With hundreds of millions of active users, it makes media moguls salivate, entertainers seek attention like little kids, and everyone fight for followers. It played a huge role in the Arab Spring of 2011. And two little Tweets from activist investor Carl Icahn sent shares of Apple up 11% in one week.
Who would have thought a Silicon Valley startup could create such a powerful media platform by getting people to answer, “What’s happening?” in 140 characters or less? Not me, that’s for sure.
Of course I’m on Twitter. I have to be. But aside from the mundane business of tweeting my posts, I don’t have much to say. Don’t get me wrong. I like getting attention as much as the next guy. Probably more so. And I don’t think I’d ever be accused of being boring, at least not in person.
But when it comes to social media, especially Twitter, it just seems like a lot of effort for not much return. To be honest, I’d rather spend my time writing stuff that helps people than trying to engage them to retweet it. Which is ironic considering I used to be a marketing executive in the high-tech industry. Go figure.
Speaking of which, it would be ironic if this little post ends up moving the needle in some material way. If it does, I may have to rethink my entire Twitter strategy. If not, then I’ll stick with my claim that Twitter is for the birds. Here’s how I back that up:
Who needs a hyper-redundant news feed? If I want to know what’s going on in the world, I have a My Yahoo page fully customized with all my news sources. If I want to find out what’s going on about something specific, I Google it and click on “news.” What I don’t need is a news feed that resembles thousands of people on crack cocaine.
Too much information. Granted, everyone seems to have finally gotten over the “having a roast beef sandwich now” and “meeting my peeps at Starbucks” trivia from the first few years of Twitter’s existence. Even so, 99% of it is still minutia. I mean, who cares?
Idiocracy. As if we really need more evidence of the dumbing down of society, the success of the sound bite, the coming of age of our attention deficit culture addicted to distraction, this is it. Want to know where the Twitter culture is heading? Download the movie Idiocracy.
Stalkers and Trolls. For people to stalk you, they used to have to literally find your address or phone number. At least there was some effort involved. Twitter makes it easy for nutcases to target anyone and everyone they want. Some say it’s a small price to pay for open communication. That might be true if there weren’t so many nutcases.
Okay, let’s talk about the Arab Spring. Everyone was so excited about how Twitter influenced the Arab Spring in 2011. So, how’d that work out? Seems to me that Egypt sprung from the frying pan right into the fire.
Would you sell your soul for more followers? How about your precious time and attention span? And for what? Unless you’re an entertainer or in the media, has it really moved the needle for you, your career, or your business? Really?
Who actually reads all those RTs? My articles get retweeted by the thousands, but the hits don’t track. In other words, everyone follows thousands of people who are all tweeting and retweeting so much content that nobody’s got time to read even a tiny fraction of it.
So, now that Twitter’s revving up for its very own social media circus IPO (who can forget the hype leading up to Facebook’s blessed event), you can bet that Twitter will be going after advertising dollars in a big way. So don’t be surprised if the next tweet that comes across your mobile feed is from a sponsored ad instead of Lady Gaga.
And yes, I am aware that there’s a link about an inch below this telling you how to follow me on Twitter. I guess it’s safe to say you’ll be skipping that part. Well, you know what they say: Twit happens.
Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive and author of "Real Leaders Don't Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur." Learn more, contact Tobak or follow his new blog at stevetobak.com. Any opinions expressed are those of the columnist.