As a freelance writer, there are only so many hours in a day. I realised long ago that it’s better to focus on one social network and do it properly than spread myself thin over several and never really gain a foothold in any of them. Back in 2011 I joined Twitter on an experimental basis. Six years later I’m saying goodbye to the bluebird. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Goodbye Twitter – It’s been awesome
Like everyone on Twitter I started off with no followers. I’m leaving with 831 followers and am following just 176 people. And I’ve made a total of 10,436 Tweets, that’s 1739 a year, roughly six per working day.
Why did I follow so few people?
I weeded out all the hard-sellers as I went along because they’re as boring as hell. I also un-followed people who did nothing but Tweet links and hashtags, another massive yawn. I became pretty adept at spotting scam accounts and bots, and discarded those too. And, ultimately, I discovered that following more than 170 or so people meant I couldn’t connect properly with any of them. It was just too many to handle, and I kept missing cool Tweets from the accounts I most enjoyed following.
How did I behave on Twitter?
As someone with a lot of marketing experience, I know hard selling doesn’t make friends or influence people. I also know Twitter is an extremely crowded space. To stand out, I only Tweeted personal stuff and never tried to sell my services. My natural social media style is humorous, friendly, straight-talking, occasionally outrageous and always no-bullshit. I very rarely included links in my posts, and when I did they were to posts in my blog.
Did I make any money via Twitter SMM?
Bearing in mind I didn’t do any actual selling or marketing on Twitter, I did pretty well. At one point around 40% of my new business came via the network, with the other 60% generated via word of mouth and natural search.
In my experience being human, being straight and honest, and most of all having fun, generates a lot more interest than a constant stream of sell, sell, sell. I guess selling isn’t a sociable activity and as such Twitter isn’t a very good direct sales fit. In my view Twitter is more a branding and customer relations tool than a sales and marketing tool.
What about the down side of Twitter?
Flaming. Crikey, if you stick your head too far above the parapet or express an opinion without thinking the potential risks through properly, things can get very nasty indeed. It leaves a horrid taste in your mouth, and it’s one of the main reasons I’ve had enough of Twitter. By defecting to LinkedIn, I hope to avoid the nastier elements of Twitter. But only time will tell.
Brands are another downside. There’s nothing more tedious than interacting with a brand. The majority of commercial accounts are run by people who are too scared to be human, or not allowed to be. They trot out endless, dull corporate Tweets and express themselves with neither personality nor verve. Worse still, the bigger brands never seem to follow anyone. They just gather thousands and thousands of followers. But one way communication isn’t good communication. In fact it isn’t communication at all, it’s just broadcasting. After a while I stopped following brands altogether and stuck with actual people, real individuals.
Is a Twitter account an echo chamber – And does it matter?
Yes, Twitter is a great way to build your own echo chamber. From the start I consciously un-followed accounts with a radically different world view. Trump fans, Brexiters, neo-fascists, climate change deniers and so on. I guess my Twitter account fast became an echo chamber, reflecting my beliefs, opinions and the way I feel about the world. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
It certainly isn’t a new thing. We humans do the same with our offline contacts and communities. We gravitate naturally towards people who have a similar world view, opinions, feelings, likes and dislikes. I can’t see why life online should be any different. The Twitter echo chamber I created suited me very well, a space where like minded people connected, exchanged ideas, swapped information, and had a laugh.
Will I miss Twitter?
The Twitter interface is splendid, the best of the social media bunch for someone who works with and loves words. I’ve loved every second of it. It’s immediate, simple and fun. But then again it’s only an interface – it’s the people I’ll miss most.
OK, I haven’t met any of them in real life, nor was I ever likely to. But I have around thirty real people I will genuinely miss interacting with. With a bit of luck I’ll be able to hook up with them on LinkedIn for my next social media experiment.