Twitter isn’t that new to many people, but its scarily new to others and as such, the etiquette of how to use it is only now beginning to emerge.
But to understand the etiquette, I think you first need to understand its purpose – or at least what I believe to be it purpose.
I believe Twitter is for building likeminded communities. Groups of people from around the world who share some form of common interests. Those communities can be in many or any different areas.
1. In its most high profile form, this can be for celebrity watching. The likes of Britney and Ashton Kutcher, send out inane insights into their daily lives, that few but the most committed fans could possibly care about. The fact that these two have millions of fans between them, that hang off their every tweet, shows that some people must care. I’m not one of them.
2. For campaigning it works amazingly well. Barak Obama famously built his campaign and campaign coffers on the back of his connections he built through Twitter. No election anywhere in the world will ever be the same again. The people of Iran displayed their dissatisfaction with the voting system and twitter stayed open for them to give them a voice to the outside world.
When anyone first saw Twitter, I would suspect that there were VERY few people who would have believed that it could have such a huge impact on the workings of world politics.
3. Finding and learning from likeminded peers has to me, proved the most valuable way to engage with Twitter. My work is based on the subject of branding, innovation, marketing and business psychology, so I am actively looking for people who talk about these subjects anywhere in the world on the Twitter network.
I have open searches on Tweetdeck for these words (as well as Nottingham and Margate for other reasons) and can refer to anything that is written in these areas. It beeps at me every minute and can be hugely distracting, but eqally informative.
If I see something that I think is valuable or leads me towards an article I find useful, then I will follow the person who posted it and begin to build some dialogue with them, by Retweeting their good bits and trying to read as many of their thoughts as they care to share.
But what if they don’t follow me back?
Well, for me, this is the wrong way to use the system.
It isn’t saying you want to build a community, it’s saying ‘I am very wise and you must listen to me. I don’t actually care what you have to say though, as I am far too important and time poor to waste my time with your worthless tweets’
Maybe everyone isn’t saying this, but certainly those who choose deliberately to not follow you back, are.
It’s like big business sending out emails from ‘donotreply email addresses’ They are effectively saying that they don’t care what you say, but are asking you to click through and buy from them. I covered this in more detail in the piece last week about Social media.
So, if after a week or two, people are still choosing to not follow me back, I stop following them. If they don’t care what I am saying, why should I care about what they are saying? Are they really so wise, that they have nothing to learn at all?
Not following is probably okay, or at least understandable for celebrities. I do think that it is a bit arrogant for them to only follow their fellow celebs, just to show how well connected they are, and to reinforce the fact that we are not in their ‘A’ list of friends.
So it comes back to the purpose of Twitter for the masses. Is it to build communities or relationships or just to shout about the fact you are on a train or eating your lunch?
If it is about relationships, then speaking without listening won’t keep you in a relationship for long. See how you get along for a day at work ignoring everything your colleagues say to you.
As Innocent Smoothies taught me in their book. If you’re talking you’re not listening.
So, do the right thing. Listen as well as speak.