4 out of 5 Library Gardeners Recommend Twitter to their Readers who Chew Social Media

June 19, 2009 at 8:49 am 7 comments

Okay, I just made that figure up. First of all there are now 11 of us here at Library Garden, and second of all, only a few of us really tweet. Even to those who already use other social networking sites, like Facebook, Twitter can be a really tough sell. It seems to be a love it or hate it kind of thing, or a “get it” or “don’t get it” kind of thing, and not even all Library Gardeners are in agreement on it. Some of us tweet a lot and some of us have never even tried Twitter.
THE TWITTER QUITTERS

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.

MANY USE TWITTER WITHOUT AN ACCOUNT

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.

TWITTER IS NOT FOR EVERYONE

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 AS GO-TO NEWS SERVICE

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.)

THE TWITTER TIPPING POINT

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.

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Entry filed under: Social Web and Social Networks, Twitter. Tags: .

Unconference? – Pres4Lib – A Review Blogger’s Block

7 Comments

  • 1. Janie L. Hermann  |  June 20, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Count me in as one of the LG team that feels Twitter is useful — even though I did not "get it" when it first came out. I don't use it daily for my personal life (although I do go in spurts where I do tweet daily), but it is very valuable when I need it — esp. at conferences.

    I am the staff person who started and maintains MPOW's Twitter stream and I try to make sure we tweet daily or close to it. Our library's twitter stream has regularly pulled in people to library programs that would not have otherwise come or known about them.

  • 2. Cynthia  |  June 23, 2009 at 8:34 am

    I have an account. I tweet from time to time–mostly job related. However, I am far from sold on the service.

    I am pretty sick of posts about lunch menus and beer choices. I recently 'tweeted' at a conference and promptly missed much of what was being said! Multitasking, for most people, means doing more than one thing less than well–that pretty much sums up my tweet the conference experience.

    The on-the-spot reporting in places like Iran is remarkable. Let's face it–the revolution will be streamed. This is a huge shift in how news can be gathered and disseminated from closed societies.

    The ability to update without the use of the website makes government shut-down of it very difficult. Unless they want to shut-down cell phone service, which can be a problem for far more than the protesters, people will be able to use Twitter.

    As always, evaluation of source is hard and can be fraught with peril. They are finally 'verifying' accounts–helpful for celebs, but what about folks with ordinary names and no lawyers?

    The only other good use I see is advertising events. I follow Princeton Scoop so that I know what is happening in town and can share with patrons. I post when I want to get word out about an event. Beyond this, I don't have much use for it right now.

    Finally, is anyone else sick of the lingo?! It is typing. The damn things are typed. They are blog posts or text messages–no need for the cute little baby names…

  • 3. Lisa Coats  |  June 23, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Ok, I finally joined Twitter. But after reading this post by Amy, I can tell that I'm going to have to really give it a fair try before ditching it. I'll download Tweet Deck (whatever the heck that is! ;-) today. I'll build up my network. I'll check it at least once a day…for awhile. Hey, but for us newbies, Cynthia, what are the "baby names" and "lingo" you mention?

  • 4. Cynthia  |  June 23, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Time Magazine's cover artile–How Twitter Will Change the way We Live http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1902604,00.html

    Some interesting related items as well….

  • 5. Ben  |  June 24, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Very interesting article! I agree with many of the points raised, especially the fact that Twitter is "What you make it" – You have to put something in to get something back. The phone simile was spot on!

    It also became part of my routine pretty quickly. I like to think that people enjoy what I have to Tweet. Maybe they do, maybe they don't but I try and post what I find interesting. If you choose your followers carefully, it can very interesting for you too!

  • 6. Cynthia  |  June 24, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Nielsen has done an update to their report, that includes the use of feeder platforms. You can find that article here:

    http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/update-return-of-the-twitter-quitters/

  • 7. Akearns  |  June 29, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Thanks for all the additions to this conversation guys and for the additional links – I am planning to write a follow-up post on my personal Twitter-use suggestions/recommendations. Thanks!


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