I was having a fun Twitter parry with Mark Pollard (@markpollard) the other day and I came up with this smart title for a blog post. Mark did not take me up on the offer of a guest post so I thought better write it up anyway.
- Facebook is about talking to people you know. Twitter is about talking to people you don’t know but would like to meet.
This pithy observation came to me one night after meeting some of the people in Sydney who tweet regularly at a @STUB event. Facebook is about people you know in real life, and its not great for those you barely know. As my friend Susie put it, “you don’t really feel comfortable when guys you barely know send you Facebook messages saying ‘hey I found you on Facestalker hahaha’ “. Facebook is about your existing network, and usually based on your immediate and “friend of a friend” network. If you approach someone you don’t know, you’ll be likely to get blocked or ignored.
But on Twitter you don’t have any hesitation in jumping on conversational bandwagons with people you have never met in real life, and sending links to Twitter friends you know will get a kick out of Bacolicious. In following Twitter users and joining conversations, you get a real sense of what the person is like, and as a consequence you build up a long-distance relationship which may or may not ever move out of the Twitter-sphere. There are a lot of the people I follow on Twitter who I would like to meet in RL (real life) and some I have met already – thanks @STUB and IgniteSydney.
- Randomness and serendipity are key Twitter benefits
Continuing on from point above – having conversations with people I don’t know, I love random. It’s probably because I am so organised and I usually have to be very process-oriented in my work. I find myself always explaining to Twitter beginners and non-users that Twitter is about the random, the quirky, and the left-of-centre. Yes you can be very catholic in who you follow if you want to keep your Twitter network “clean”. But you may be missing out on the serendipitous events and conversations that can lead you into differet worlds and help you see things in a new way. So next time you see a random hilarious/intelligent tweet, from someone you don’t know start a conversation or follow them and see whether they expand your horizons. You can always follow @Afficionados_HH or @annikskelton if you are after random hilarity or smart arse replies.
- Twitter is more (most?) fun when on the go and interacting/reporting on real life
Twitter’s exponential growth as a social media channel can on some level be linked to the release of iPhone 3G. I have been on Twitter since early 2007 but it was only after I got my iPhone that I started using Twitter like crazy. It was keeping me sane/calm during intense Sydney Swans @sydneyswans matches by tweeting what was going on in the matches. And I picked up a few Twitter Swannies fans as a consequence (@andrewsayer, @franksting). Tweeting on the go on the iPhone has the added benefits of GPS so you can see who’s nearby (I wrote about it early last year on this blog in an eerie prediction of what was to come), and then with the added benefit of photos and links you can share a complete multimedia experience with your followers. Even without GPS, mobile Twitter (Blackberry, other 3G phones) is a way of sharing your life with those who care to be a witness.
- You can get other people to shop for you in Ikea
Twitter is a fast moving social network, far faster than Facebook or MySpace. More like SMS on steroids. Combine speed with the power of talking people you barely know, and your network can suddenly extend to a much wider area than you would normally be operating in.
Ikea shopping is courtesy of @SilkCharm and her blog post which she comes to similar conclusions about mobile Twittering after watching @ozdj ask @aDB to buy him a Billy bookcase from Ikea. It’s the serendipity of having one Tweeter in the close proximity of Ikea which prompts the request. Other Tweeter promptly goes to purchase said bookcase. Now I am not sure whether I would put myself through unnecessary Ikea hell, (ok maybe for @mellalicious or @Glebe2037) but I would love to get someone to shop for me at Ikea through Twitter.
- You can use Twitter to organise your (real) life and build your (not so small) buisness
Yes Facebook is still great for building up networks of people you know. Again, this Twitter paradigm shift is about meeting people you don’t know – yet. My lovely hairdresser, Stevie English, is a mad twitterer @stevieenglish (I created a monster, lol). His hair salon is at 153 Glebe Point road Glebe 2037 (Sydney, Australia) and you can book your appointment by Twittter. Just send @stevieenglish a direct or @ message with your preferred day and time and he will get back to you on Twitter with a real life appointment. Stevie takes appointments from new and existing clients via Twitter, and he has picked up a few ongoing clients as a consequence.
I also read and re-tweeted this great reference from MrTweet’s blog about how a US coffee shop doubled its custom by firstly taking takeaway orders on Twitter then going on to host Tweetups.
- Twitter is not for the fainthearted or lazy, or “you get out what you put in”
I’ll do the obvious and compare to Facebook again, where you can build up a profile page then set and forget. Yes, you can login once a day and find out who’s thrown a sheep at you or tagged you in a photo where you are blind drunk and asleep on a sofa at a party. Again its talking to people you know, and the frequency of chats
Twitter is far less forgiving – if you’re not posting regular tweets, then you won’t get many followers (unless you are a real life bona fide celebrity aka Russell Brand @rustyrockets). And you get instant feedback – people stop following you if you don’t perform to their expectations. You don’t have to be a web SEO expert tweeting Google optimisation links to get followers, if you are authentic about what matters to you and what you find interesting in the world, you will find a network of followers. And likewise about building a network – Twitter etiquette calls for nice photo or avatar, a written profile of you and what turns you on in 140 characters or less. Don’t leave the Twitter 0_O default icon on there longer than it takes to set up your account. Customise your page with your logo, website, blog whatever – just do it. No excuses – you know what Malcolm Gladwell says about first impressions. Then go use a Twitter tool to find people and build the network(s) you are interested in. Try Twellow Twitterholic (for the global Twitterati) MrTweet for suggestions on who to follow when you have some followers, and Tweetworks. Or just watch the public timeline and follow people who Twitter in a way that interests you.
- Twitter is a public conversation, modern ham radio, a very large cocktail party effect
I did psychology I at uni, and my absolute favourite part of that year was learning about how you can tune your ears in and out of lots of different conversations at a dinner party, depending on what interests you at any particular moment in time. This is quite literally called the cocktail party effect, and can be used as a metaphor for the public conversations going on on Twitter at any one time.
On Twitter, a person starts a conversation, it can either be heard (read or clicked on) or ignored, audibly responded to (with public @replies), secretly responded to – imagine a whisper in your ear at a cocktail party (with private DM replies). It can even become the start of someone else’s conversation (a re-Tweet or RT). Modern ham radio is another metaphor others have used for Twitter, the multiple channels of conversation going on and interweaving. The most useful thing about Twitter is that the conversation is public, so I really don’t get people who protect their updates (and get you to request to see their protected updates). If you want a private conversation use DM replies, or just get off Twitter and use email or SMS. Twitter is a social media channel because people are on it to be social and one sided conversations are just so web 1.0. So if you can’t stand the noise, get out of party and go home. Otherwise, jump right in and join the cool cocktail party going on Twitter.