05 February 2013

Anti-Social Media

So recently I upped my involvement with Twitter, and it was fantastic, and then it was an absolute disaster.  Read on, and learn from my mistakes.

First of all, like a lot of folks, I have been a long-time user of facebook, and I have a really good community there - lots of ongoing conversations across the spectrum of opinions and politics.  I pop on for an hour, here and there, and maintain ties to this community with ease.

Twitter ain't like facebook.

Or rather, it is and it isn't.  And learning the similarities and differences has been a painful process.

First of all, I should point out that I am not tweeting as an individual, but instead on behalf of my radio show, Things Not Seen: Conversations about Culture and Faith.  This led me to think about numbers, numbers, numbers instead of people.

I was going a little nuts, sending out blasts of tweets about various podcast episodes and adding hashtags galore.  For a few days, the response was incredible.  The downloads jumped from a couple dozen to hundreds a day.  It was addictive - the higher the numbers grew, the higher I wanted them to go.  So I tweeted, and retweeted my own tweets, blasting bigger and bigger each time.

Two days ago, the numbers stopped rising.  In fact, they dropped off entirely.

What happened?  Well, Twitter throttled me.  And with good reason.  I was acting like an ass.

You know that guy who shows up at a party, or a funeral, and starts handing out business cards?  You know that "long lost friend" who reconnects out of the blue, only to start trying to sell you on some multi-level marketing scheme?  Yeah.  On Twitter, I now realize I was That Guy.

I never had difficulty understanding how facebook is social media.  To be honest, though, at first Twitter just seemed to me to be a big free for all, a meet market where you threw 140 characters out again and again because, after all, they would blast through the feed and disappear in the noise if you didn't.

The problem, I discovered, was not trying to cut through the noise.  The problem was I had become the noise that needed to be cut through.

So, gentle readers, I am offering this public apology.  I didn't do Twitter right.  I treated readers like numbers, and not like people.  I added to the noise.  I am sorry, and I will not do it again.

I stayed up pretty late last night, thinking about all this.  Lots of friends on facebook gave me some great advice and pointers, too.  I went to bed feeling just like I would have felt if I had been an ass at a party.  Because, in a lot of ways, I was.

What have I learned?  Well, first, that short term explosive growth is exactly that: short term.  It comes at the expense of what really makes social media work, namely relationships and trust.  I learned that just showing up on Twitter and blasting and then disappearing is about the equivalent of drinking too much and insisting folks listen to you sound off about politics loudly in the kitchen.  Folks may listen politely for a while, but eventually the host is going to shut that crap down.

So, this morning, I opened up Twitter, and instead of sounding off about the show, like all last week, I read what other people were saying.  I spent more time listening than I did talking.  I thanked people for the tweets that made me laugh or think, and I found good things to pass along that had nothing to do with promoting me or my radio show.

After a day of doing this, I am beginning to feel better about my relationship to Twitter, and to the followers who trusted me not to ruin their party.  Still a ways to go, but I will say today, Twitter has made more sense to me, and started to feel a little more like the community I value so much on facebook.

There's still a long way to go to make amends for acting like "That Guy," but this feels like a good start.

Thanks for reading.

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