Do you have to have an interesting life to use Twitter?

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I try to stay on top of social media trends since they affect a lot of my clients and blog readers.

One that I have been trying to wrap my mind around is Twitter, which in their words is "a service for friends, family, and coโ€“workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?"

I have seen a lot of prominent bloggers tout the benefits of Twitter, like Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble and Hugh McLeod.  They have thousands of people who follow their "tweets," which are short bursts of information throughout the day regarding their where- and what-abouts.

My question  for home-based entrepreneurs like me and perhaps you is:

Would Twitter be a good addition to your social media repertoire of ways to connect with your audience?

Here is my train of thought as I attempt to answer this question myself:

Example of Hugh’s tweet:

"Thinking of making my advertising space on gapingvoid.com exclusive to Microsoft."

Example of my tweet:

"Found a parking space near the cart return at Safeway, yeah!"

Example of Guy’s tweet:

"Tonight I started my next book. Mark your calendars. :-)"

Example of my tweet:

"Changed diaper.  Fed.  Burped.  Put to sleep.  10 minutes later:  Repeat."

Example of Amanda Congdon’s tweet:

"Getting ready to head down to the studio to shoot this week’s video for abc. Should I walk there today?"

Example of my tweet:

"Law and Order marathon today, rock on!"

Robert Scoble tweeted about the following WSJ article which elaborates some of my concerns with Twitter:  Friends Swap Twitter, and Frustration.

If making your fans’ cellphones beep all day isn’t bad enough, I think sharing the mundane reality of your home-based business may do your brand more harm than good.

Maybe I should just speak for myself.  I am sure all of your daily lives are much more interesting than mine.

What do you think, is Tweeting and Twittering worth the effort?

(Although I have to admit that few of you could say that Amanda Congdon interviewed you in your backyard or a group of four cute 20-something men parked in front of your house in a gigantic tour bus, but I swear, this is the exception, not the rule ๐Ÿ™‚

26 Responses to “Do you have to have an interesting life to use Twitter?”

  1. Pam;

    In doing some research about Twitter, communication tools and leadership, I recalled this post and my comment above.

    A little over a year later, nearly 2300 followers and over 4200 tweets, pretty impressive!

    Happy Holidays!

    Peter A. Mello
    Sea-Fever Consulting LLC
    http://sea-fever.org
    http://weeklyleader.net
    @petermello and @weeklyleader

  2. I’ve been meaning to add my thoughts on Twitter since reading your post, Pam. I’ve finally just shared my thoughts in a post – http://www.doitmyselfblog.com/2008/twitter-instant-messaging-on-speed-or-a-budding-community/. Have you tried it yet?

  3. Rhonda says:

    I had the same “WTF?” response to Twitter when I first envcountered it a year or so ago. Then a friend referred me to this: “Twitter Nation: Nobody cares what you’re doing” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18445274/

    After reading that article, I posted about Twitter and similar social networking phenomena on my personal blog back in May: http://sandgroper14.wordpress.com/2007/05/05/twitter-twaddle/

    I’ve since joined Facebook (to play Scrabble with a friend across the world) and I don’t ‘get’ that continual update thing either. Sorry, but I’d rather spend some of my time offline and not connected every moment of every day. And besides, I’d like to keep the illusion that SOME of my life is still personal.

  4. Anne-Marie says:

    There are definitely some interesting comments in here.

    I have a blog so my customers can follow what I’m up to. I guess you could say I have a personal brand in my niche market – and I don’t think either would be well serviced by me twittering away with what I’m doing during my daily (normal pedantic routine) existence.

    The cliche “Familiarity breeds contempt” is one that I would be fearful of becoming a reality.

  5. Scott M says:

    I wonder how people keep parts of their lives seperate when using social networking sites like Twitter.

    When you use these sites, you have to know that EVERYONE will see it. There are things that I would prefer that my coworkers, mom, and aquaintances not know about my personal life.

    Are people really that open with their life?

  6. Ric says:

    Don’t follow the public timeline; follow people who you find interesting, and their more “personal” tweets will “flesh” them them out a little (sorry – had to put that in!). Of the 76 people I follow, only two are local to me (and one of them I IM/phone/f2f regularly as well), so Twitter is a bit like water-cooler conversation with people I may never meet in RL. I’ll admit my “following” list in Twitter resembles my blogroll somewhat, and a lot of them are ‘friends’ on other social networks.
    The other trick is not to feel that you have to be “in” twitter all the time – you CAN take a break and catch up with ‘replies’ later if somebody specifically directed something to you. I also only take direct messages on my mobile – anything more would be horrendous!
    I have brokered potential business connections, accelerated tech support and even got some local response from IBM via remote twitter connections … and found good recipes, restaurants, music and bars!
    Just like you can tame your mobile, you can control Twitter while still getting the most out of it.

  7. I think many people did and still may feel the same way about blogging. I was very cynical about Twitter, too.

    But like any tool in the box, if used properly it can be very useful and effective for networking, marketing and brand building.

    As a management consultant that specializes in leadership development, I felt that I needed to learn how people use these new media/communication tools in order to do my job. This is especially relevant as we look to the next generation of leaders, many of which feel email is “old school.” The best way to learn is to do and since the price of entry is so low (free), why not try?

    What I’ve learned over the past few months:

    I “follow” people that I either can learn something from or with which I am interested in developing a relationship. I’m not interested in your cat having hiccups or your every movement throughout the day but I may be interested if you post a link to an interesting article or if you are attending an important conference or event.

    From my experience, the Twitter community is very open and supportive and it can be a great networking tool. I have established several working relationships through Twitter.

    Twitter can be an easy, low effort medium. I use a free service called Twitterfeed that takes the RSS feed for my blog posts and del.icio.us links and automatically sends them to Twitter. No effort necessary. I rarely Tweet otherwise, my life’s too boring. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I have seen many Twitter’s throw a question out to their followers and get immediate valuable responses.

    Of course, like anything else, Twitter can be an incredible time sink. Conversely, with a plan and discipline, it can be a useful tool.

    Pamela, I really think that you are missing an opportunity with Twitter. As a new media rock star, you have a lot of loyal readers who would be interested to receive notice of latest posts, links that you found interesting but not rich enough to write an entire post on and learn about events at which you might be appearing. You’d be surprised.

    It’s not about having an interesting life to twitter about, it’s about using Twitter as a tool to help build your brand. It’s about figuring out what your readers want and attracting new ones.

    You can “follow” me at
    http://twitter.com/petermello

    I love your blog. Thanks for sharing!

    Fair Winds,
    Peter A. Mello
    Sea-Fever Consulting LLC
    http://sea-fever.org

  8. Taru Fisher says:

    Well, I have to say the twittering I experience in my own head is distracting enough without adding someone elses’s! I can barely find time to blog, let alone add another “to do” item to my already daunting one woman army list. Since finishing Mark Joyner’s Simpleology 101 course, my productivity has increased at least 100%, and I carefully examine the activity to determine if it moves me closer to my targets or farther away; is it a strengthening decision or a weakening decision? And for me, becoming a twitter would be a weakening decision. The Simpleology series of courses have changed my life! If you want to know more, Simpleology 101 is a complimentary course – check it out here: http://tinyurl.com/294dw9
    I guess at 65, I’m a little old-fashioned. As CEO of our company (and just about everything else) I have had no time to be with my friends, and if I were to make more time, I would want it to be face-to-face and heart-to-heart. I’d want to listen deeply to them rather than deluge them with the daily inconsequential stuff of MY life.

    While I can see some value for others, it obviously isn’t there for me.

  9. I tried it for a week or so for the reasons you suggest – there’s got to be *something* about it. I studied in particular its productivity impact – both positive and negative.

    My conclusion: It’s a rather questionable use of my time. As a time waster, the potential is clearly huge – spending more time writing trivia than being productive.

    As for positive uses, I came up with a few, which in the end weren’t compelling enough to stick with it:

    o a “micro blogging” platform – providing high-value, low overhead blog posts. An alternative to blogs like ours – rather deeper and longer (and more work!) The key here would be providing something of value beyond “I’m in the bathroom” and “Now I’m having a peanut and banana sandwich” ๐Ÿ™‚

    o as a possible time logging tool – e.g., type in every 15 minutes what you’re working on. Would need to be extended to support a useful syntax and analysis. See http://twitternotes.com/ for inspiration.

    o networking tool – this is probably the strongest reason to use it. If you want to connect with someone, follow her twitter feed. You might get a sense of what her interests, frustrations, and passions are, which leads to ways to help her.

    o rapid capture tool (ala GTD). Again, would require extension – syntax and view tools.

    Good question!

    Related:

    Creating Passionate Users: Is Twitter TOO good?
    http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2007/03/is_twitter_too_.html

    Three issues: 1) it’s a near-perfect example of the psychological principle of intermittent variable reward, the key addictive element of slot machines. 2) The strong “feeling of connectedness” Twitterers get can trick the brain into thinking its having a meaningful social interaction, while another (ancient) part of the brain “knows” something crucial to human survival is missing. 3) Twitter is yet another–potentially more dramatic–contribution to the problems of always-on multi-tasking… you can’t be Twittering (or emailing or chatting, of course) and simultaneously be in deep thought and/or a flow state.

  10. HR Wench says:

    Erica – You almost have me convinced to try it. Thanks for the link!

    HR Wench
    http://hrwench.blogspot.com/

  11. Marilyn says:

    When a blog-pal first tried to get me on board the Twitter train, I thought it was the stupidest thing ever. Then more of my blogging friends began using it and urging me to try it. Now I’m hooked–not hooked on using it, but on its appeal. For me (and I think for many others), Twitters or Tweets or whatever one calls them can be like mini-posts. Sometimes you don’t write to write a whole post about something, but just want to give it a mention. It’s also a convenient way to get messages back and forth, and sometimes people put questions out if they need help or advice. Rather than a constant stream of “What are you doing?” it seems to me that Twitter has become short-form blogging. Then again, I Twitter only from my PC. I might be annoyed as hell if I had to wade through a lot of Tweets on my phone. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. lilalia says:

    Maybe always being accessible, or making your momentary thoughts transparent through Twitter is considered a conversation by some. Not being accessible, is considered by others (myself included) a luxury we feel privileged to take.

  13. I’ll come down firmly on the side of Twitter, which I also used to think was really dumb.

    The best way to use it is not to tweet about your shopping carts or lob your blog post links over the transom, but to use it like any networking tool — as a way to improve real human interaction.

    Pick interesting people to follow, don’t try to follow a gazillion people yourself, and talk about things that are on your mind.

    If your mind is an interesting place, and the people you follow are interesting, you’ll be amazed at the connections and conversations that you’ll have.

    I’m at http://twitter.com/SheilaS if you want to check it out.

  14. Great post. I find so much of this stuff just one more way to go ADHD and be distracted. I mean how strategic is twittering? And, god knows we need to spend more time consciously planning and plotting our business and working the inside out than sharing the minutiae.

    I loved your tweets. Mine would be just about as exciting. “Finished proposal” “Took deep breaths to manage emotions in the transition” “Played with cat”.

    I think who has time for all this? And, what happened to real connection?

  15. Lisa says:

    Oh my God, Pam. This post (most specifically your tweets) had me laughing so hard snot came out of my nose. I’m not kidding. Thanks for the grand giggle despite needing a Kleenex aftewards.

    I have to say Twitter borders just this side of obsessive compulsive disorder. I can think of a lot more interesting ways to be a voyeur and find out about someone’s life than a two or three sentence text message. The only person’s lunch I’m interested in knowing about is my own. With so many social networking sites already out there, it makes me wonder how many more ridiculous ways do we need to keep ourselves connected to each other while remaining at a safe distance. I often wonder when the last time some folks wrote a handwritten letter or sat down face to face with someone for coffee and conversation.

    Perhaps I’m missing something about Twitter that makes it so special. But I don’t think so. In fact, the only thing I think I’d be missing if I started tweeting people would be my own damn lunch and that’s just not gonna happen. (:

    Lisa

  16. Andy Pels says:

    I think Cindy nailed it.
    Voyeurism/Exhibitionism – without anybody getting arrested.
    Andy P

  17. Colleen says:

    twitter= facebook status updates, at least that is what it sounds like to me . . . I can update my own when I want with whatever I’m doing and friends can view this in their news feeds of ‘most recently updated’ friends list. I don’t use my facebook status update that much and don’t see the point of adding another ‘tracking’ element to my life ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Pamela, I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t see the value of twitter. I see a lot of people who have several social networking links on their sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, plaxo, jobster, etc etc) and wonder how in the world do they really use all these sites? Seems like two or three well-managed social networks would be better than a bunch of them.

  19. I have a twitter account which I hadn’t used for mmm… months. I think I have reached my peak for social networking media type of thing. I barely facebook anymore ๐Ÿ˜‰ For people like me who doesn’t get followings besides friends and family, it’s really not as useful as someone like Guy or Seth Godin who actually have work-related things to twitt about where he can for example, plug for his new book or his new blog entry. For me, I either say “being computer monkey” or “out staging.” Or make silly faces.

    Philosophically speaking, I suppose twitter satisfies our thirst for voyeurism? It’s nice to sometimes step away from our lives and peek into others ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Cheers,
    Cindy

  20. Andy Pels says:

    It’s just possible that I am once again straying from the main topic, but it seems to me that the parking space near the cart return at Safeway is bad because you have a higher risk of cart dings in your vee-hickle.

    When I had little ones to pack in the car I didn’t want to leave them unattended whilst returning the cart. I always figured that fact gave me license to carefully leave my cart unreturned. Besides, the people who get paid to retrieve those carts need a job, too, right?

    This Twitterpation could, for a majority of users, be a way to place and pass milestones. Progress, or even determination, that is submitted to witnesses has a way of holding us to taking the next step, or another step. Making a habit of reporting even the mundane, can help assure that the extraordinary will sneak in there once in a while, too. And being the witness can be inspiring – for those ready to receive it.

    Next time any of you is in Northern California, stop by and we’ll go to lunch – my tweet!

    Andy P

  21. We’ve wrestled with this over at Web Worker Daily a few times, and while it’s clear that Twitter isn’t for everyone, it sure works well for some of us – even some of us who broadcast the mundane along with the exciting. Personally, Twitter has helped me make new personal and professional contacts that I wouldn’t have made otherwise – and it’s helped me get a feel for contacts (new and old) as well-rounded people, rather than just as “this .NET developer” or “that productivity blogger.” It’s nice to just let the chatter coast by on a second screen as I’m working, and see who is into Guitar Hero and who’s wandering around Berlin and who’s off on a road trip.

    And heck, if you start Twittering your life – mundane and otherwise – I’ll follow it. I don’t think the reality would hurt your brand a bit, unless you’re determined that your brand should include “one-dimensional.”

  22. I had been wrestling with the Twitter idea also and then I landed upon Caroline Middlebrook’s Big Juicy Twitter Guide and the lights went on. I learned and realized a few things that made the decision to Twitter much easier. First, there’s no need to read everyone else’s tweets, and if you do look through them you can skip those telling what people ate for lunch and who is knitting what. Instead, you can use it to broadcast your blog posts, ezine articles and new products. I use it now like a Press Release service and only “follow” those whose press releases would interest me. It’s increased traffic to my blog and I’ve formed some fabulous connections. Caroline’s Big Juicy Twitter guide is at:
    http://www.caroline-middlebrook.com/blog/twitter-guide/
    Keep u s posted if you head over there. We are sure to follow, Pam.

  23. Carme says:

    I made myself the same question and I think Twitter is good to keep up with updates, particularly about events.

    It could be very useful organizing events with last minute changes while attendees may be on the way. Twitter could help the organizer telling everybody subscribed all details.

    On the other side, some attendees at events using Twitter helped me to follow the missed talk. Some people are very good at sending key links and key words.

  24. Ben Hosken says:

    I was thinking about this last night and agree that I still can’t grasp why I would want to know day to day info about everyone.

    I do think that for friends who are a long way away it does create a sense of ambient intimacy but for work relationships not so much.

    Is it just me or have the days of thoughtful 1/2 page blog entries gone in place of one line “Wow you rock” or “iPhones suck” type things?

  25. Laura says:

    Oh wow there’s actually another blogger out here who doesn’t get the point of Twitter!! I just can’t wrap my mind around WHY I need to update the Internets about what I’m doing all day. Even if what I’m doing all day is interesting, which is rarely the case. My tweets would be similar to yours:

    “Taking the dog to backyard. Let’s hope she does her business quickly. Cold out there.”

    “Starting laundry. Should I do dark or whites today?”

    “Making lunch. Tomato soup. With melted cheese today, just for kicks.”

    Come on. If I’m doing laundry, I’m DOING LAUNDRY. Not Twittering about it!! This is the exact same reason why I don’t use Second Life.

  26. HR Wench says:

    I’m still trying to get used to the fact I have a cell phone and people can get a hold of me just about anywhere. Heck if I’m going to feed the beasts some twitter!

    HR Wench
    http://hrwench.blogspot.com/

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