THE QUESTION THAT CHANGED THE INTERNET: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Twitter.com started in October of 2006 with people answering the ...18 Mar 2009 2555 Views
THE QUESTION THAT CHANGED THE INTERNET: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
Twitter.com started in October of 2006 with people answering the simple question “What are you doing?” in 140 characters or less. At the outset I simply used Twitter to answer that question. So did most of the people I followed. It was a fun distraction. There was only one type of Twitterer (two if you include Michael Arrington – but more on that later). Life was simple.
That has changed. Today many people approach Twittering as a competitive sport to see who can garner the most followers. That was one of the reasons I stopped following Robert Scoble (a former Microsoft employee cum social media guru). He was the first Über-Twit I came across. While most of us had followers in the tens, he had followers in the tens of thousands. Today Barack Obama leads the Über-Twit rankings with almost half a million followers. Britney Spears is right behind him.
Some very notable Twits still use the medium in its pure form. U.S. Sen. John McCain, for instance, updates me on his every move around the capitol with posts like “ just spoke on the floor”.
What are you selling?
But many Tweeters have long since moved on from “What are you doing?” to answer other more pressing questions. I’ve cataloged a few of them here:
What are you selling?
It was inevitable that the salesmen would arrive. I understand that most business people online are selling something. Which, I suppose, is OK so long as your self-promotion facilitates others. Some are more deft at this than others. “Others” include types like FollowMe4Cash (self explanitory), SQIPCOM (get your free shares), and brentslife (lifestyle advice for the super rich). Nothing wrong with these folks – just not my cup of twee. And then there are the blatant hucksters. Please don’t be a huckster on Twitter. Huck elsewhere.
What is your problem?
A lot of customer service organizations monitor Twitter for mentions of their brand. You can use this to save time. For instance, I hardly ever contact the support desk at TypePad anymore – I just Twit my concern because I know miz_ginevra or one of her Typepad colleagues are listening and will respond immediately. I understand Dell computers, Southwest Airlines, Comcast, GM, H&R Block, Kodack, Jet Blue, Rubbermaid and Starbucks (to name a few) are also listening. One irritated post about their brand and they’ll be one you like white on rice.
There are a lot of people striving to get the latest scoop in their given field and pass it on to you. Michael Arrington from TechCrunch is the godfather of this genre. He prides himself in breaking technology news through his twits. For mainstream news, you will find most of the major news networks Twitting these days along with newcomers like BNO. Then there is niche news like EarthquakeNews, which I am partial to.
What are you questioning?
These are people who do nothing but ask open-ended questions all day. Why? I’m not sure. But I’ve found that since the Twitter boon, it’s actually a lot harder to get a real question answered unless you contact someone directly. I think that’s because of the sheer volume of twittering. When I was following a few dozen people I read most of their twits and got to know them. Questions got answered. But it’s hard to have that type of relationship with 500 people, no less 50 thousand. But, then, maybe I’m just following the wrong crowd.
How prolific are you?
a.k.a. How much random information can you churn out in a day? These are compulsive Twitterers, aided in some part by a staff of interns or automated Twit applications I suspect. I just can’t picture a grown up spending that much time in front of a monitor passing on random information. The two most prolific Twits I follow are Guy Kawasaki and KikiValdes. Guy is an Apple geek. I’m not sure what Kiki’s gig is.
What are you brooding over?
Some Twitsters use the forum as a soapbox to express opinions on politics, life, business or other issues that concern them. When they know what they are talking about it can be interesting. When they don’t, it is usually just aimless ranting or streams (rivers actually) of brainy quotes. I don’t follow these types. But their posts may serve a good purpose as well. Perhaps venting on Twitter keeps them from going postal in the streets.
How famous are you?
There is no shortage of celebrity bloggers or those posing as celebrities. Here you’ll find the likes of Britney Spears (or rather her assistant), William Shatner, Fran Drescher, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutchner and so on. I find most of them fairly vapid. I only follow a couple like David Lynch who says spacey things like his post today “Pure consciousness is the Unmanifest home of all the laws of nature from where all strains of knowledge emerge.” I don’t know what he means. I’m still trying to figure out Eraserhead.
What are you doing — that I don’t do?
There was a time when the answer “eating a ham sandwich” was enough to keep my interest. Not any more. I have moved on to stronger Twits to satisfy my fix of vicarious living through others people’s lives. It’s like peeping through a 140-word keyhole to another realm. Basically, they must have a far more interesting life than I have. People like the NBC news camera man NewMediaJim who travels with Presidents on AirForce One, or the truck driver TruckerDesiree or KelliShibari the “adult industry professional” are far-enough removed from my day-to-day routine that I find them interesting.
Several other bloggers have created catalogs of the different Twitter types. Below are a few of my favorites. In posts to come we will dive a little deeper into Twitter to see how it is being used in Marketing and how you can use it better.
To see what type of questions I grapple with on a daily basis and who I’m following, check out my Twitter stream @BrandRanter.
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