4 out of 5 Library Gardeners Recommend Twitter to their Readers who Chew Social Media
As you are very aware, Twitter is everywhere! There’s no escaping it, whether you have a Twitter account or not. However, recently a lot of the attention was focused on the large number of “Twitter Quitters”-those who join Twitter and never go back. This article http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9132305 cites a Nielsen Co. report that “. . . 60% of Twitter users do not return to the microblogging site the next month.”
Maybe others have more information on that research, or a better understanding of that 60% figure, but to me not returning to the site doesn’t necessarily mean that people who sign-up for Twitter aren’t using it. I myself hardly ever “return to the site” (http://www.twitter.com) because I use other programs to tweet, as well as my iPhone. So while I am a very active twitterer (my current updates – or tweets – are over 5,000) my actual use of the site isn’t very high. I use a program called Tweetie on my iPhone and MacBook, and there are many other programs you can use to tweet, including TweetDeck, Seesmic and Twhirl.
I do believe that many people sign up for Twitter and never use it. If the report said that more than half of those who join Twitter never send any tweets or updates, this 60% figure would be clearer to me. However, since you really don’t need to return to the site to tweet, saying that 60% never do return might not mean anything.
How did the researchers determine this figure anyway? If they mean 60% of new users “do not use their account to tweet” after the first month it might make sense. You could easily tell how many times someone has tweeted (as long as they are public) no matter how they sent the tweet. You could see that a new user never tweeted again, whether it was from the site or another client. But the report didn’t say that new users don’t tweet, it said they never return to the site. This doesn’t mean that those who join Twitter haven’t continued to use the service in another way.
Twitter is an interesting tool and one that is increasingly useful, even to those who don’t have a Twitter account. For example, the Twitter search function is extremely useful, and does not require an account. You can search Twitter for all the (public) tweets on any particular topic by going to http://www.search.twitter.com. The advanced search features are especially neat, and include the ability to search by emotional content by using standard emoticons such as :-) or :-(.
The hashtagging of topics is another way to use Twitter without going to the site or ever sending out your own tweets. You can follow current events or topics or conferences (okay some people have had it with that) by following only the tweets that have the hashtag in them. (You can read some more on Twitter and hashtags here.)
Okay, I do admit, 60% is a big number, and other sites like Facebook and MySpace had higher retention rates right from the start, but Twitter has been experiencing crazy growth (http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/twitter-quitters-post-roadblock-to-long-term-growth/). Undoubtedly, people will join a new thing and try it when it is getting as much attention as Twitter has and, of course, not everyone is going to stay with it no matter what. When you have a lot of growth, you just are not going to keep everyone – especially if those who join are just compelled to try it because celebrities like Oprah are there. I would imagine that people who do not regularly social network might try Twitter and then abandon it because social networking isn’t a part of their lifestyle in general … they don’t Facebook or MySpace, or text or instant message, or surf the Internet for hours.
Just like all social sites or 2.0 tools, Twitter isn’t for everyone. I mean, I “get” the common complaint voiced by those who “don’t get” Twitter – even I don’t always care what people are having for lunch! I just skim over those tweets though because I do always care when they share an awesome link to an article or resource. I appreciate when they crack a joke that makes me smile in the middle of a stressful workday, or ask or answer an interesting question. Twitter all depends on whom you follow and who is following you – it is what you make of it. The particular network you have (or don’t have) on Twitter really makes or breaks it. Signing up for Twitter and then not adding any followers, or following anyone else, and then quitting, is like having a phone number and then never making or receiving any calls and saying the phone is worthless!
I think there are other factors involved in how “sticky” Twitter might be for a person – such as how “connected” he or she likes to be, and when and where and how. It may also depend on what sort of gadgets they have and if they love to use technology or not. For example, I always have my iPhone with me and it is very quick and easy for me to tweet from it – that makes it a 24/7 possibility for me (to the dismay of my husband).
I have been wondering too if Twitter use has anything to do with how much face-to-face time people get with others in their jobs and/or lives, and how much they want or need. For librarians who work in a very small office (like I do) or alone (in a special or school library for example) Twitter may provide a much-needed network of others to “talk” to and share with. If you get your fill of networking from in-person interactions, perhaps Twitter doesn’t serve a useful function for you. For me, there are just so many librarians and other interesting and smart people on Twitter. They have become a large and important network for me.
Twitter has become my first source for breaking news and information, interesting tidbits, links, information, feedback, local info and updates, tech news, keeping up with friends, etc. Even when someone I follow only tweets their lunch of macaroni and cheese I find that a seemingly meaningless tidbit like that can give me a more well-rounded idea of a person I may or may not know in person. It is our mundane or silly exchanges that bond us to each other beyond our work relationships in real life and online.
If Twitter doesn’t naturally become part of your “routine,” your habit, then it’s not going to be meaningful for you, and you’re going to abandon it. Twitter pretty much requires fairly constant use because it of its real-time conversational nature. If you use Twitter once or twice a week I wouldn’t imagine you would find it very compelling – except maybe if you only use it during conferences. (Although if you only do that, you may not have built up a good enough network for even that to be very useful.)
Pete, a Library Gardener who does tweet, puts it this way, “Twitter is what you make of it, and like all networks it becomes exponentially more valuable the more “nodes” (followees) you add. Twitter is like many social network sites in that you really have to use it for a while before you can start to see or experience its value. For the longest time I thought Facebook was the biggest waste of time–I just didn’t “get” it. But came a tipping point, and now it is something that greatly enriches my life!”
I am not saying that everyone absolutely has to twitter. However, as one Library Gardener who does recommend Twitter, I suggest that you download Tweet Deck (if you are a pc) or Tweetie (if you use Mac), selectively add some people, and try it regularly for longer than a month and see if you’re actually a Twitter Quitter or not.
You can follow me (or not) on Twitter-I’m akearns.