Twitter – is the party over?

Has what looked like a great service, populated by eager early adopters with like motivations turned into a service polluted by egotists, marketeers and spam artists? Larry Bodine, questioning the value of Twitter as a marketing tool for lawyers, thinks so:

I’ve learned that it is a shouting post for relentless self-promoters, a dumping ground for press releases and advertising, a competition to amass followers, and a target for computer-automated Tweets.

It was not initially thus, but Twitter is a victim of its own success. Should we be impressed by the headlines that proclaim 20 million Twitter users and growing at 1,382% p.a.? More is not better. It’s no wonder that 60% don’t contribute after a month, for if the signup is so easy, subsequent inactivity is much more likely.

Knock off that 60% and we have 8 million active Twitter users. That’s a sizeable number, but that does not make Twitter mainstream and talk of Twitter replacing RSS is frankly ludicrous. And if 90% of all Twitter activity is by 10% of users, that gives us only 2 million users worldwide who fully embrace it. That’s not going to change the world, much as that minority would like it to.

I’ve a soft spot for Twitter. I’m still in there, though somewhat remotely. I’d like to be able to engage with it more, but it seems to me that if everyone can join and tweet about anything, only the dedicated will find value and that takes time which may be better spent elsewhere.

OK, I don’t have to follow the noise makers, but that’s not the point. Most of us don’t need yet another inbox to filter. We’d like a bit of focus, something that sorts the wheat from the chaff and delivers a more immediately useful service. Various Twitter apps and judicious use of Twitter Search and hashtags will turn up the goodies, but many wonder why Twitter hasn’t itself organised the Twitter stream. Will that only come after a Google takeover?

Recent stats suggest the party may be over but that’s not a bad thing if that explosive growth was fuelled by hype:

Twitter is normalizing. It’s no longer a new frontier, an elite club or a culture-transforming medium. It’s just a service for sending messages. …

Twitter is appealing to people with something to sell, or people who want to network professionally. It’s also a great way to follow a hobby or intellectual interest. In other words, it’s for older people, mainly.

So is Twitter dead? Far from it. But the Twitter hype bubble has surely burst (thanks, Oprah!). Now those of us who actually get value from it can enjoy it with less of the hype, expectation and noise than we’ve been seeing in the past few months.

4 thoughts on “Twitter – is the party over?

  1. Nick, of course you are right to reserve judgement. I barely recognise the social media services referred to in the sorts of criticism you have cited. They ignore the highly personalised nature of these services and assume that users are force-fed everything that is posted by everybody, rather than subscribing only to “feeds” from friends or people they know of, or whom they learn from others are worth following. I follow about 50 people or so, who share all sorts of stuff from the amusing to the insightful. A dozen or so people I don’t know have begun following me in the hope that I will return the compliment and see their press releases, but I have not done so, but I might have if it was of interest to me. The joy of the 140 character limit is that one can very quickly scan the list of posts by those you are happy to follow. If there’s a link that catches the eye, (e.g. to a lastest blog post or article, for example)you can click through. It’s a bit more manageable than Facebook’s wall, which I still look at (you can see it all on a single web page). Of course, you can post to the lot via Twitter, Friendfeed or Posterous etc. As you know, it’s all linked up and many people are on many different services that overlap, which many of the critics also seem to ignore or fail to realise.

  2. I say thank god Twitter may, finally, become what it is – a system for promoting content (right now, a lot of people’s thoughts, mainly, but also useful stuff like job alerts) in a ‘fun’ way. It certainly isn’t going to save the world, no matter what its boosters might say (especially in re Iran).

    What I think it will likely become very useful for is in the realm of devices speaking to us – this featured in a light piece on the news the other night in re the IBM chap who lives on the Isle of Wight. He’s put his whole home on Twitter so lots of devices can talk to him. He put the IoW ferry on it, and now anyone can see where it is/when it’s coming by logging on. I see no reason why, say, your bus or even your flight couldn’t deliver something like this, and it’d add good value.

    Twitter’s dead – long live Twitter.

  3. >I say thank god Twitter may, finally, become what it is – a system for promoting content (right now, a lot of people’s thoughts, mainly, but also useful stuff like job alerts) in a ‘fun’ way. It certainly isn’t going to save the world, no matter what its boosters might say (especially in re Iran).

    I think you are putting your own mould on Twitter. It is a messaging service, a self-organising topic-based IM, a system for promoting content, a different version of text messaging, a news source, a private group for friends, and more.

    The same goes for RSS – it is for content syndication, but it is also for email alerts, website metric monitoring, podcast subscription and automated distribution of software updates.

    Twitter replacing RSS is a silly question for your linkee to even ask, imho. Oranges won’t replace apples; we just choose the right one for each recipe.

    I see no issue with all of these things being in place at once.

    Enjoyed your article, though – thanks.

  4. Nick

    Interesting article. Like you I have a soft spot for Twitter but, hand on heart, it hasn’t generated any fee paying clients for me yet, which is the ultimate test in my view. However, it does seem to generate traffic to my blog so it is not without merit.


    Michael Scutt

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