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.
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. :)