Monday, December 29, 2014

The Great Twitter-ass Experiment

The idea of Twitter has never been my thing. It's just too, well, short. Any of you who have been around here for any length of time will know that about me. Brevity is not exactly my strong suit. There are reasons for that, most of them having to do with the lack of anything meaningful that usually accompanies brevity. Still, there came a point when I thought I should probably give Twitter a shot, so, almost a year ago, I did.

I have to say: I have not been impressed.

Before I get into that, though, I heard some interesting research the other day about followers on Twitter and other such things, actually about the value of purchasing "followers" by the thousands. This was in the wake of the Instagram purge and the resulting conversations about all the followers that Beiber (and others) lost and, actually, what it meant that Instagram was willing, now, to purge all of those fake accounts. Interestingly enough, the research shows that the numbers really matter even if people know that the numbers are fake. Basically, if you have 10, 017 followers and 10,000 of those are fake, people will be more willing to follow you than if you have 100 followers who are real even if they know that the 10,000 followers are fake.
Because people are weird that way.

At any rate, my view of Twitter, which I've said somewhere or other before, is that it's like being in a cave, somewhere back in the dark, and yelling at people as they pass by and hoping that someone will stop to listen to you. The problem is that everyone else is busy yelling from their own caves, and no one is listening to anyone. At least, that's the way it seemed, so I decided to see if I could figure out if that was true.

For a while, I had been considering writing a twitter story, which is not a story about twitter but a story told in 140 character bursts via twitter, but I wanted to pre-write it so that I would have every tweet prepared ahead of time. Yeah, I'm not a pantser. But I've been busy with other things and hadn't come to any decision about story ideas for a twitter story, so I kept putting it off. BUT...
Back at the beginning of December, my cat did this thing, an interesting thing, and I decided to just start writing the story with that thing as the catalyst and, yes, I pantsed it.

A few times a day, for three weeks I added to the story about a cat that started with this thing my own cat did. It was more fun than I thought it would be. BUT...
As far as I can tell, no one noticed. Maybe some people saw some tweets here and there, but there were no comments or reactions at all. Which, actually, is something I have found to be the case in general where twitter is concerned.

All of which leads me to my general conclusion about twitter: Unless you are a celebrity and are giving your fans some sense of connection to you, twitter is completely worthless. Okay, maybe not completely worthless but pretty close to it. It makes a good texting substitute for short directed messages to people, and that can be nice, but it's not necessary for that, because you can always send an email. Twitter just allows you not to have to know the person's email by just following them instead. Overall, it's not a better tool than, say, Facebook; Facebook is much more versatile.

None of which is to say that I'm going to drop twitter, but it's certainly difficult to take the thing seriously. It's lousy as a marketing tool and generally worthless as a vehicle for even saying stuff. Not if you want anyone to notice, anyway. If I want that, I'll go out in my front yard and yell stuff.

27 comments:

  1. Did you use a hashtag with the story so people catching it in the middle could go back and read from the beginning?
    They still say Twitter is one of the best social sites for writers. There is a trick to using it. I converse with a few people, but otherwise it's a lot of Tweets with links.

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    1. Alex: You don't need the hashtag to go back and read it.
      And I know that "they" say it, but I'm pretty sure "they" are wrong. I mean, really, how often do you actually look at the links that people tweet? Just in general, I mean. Maybe, you look at some from people you know well or know put up interesting things, but, overall, all of those links are used napkins on the ground in a park.

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  2. I don't think much of Twitter either.

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    1. Jo: It just doesn't do anything original. Basically, it took one specific thing that FB does, limited it, and became its own thing.

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  3. I never joined Twitter, but everyone I know is on it, so I promised myself that if I sell another book, I'll sign up. (At the rate I'm slooowly writing and tossing half-finished books aside, there's little danger I'll finish much less sell one...) I'm pretty fed up with all SM, except I enjoy FB because of the entertaining pics! lol

    I wish you and your family a wonderful 2015!

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    1. Lexa: I can pretty much guarantee you that twitter isn't going to help with the selling of anything.

      You have a great 2015, too!

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  4. Yeah, this is why we gave up on Twitter long ago. The numbers just aren't there, and your yelling in a cave analogy is spot on. To add to the whole celebrity thing, even being a minor celebrity means nothing. For example, my favorite comedian has over 50,000 followers on Twitter. And yet for each of his tweets, he gets maybe 10 retweets and 20 favorites per tweet. And these are some damn funny tweets. For the numbers, that's just pathetic. In comparison, we have 400 Facebook fans (we started our Facebook game way late) and can easily get 20 likes and 5-10 comments per post.

    For the numbers, we'll stick with Facebook.

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    1. ABftS: I wish I could figure out that whole linking your FB posts to twitter but, so far, that has eluded me. That would make it like a two-for-one thing.

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  5. I do have a Twitter and I think using the right #'s make a big difference. I also think it's like everything else, you've got to be prepared to put the time in. One of my targets for 2015 is to be more pro-active with social networking x

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    1. Suzanne: I'm not convinced on the hashtags. I mean, if you're using one you made yourself, no one is going to know that you did and, if you're using one that everyone uses, no one is going to care, again, about what you're saying.

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  6. I saw them but didn't really know what was going on. I delete about one of those fakes from the IWM Twitter feed per day.

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    1. Pat: Fake tweets? I think I've seen some of those?

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    2. Nah I mean those fake accounts whose profile is just a pitch to sell you fake followers.

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    3. Pat: You know, I never get those.

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  7. I totally saw your cat tweets!!!!! Hahaha… but I didn't understand what was going on… I wish I did… I would've loved that you were telling a story. I think that's so funny, Andrew. Next time, I am TOTALLY commenting… :) And I love twitter… sigh… probably too much. I try not to be one of those obnoxious tweeters who tweet everything…

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    1. Morgan: Well, the whole thing is there in my feed if you ever feel like going back and reading it. I might continue it; I haven't decided. It was fun but, then, like I said, it didn't get any response at all.

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  8. Ah, Twitter. Every day I get new "followers" that are just advertisements for purchasing fake followers. But I still like it. It might be shallow, but it's a lot of fun. Glad you're not dropping it completely.

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    1. Jeanne: I'm missing the fun, I guess.

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  9. I didn't see the Cat Tweets but that's because I don't check Twitter that much. I've been trying to build up followers on my new account, so for now I've got too many people I'm following (and too many junk tweets to get through) to make it useful. I used to limit myself to about 100 people -- people whose blogs I read, news services, and that was about it. So liked it a lot then, because everything on Twitter was relevant. That's what I meant about using it as a headline service: subscribe to news feeds and the like and it's sort of a quick pulse of America, like CNN used to be before they got stupid.

    I need to go pare down all my followings, but it's so time consuming.

    The story might've been better if you'd told people about it so they would know to follow. I've heard of other people doing that kind of thing, too. I've never read one, but it's an interesting idea. I think if you're going to do a Twitter story the medium should help fit the story. There was someone who did a story like a crime investigation in a building where all the fake characters were tweeting about the investigation. Something like that.

    You should redo your story and I'd follow it. Or I'll go read your old feed.

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    1. Briane: Well, see, telling people in advance would have undermined the experiment. If I continue it, I will let people know.
      However, this story is not twitter-tailored story other than that each bit fits one tweet.

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  10. I feel old when it comes to Twitter. I just don't get it. I have an account but I haven't really used it other than to keep an eye on a few agents and editors back when I had that mythical thing called 'free time'. The yelling things at each other analogy sums up my impression Twitter quite well.

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    1. Jean: I think the time requirement to make it work is a poor investment of time.

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  11. Not easy getting anyone's attention on twitter. Its more of a shout out kind of thing. If you try the story again make sure there is a unique hashmark (#catchat or #kittystory) attached so when discovered the tweeple can read the whole thing.

    Happy New Year

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

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    1. Anna: See, people can read the whole thing without the hashtag. On purpose, so that there wouldn't be any other clutter, I I didn't tweet anything else other than story (and a few blog links, but there aren't many of those and they are obviously not story parts) while I was doing that. I figure if no one bothered then #s won't make a difference.

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  12. I basically just use Twitter to make a catalog of the cool links I want to compile in my newsletter now... but people seem to like them. I'm not actively a part of Twitter, but I get ENOUGH referrals from there to my website to keep posting as I am. Every little bit helps. :)

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    1. Alex H: I don't get enough from twitter for it to show up in my stats but, then, most of my twitter followers are a subset of my blog followers. Or middle schoolers.

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  13. Catching up with stuff this post caught my eye. I don't invest much time in Twitter and definitely not any money. All my followers have been attained by my own efforts or from other twits following me based on the recommendations provided by Twitter (or maybe others).

    I like your analogy of shouting from a cave. I don't see a whole lot of value in most Twitter activity though I find some of the quotes I leave get retweeted. On a few occasions people have visited a blog post based on having seen something about it tweeted.

    I'm not totally turned off by Twitter so I'll keep at it. I just won't depend too much on it. Same with Facebook.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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