Not to long ago I wrote a blog about the maturation cycle of social network sites. If social sites did not "grow up" they would cease to move past being a fad and soon die out as amusements turned to boredom. Facebook made it past the fad stage by incorporating good tracking of friends activities, basic marketing tools for business and charities and a brilliant integration of rich media that makes sharing our life snippets so easy. YouTube survived because it is n good video hosting platform. It does not matter that the internal search and marketing suck because most of us view YouTube videos outside of YouTube through embedded players and email forwarding. So what about Twitter?
Twitter has the reverse problem as Facebook and YouTube. You see Twitter was always a useful tool, but it lacked the "fad" component that drove a high user rate necessary to make it successful (e.g. ubiquitous). Back when Twitter was good, but novel, a friend @jayoatway convinced me to join saying it was an amazing search engine. He was right. With the release of apps such as Tweetdeck and Seismic the ability to search huge quantities of information is easy making it a business person's essential tool. So what is the problem? It seems that Twitter has become such a fad that people have forgotten about its best quality: search.
Yesterday another friend @chicagodiane mentioned that I seemed to have been quiet on Twitter lately. I have not been quiet. I just have not been tweeting. You see I took some time to stop and watch the stream of tweets. I wanted to find out who these people are that now call themselves my "friends" on Twitter and what the value of following is.
The fallacy of followers: Twitter's strength is in its search, however, it appears that the Holy Grail for most is accumulating followers. In theory having more followers is a measure of how interesting or "popular" you are and I am sure there is truth in that. However, it does not take much energy to realise that the way that Twitter is set up, having followers, many or few, has little to do with how many times you may actually be seen. Let's figure you are following 57 people (that is about the average Twitter assigns you just for opening an account). Then imagine that each of these 57 write one tweet per day, that is 57 tweets. If you are using the original Twitter application it will display 20 tweets at a time. Right off the bat 37 tweets (or 60%) are likely not to get seen. That is some disappointing numbers. So even if you have more than 2 million followers like @aplusk it is not going to do you much good unless your followers are doing more than just "following" you.
So what are some ways to get seen on Twitter?
1. Engage -- take time to follow conversations that are interesting and respond to others. Responses to others widen the number of opportunities your tweet will show up.
2. Hashtags -- these are predefined search terms that make it easy to follow conversation topics
3. Search optimisation -- make sure your tweets contain words that people will be searching for.
4. Use search -- effectively follow conversation streams that are interesting to you. Build your following selectively. The power of social media is engagement. Find people and start a conversation. However, if they have too many followers you will probably be talking to yourself.
5 RT -- Retweeting is one of the easiest and most polite ways to encourage views of a post. It is true word of mouth. Extend the favour and others will return it.
Most importantly, stay relevant, if you are just hooky-bobbing on somebody's bumper you deserve to get dropped.