe even feeling like something is being accomplished because a celebrity is using it? I can actually do without it all together. Even if you are the only person who reads this blog, that is enough to keep writing on it. Thankfully, some people do still read. As for the Twitter mentality, I think most people there would as soon just grunt and be grunted back at.


  2. UberDragon says

    I consider myself well versed in my industry, I can tell you I’ve most certainly learned new things from my interaction with Twitter Users – and based on responses so have many of my followers :)

    • Phil Butler says

      Hi Uber, After the smoke of the little discourse here clears, I find myself in a more jovial mode, so excuse my tongue in cheek attitude now please. I am wondering if learning via Twiiter involves gleaning untold mysteries from the suggested symbolism of the 140 characters, or if this method involves stringing together a multiplicity of 140 character outputs to form a more coherent meaning? LOL

      Given your most recent post about SpyMaster, I now realize this learning machine may have been enhanced by the popular killing game. I am a level 3, and I have learned that the more time I waste assassinating people and visiting safe houses, the more people add me as friends. :)


  3. says

    Disclosure: I am Twitter addict.

    I think you have it all wrong. Twitter is a tool. Just like press releases are a tool. You would never do a campaign for a client and just send out press release after press release. You’d be out there contacting reports, running contests, etc (depending on your clients needs).

    As long as a business is using Twitter to actually communicate with their customers or potential customers, they should be out there using it. Burying your head in the sand, does not change what’s going on out there. Having every tweet be a link also is not a good idea. Twitter isn’t there for self promotion either. However, when done right, great things can happen.

    I have seen the Twitter community in the last couple of months help people in need. Search for the #maddie and #eric hashtags to see what I am talking about.

    • Phil Butler says

      Lisa, In those cases, I stand corrected of course. I guess I was thinking long term or in cases where PR firms use it. Well, to be honest, any network has its positives. As I said, my partner Mihaela uses it pretty extensively. So far however, I have not seen any major utilization. A couple of promises, and a fond howdey do, but too chaotic and limited as a platform for discourse. I respect your opinion as a superb social networker as you know. Like I said to others, I may be wrong. If I am not, I guess the next great thing will suffice to work for all of us. :)

      Thanks Lisa. I am glad even our closest friends have varied opinions, this is how we get to the truth of things. Wow, I have never been all wrong :(


  4. Lars G. Teigen says

    After all this hype about Twitter, it’s only wise to be a bit cynical about it. Like many other services that have crossed the chasm, they follow the same path: mass-media embraces them. They like new technology that is easy to understand and is being adopted by the early majority. This gives them an opportunity to write several bullish articles with arguments for how it will change everything and why you should start using it now.

    After a while and with the help of critical voices like yours, it will find its place in the minds of those who find real benefit from it. A lot of people will use Twitter eventually, but it may not live up to all the hype.

    I personally think that Google Wave will be a fierce competitor to Twitter.

    About personal value for me. I use it to get recommendations from people. A kind of social filtering and recommendation system from a more collegial network of people compared to Facebook. Remember, Phil – I found you and hired your company through Twitter:)

    • Phil Butler says

      No you did not! I found you, when you and your colleagues invented something extraordinary. I was fascinated by it, endeared to it, as one of the earliest examples of what was possible, feasible and refined for what would become Web 2.0. Unfortunately, Web 2.0 led to the current state of affairs. Fortune did not always favor the true innovators, or the true visionaries. Secondbrain, like a very few other unique and fascinating endeavors, somehow got behind in a game destined to be won by the monied, or the click, or by the most idiotic and rudimentary examples of what is possible.

      You hired out company because somehow, intuitive people seek out others engendered with the same spirit. People who want to create or see created something profound. This, you, and a few other extraordinary examples of “what might be”, is in part my reason for disliking Twitter or Facebook, even MySpace. All of these, decent ideas in a world where we need superlative ones. So, if anyone has an inkling of a doubt at this point, either they should write me off as some idealistic dinosaur, or accept the fact that some people take it all in, and occasionally see what should be.

      Twitter. Well, history will tell this story. If I am wrong, no one will remember. If I am right, and live to breathe, I may just spend my old age visiting their every move hollering; “Who’s the visionary now?” :) Seriously Lars, thanks for coming to comment, as a real visionary (even if still awaiting your reward) amid the fortunate and the ill supported. The game is still afoot my friend, and I have no doubt that you and my small throng of friends will prevail at some length. What more can I say, probably a lot as you know me and profunditity. Just know, that a few truly knowing what is in a man’s heart, is a far greater thing than 10,000 followers tagging along for the ride.

      Always, your friend and admirer,


  5. Kristen Nicole says

    I understand both sides of the argument, and I admit Twitter isn’t the best way for a PR person to reach me–it hasn’t become the primary channel for communication in my personal or professional life.

    I also think your title is funny, Phil. I imagine “normal” communication will always evolve and merely be a reflection of current social trends.

    • Phil Butler says

      Kristen, I agree with you always, you know that. Heck, I may need a story sometime, so what can I do but agree? :) Seriously, there are always two sides, I just worry that these arguments are getting one sided and people in the middle will be delude. So there, you discovered my motivation. See, I do have a vested interest. The forward motion of the human genome. :) Thanks for your opinion K, as always, one of the movers in the technology world.


  6. Brendan says

    Twitter is a tool – not a necessary one – but a tool that if used correctly, can be of use to a PR Firm … for the time being. That is not to say it will be of use forever, nor is it the only route a PR firm can take. Anyone who says otherwise is setting themselves up for some serious disappointment down the line.

    • Phil Butler says

      Brendan, thanks for your input. I too hate the thought of 35 million people meptying their pockets to find only lint balls. Twitter and others may yet surprise me and the world. For me, dragging out my long winded observations here and in other select places will have to suffice until they give me a TV show. Heaven forbid that ever happens, it would be funny though, to watch and old linebacker do a Terry Tate on neahsayers :)


  7. Deborah says

    There’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t run across at least several articles touting how fantastic Twitter is. It’s as though nearly everyone is mesmerized by it and believe that it will further their branding and income.

    My experience on any social site has proven (to me) that one has to be dedicated into investing a lot of time and effort on a daily basis to have any impact whatsoever. Even then, support from ‘friends’ is far from what you invest for others.

    I’m really not in love with Twitter, or microblogging of any sort for that matter. There is only so much time in a day, so one has to choose their 1 or 2 social sites that they invest their time into for it to be of any consequence IMO.

    • Phil Butler says


      Thanks so much gal. It is cool to have friends who live in the same trenches, work for better things, and try to send out the right messages, in the same ways we do here. I am not in this to put people down as you well know. History has proven that blindly following things like Twitter often leads to, well, at least disappointment. As you well know, the term friend is far too loosely applied on social networks. Like you, some days we engage or react to others at a factor of 10 times, more than we are supported.

      Also, Twitter, from my latest evaluation, is effectively the death of the greatest tool of Web 2.0 in many instances. The blog has been the most powerful tool we have seen on the Internet. Unfortunately, as you so well know, it can be a time sucking vampire for the dedicated enthusiast. With the proper methods though, every person can have a great voice in any debate. Micro-blogging is an attempt to abbreviate this, and it will not work. But, people become lazy, or at best over worked. I know from real experience, and I will not mention names, that so many superb bloggers have neglected their blogs in favor of this madness.

      Again, as always Deb, thanks for being a real friend, and for not just saying what people want you to say.


  8. Mihaela Lica says

    For clarification, and not related to any comments here: no one at Pamil Visions is a Todd Defren hater ( As a matter of fact, we published repeatedly positive feedback about him and his work, either here or on my personal blog. Kudos, Todd for pioneering the social media press release. As for this article:I’ll let the author speak for himself.

  9. says

    I’ve heard this argument many times from people who haven’t bothered to actually try to get any value out of twitter. “It’s a fad,” “There’s no value,” etc.

    It’s easy to say there’s no value when you aren’t involving yourself. As you yourself stated, you have a “residual presence.” That’s not going to cut it. And it won’t help your clients.

    I’ve heard this argument so many times, that I’ve encapsulated my response in a blog post:

    It’s easy to say twitter sucks, but too many *smart* people have seen real value and benefits. The benefits are there, you just have to put in a little more effort to see them.

    • Phil Butler says

      Thanks for your insight Adam. I think there are many people extracting value from Twitter right now, as you say. As for my residual presence there, please do not fail to note that my partner maintains a good deal more than same with regard to interaction. As for me, and my obvious disdain for the product, there are many reasons – too in depth to really expound upon here. For one thing, I think I was one of the first people sent the original press about this “innovation”. I remember making the call back then to not bother with it. Web 2.0 at that time, “seemed” to be headed in a much more progressive direction, and amid other micro-blogging/micro-innovative startups, Twitter was and is a glorified chat room.

      As I mentioned to Todd, it is fairly obvious that I have no vested interest in bashing Twitter, in fact, as the comments here indicate, I seem to be under assault for even suggesting it is BS. It is becoming more and more clear that this post was both timely, and correct in its assumptions. I point a wiggly finger at “experts”, two or three come here to??? Just so you and our readers know too, just because I am only passively on Twitter, does not mean I did not research it for potential over the last span of time. The reason I am not that active then, is that my estimation of its time/end result quotient proved for me to be insufficient.

      Social media is not about numbers as much as it is about reciprocity, engagement, and of course human interaction for the dissemination of information. Like Digg, Twitter is only a residual traffic influencer in my opinion, and not even as good a one. Take StumbleUpon as a case in point. The richness of the interaction is enhanced by the depth of digital information and the sharing of such. Even so, like all emerging social mediums, StumbleUpon has lost its effectiveness because of several factors, not the least of which is effectively marketing spam. Twiiter is much more susceptible to this variable too. It will lost its effectiveness once a threshold has been reached where those links and micro-intelligences become so obscured by spam. This can of course be avoided by limiting who you follow, but that presents yet another problem.

      So, rather than accuse me of hating someone, being “not in the know”, or just defending something a user loves, I suggest people thin about (not what just Phil says), but what is behind this end game. I can also be wrong, it has happened many times. But, what kind of person would I be if I believed something, wanted to help others, and just followed the crowd always? A Birdy Butt Kisser? PR, in my opinion, is going to transform from, as Todd puts it – a publicity conduit – into what it should have been all along – a truth broadcasting mechanism. This is my view.


  10. TP says

    So much anger. Would you like a hug?

    Unfortunately for Twitter it has been lumped in the same “Social Networking” group as sites like Facebook and MySpace which are originally intended for people to catch up with old friends, see how hot/ugly cheerleaders/nerds are now and post photos of their friends doing idiotic stuff.

    LinkedIn has escaped that genre by being solely for business professionals and Twitter, when used correctly, should fall into that category as well.

    I am no expert in Social media by any stretch of the imagination but I think in some aspects your opinion, while being your opinion, is incorrect and short sighted. ReTweeting information does not make you less of an expert.

    How often do you use something you learned from somewhere else? Is that “cheating” or does that make you less of an expert? When is the last time you read a book, took that information and succeeded with it? Does that make you less of an expert?

    If everyone was connected to everyone on Twitter then I could see ReTweeting being a huge pain in the a$$ because we would get thousands upon thousands of the same tweets….but everyone is not. So in actuality those ReTweeting are spreading the wealth of information around (Obama would be so proud) and sharing with people in their network who may otherwise not receive the information. Is there something wrong with that?

    And so what if someone takes said information and uses it to their advantage by showing a customer how to do it and get paid? Isn’t this America? Isn’t that Capitalism? Isn’t that damn smart? Twitter gives you 140 characters to either brand yourself, look like a genius or fall flat on your face. It’s that simple.

    • Phil Butler says

      TP, Thanks for your view too. Much of what you suggest is perhaps where the real value of such systems is. Information is powerful, and viral tools which spread it can be very effective. The problem with Twitter is that it is too chaotic for one thing. Secondly, it is too time consumptive as a marketing or PR tool, unless of course someone builds a robot and Tweets their spam effectively. Even then, for the average person, a feed read or notifier would seem to be a better (and more relevant) method for gathering news.

      These “experts” as I called them, are for the most part PR or marketing people desirous of two things basically. One, they want to appear to be experts in social media in order to engage present and future clients who “think” they need a Twitter expert (publicity). Second, like so many interfaces for user generated news, Twitter, once you have 10,000 or more followers, appears to be what you might call “an Internet easy” platform. People are inherently lazy when it comes to either reading or typing, let along thinking. The Internet for many, appears to be some kind of “easy button” where a person can push it and magic comes out the other end. To the average marketer, the numbers of people on these networks, atop how seemingly simple they are to manipulate, equates to essentially something for nothing.

      As anyone knows however, there is no easy ticket to success on the Web in any genre. I just think people are wasting way too much time and money trying to make this one trick pony into the end all social media tool. For the “normal” user, Twitter is in effect, just another way to spit out pieces of one’s life and let the end of it all land where it may. Of course, old Phil here could be barking up the wrong tree, but most of what I am saying is based on having tested and analyzed thousands of these things. To put it bluntly, I hate Twitter because all those millions of people could have a much more rich experience, derive more value, and in the end profit from something that may not ever be made as long as this lunacy continues. So, Twitter is holding up the process where the Internet could be the tool we envisioned it to be.

      Thanks again, and I hope I clarified my position, and that you may understand my motivations for these posts better. As a final note, I noticed what I believe was a post by you some time back, about this very subject. I quote from this early evaluation of your own of Twiiter, or rather some of the people using it:

      My first contribution to the Twitter conversation was this visual.

      Then I realized my angst has nothing to do with Twitter. Thousands of geeks texting random thoughts and keeping us up on their mundane status probably has value. I’m the first to admit I’ve been wrong about these things before.

      But Freud would have a field day with this phenomenon. Boys, step away from the keyboard, put down the key pad once and awhile. Give the little guy a rest (your thumb that is).

      No, it’s not Twitter bugging me. It’s the effusive glee that’s annoying me as blog post upon blog post fills my RSS reader with accounts of grown men being reduced to giddy/clubby school children. These are bloggers I subscribe to and read regularly…folks I (still) respect.

      I noted the “angst” aspect right off. I wonder what changed your mind if anything? You were correct in the first place unless I am reading this post wrong.


  11. says

    WOW, Mr. Butler, you do seem to have a lot of angst built up over Twitter. I hope this article helped you relieve some stress.

    Twitter — like any other social media — is a tool. It’s a way to communicate, share, discover. Yes, my family and I have benefited from some of the links shared and tweets RT’d by those I follow.

    And yes, there are some supposed PR and other communication pros who tout Twitter as the be-all, end-all without any objectives to back up the tactic. Unfortunately, with such a low barrier to entry that PR has, you’ll get some garbage mixed in with a lot of quality.

    You must have missed something in Todd Defren’s post (yes, he pointed me and likely others here, And, I already answered your question — yes, I have found real value in information shared by others.

    Twitter is nothing more than a tool, as I said earlier. It’s in how you use it that makes it valuable or not.

  12. says

    You missed the main point of that post of mine that got your dander up. The main point (which is why I concluded with it): “In the Social Media era, getting better at Public Relations means getting better at the Relationships, not the Publicity.”

    Said even more simply: with more & more reporters joining Twitter, the PR pro is only advantaging themselves (and their clients) by participating in this forum.

    If you know (due to her admissions on Twitter) that Kara Swisher of the WSJ is having a bad day, or is on the trail of a particular story, etc., you’ll do a better job of helping her out, as a result.

    Not sure why you would take umbrage at this seemingly simple and obvious point. But your blog, your call. Either way thanks for the dialogue.

    The Birdy Butt Kisser.

    • Phil Butler says

      @Todd, I actually did not pay all that much attention to the “who” of people who were expounding on Twitter’s godliness, I just used your rather (brief,sweet and syrupy) text to illustrate. I never even looked at the author actually, but noticed the Swift sign, and assumed anything there would be A – Po-Twittery correct (or whatever else was popular), and B – probably authored by what could be perceived as an expert in social media. Sorry to be rather course here, but I cannot help but remember the dozens of “pitches” sent to me by representatives of your company when I was big into the tech blogging thing, and I might add, many of those expounded on the laurels of startups with some, shall we say – color.

      Just to clear the air a little, I do not hate anyone on this planet – tho your Tweet painted your white horse, and my black hat to your Twitter throng. My problem at this point is as Mike and TP below suggest. They are a little off base however, in suggesting I have angst or anger toward Twitter. I am far more than angry, I am sad and somewhat disheartened. You were a visionary to many people, including my partner. Given your contributions to PR via the Social Media Press Release, and of course in support of some very innovative and even extraordinary clients. I will not mention any of them, but suffice it to say that I did my part to make them either famous or at least noticed these last few years too – via your wonderful outreaches to the various publications I worked for. Perhaps you should research who is talking back?

      My problem, our problem, is that so many people have resources, intellect, motivation and a range of pluses going for them, which could be directed at the most extraordinary causes. But, like so many others, you chose to leap on a band wagon that in my opinion is going to let a lot of people down. Aside the nearly billion dollars invested in Facebook, Twitter, Digg and others,potentially going up in smoke, there simply are better things excellent people like you could be doing. So, there it is. If a person like you (or any of us) wastes time on Twitter, for elusive gains (publicity in your case, which is btw what you suggest you are against), then some other much more feasible and gainful avenue might be overlooked.

      In examining all these fencing matches, perhaps it is a good idea to follow the motivations of the participants. I have no vested interest in Twitter failing. If I wanted to diminish myself and my clients, and considering I am on every social network between here and Timbuktu, I would take the idiocy of Twitter over. I chose not too because it is imbecilic in my view, the epitome of hype and the depredation of human intellect to the point of babbling into a hollow tube. Someone is suggesting I should stalk NYT’s reporters to see if they are in a bad mood! This is tantamount to revealing that PR people are nothing more than Paparazzi!

      If I offended you, I did not mean to. My intention is not to harm anyone, but when you see people (and me too) doing things that might be detrimental, a good person says something, expresses an opinion. You do not have to agree with me, I may be wrong altogether, but it is pretty obvious Web 2.0 is looking more like two tin cans attached to a long string than to the educational, enlightening, and free spirited tool so many envisioned.

      I appreciate you coming here to say your piece, and welcome you all wholeheartedly (along with your opinions), but given the stuff I have read on the Web these years, do not call me a hater because I have a valid opinion. To me, “kissy” remark seems pretty obvious.


  13. says

    I am disturbed at this Phil. I have been using Twitter for sometime now and am waiting for it to change my life as promised by the experts I have been reading. Are you saying this might not happen. Gulp! What if they improved it by reducing comment limit to 24.76593789 words?

  14. Mihaela Lica says

    I am so grateful, Phil, for linking to my Twitter account. I hope I get more followers this way. Did I manage to keep my comment under 140?

  15. says

    Dead on, Phil.

    I’m so fed up with so many so-called experts. It’s been 7000 years since wheels are invented, and I think it will continue to be the greatest of invesntions for the next 7000 years to come.

    A buzz is just a buzz, no more.

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