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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reader survey: thoughts on Twitter?

I'm pretty skeptical of the value of Twitter.

Nobody has been able to construct an obvious reason why I should donate my time to get my head around it, play with it, update it, follow other people and so forth. When I've expressed this view at events and other online forums, the usual response has been "Oh, just start using it, and you'll understand the value over time".

I'm sorry, but that doesn't work for me. I don't like playing around with new social media tools "just for the fun of it", and my primary client-base isn't in the social media industry.

(Edit - the other argument I've heard is "You'll be able to have lots more conversations with lots more people". Which also doesn't work, as I already have more options for conversations than I have time. I unfortunately have to turn away briefings, conference speaking invitations, delay responding to emails and voicemails and deprioritise other interactions. I'd need to know that Twitter wouldn't just add to the problem, and that I'd be conversing with the "right" people more - ie the ones with unique and relevant knowledge, money to spend, or a good sense of humour).

I need a clear & immediate "win" if I'm going to take time away from other work or personal activities. There's a million bits of cool software, social media, or networking technology & events that I could invest time in, so what's special about Twitter? Would say, 4 hours "invested" in Twitter yield more revenue & value than 4 hours spent phoning or emailing some old contacts or clients, whom I haven't had a chance to catch up with in ages? Or 4 hours updating my website? Or 4 hours at something like Mobile Monday?

I'll contrast that with this blog, which I write because it yields obvious benefits in terms of visibility, interactivity with a knowledgeable audience, direct revenue and leads from new clients ("I read your blog regularly, can you also do XXX type of project or YYY type of event?"), and the ability to put down and "claim" ideas I have, when I don't have time to write up full reports.

On the other hand, Jonny Bentwood has highlighted just how many other analysts are Twittering away happily, so maybe it's time for a rethink.

(Socially, I'm totally disinterested in it - none of my non-industry friends have ever even mentioned it. Absolutely zero).

Now, I know that (obviously) quite a few people in the apps/Web part of my audience are avid Twitterers - but I have a variety of other avenues to reach them. Any comments on how you deal with analysts via Twitter would be interesting, nevertheless. But I'm more interested in people from the "techier" parts of this blog's readership - MNOs' radio and architecture and strategy teams, wireless infrastructure suppliers, device manufacturers, semiconductor vendors, regulators and so on. Do you already follow anyone "tweeting" on femtocells, or spectrum policy, or deep packet inspection?

Comments - either on this thread, or via email at FIRSTNAME.LASTNAME AT disruptive-analysis.com are very welcome. I'm willing to change my opinion on Twitter, but it needs to have a clear and demonstrable *business* return on my time. And the response "you won't understand until you've tried it" is unacceptable, as that generic argument could be applied to everything from religious evangelism to a new type of cheese.


Simon Cast said...

I'm not sure you would get much gain from twittering. One area I could see you getting value from twitter is asking a question of your knowledgeable audience (assuming they are following) to get an immediate answer.

That broad immediate feedback is harder through blogs and other social media services. The problem you face is having enough of your audience using twitter as well.

One aspect that is probably of indirect value is the "breaking news" side of twitter. Being able to spot some relevant news before it hits the normal services has value in it. At this point that is really a service built on top of twitter and not one that I know exists currently.

I use twitter occasionally and certainly not religiously. I tend to focus on RSS/blogs and Friendfeed for keeping abreast of information.

Ian said...

Twitter takes zero time to get your head around, so you have little to lose. The whole point is that it's v quick and simple.

Dean Bubley said...

"Twitter takes zero time to get your head around, so you have little to lose. The whole point is that it's v quick and simple"

Lots of things take "zero" time. Lots of things are quick & simple.
I'm not interested in 99% of them.

The only thing you've illustrated is that 160 characters generally isn't enough to articulate a decent argument & answer my question about the *specific* benefits.

Rajiv said...

to drive more traffic to your blog, keep your readers updated on it, to conduct informal opinion gathering or just to let out something that's on your mind.

Anonymous said...

Update: posting on Dean Bubley's blog!

vinnie said...

you and I must be the last 2 bloggers on the planet to not be on Twitter!

I am scared at the addiction and time commitment it might take...I also lament it came 3-4th in a wave of Facebook and other social bombardment we have all been coerced into joining...if it had been first things may have been different, but I have seen so little value from other networks that I am bit jaded - probably unfairly to Twitter

finally I write for the enterprise buyer and not convinced they are on Twitter...

vinnie said...

by the way you may enjoy Hamlet 2.0 below


CEO said...

But why are you asking others to convince you if Twitter is for you? I don't get it. Use it, or don't use it. If you want to follow others, your peers and your friends, use it. If you don't care, don't.

Matthew said...

Twitter... an example of confusing quality and quantity.

Its not about doing more, its about doing better.

For example, on a personal level, do you get greater satisfaction and meaning from a text message, IM, phone call, meeting, lunch or night out?

In my opinion, technology gives us the opportunity to confuse ourselves, or even to delude ourselves, into believing that more *is* better... rather than more is *just more* and better... is better.

So no thanks, no Twitter for me.

And be warned, you better not be on your Blackberry when you are in a meeting with me either!

Falk said...

If there is one tool that is worth checking out these days and, that even helps you to save some time and includes all the functionality of twitter it is friendfeed.

It's a breeze to keep track of the contact points of people who really interest you, even if they are not on friendfeed. And the discussions there rather complement and replace your blog comments than anything else. Twitter is dead - FF is taking over since months ago.

Anonymous said...

I'm with @CEO, Twitter's not for everyone, you need to figure it out for yourself.

If it's any help I wrote a post about people are using it to their benefit


Dean Bubley said...

Thank everyone.

Notable lack of comments like: "I work for a telecom regulator & use Twitter to keep me up-to-date on developments in spectrum policy" or "I started following analyst XYZ on Twitter and have since started using their paid research".

Sounds like it's most useful for realtime stuff. However, for my work a latency of 1+ days is fine, so RSS and the web and email updates are more than adequate for 'following' people.

I think I'll stick with my Twitter-heretic status for now.


Mo said...

While I don't think there's much value in you using Twitter as a professional tool, it's certainly something you should have a professional interest in (given your line of work).

Twitter is a straightforward consumer proposition, and for most of its users it boils down to what I've best been able to describe as “SMS 2.0”: it extends plain ol’ SMS in a sensible fashion, instead of in the way that operators and handset-makers decided it should be. Rather than building upon a very much closed and locked-in architecture and tacking things like pictures, videos and voice messages on (I'm sure you've got far better numbers than I could dig up on the comparative success of SMS versus MMS), it instead decouples the messaging system from the operators altogether, and sends SMS back to being just a transit mechanism.

Twitter, overall, provides two important things over raw SMS: device independence (interact via the web or SMS, or—if they ever fix it—IM), and group discussion. They do this without sacrificing the point-to-point aspects of SMS (direct messages are still available, but with the added benefits of being accessible from more than just a single handset), and with privacy options available (you want to use Twitter amongst a small group of friends and nobody else gets to see anything? fine).

If the operators and handset manufacturers had attempted it, each message would cost £1.50, would be sent to a web server over a packet-data connection, give you a variety of pointless options for “attaching” media or doing exciting-sounding things with them (hands up anybody who's ever used the “Blog this” function of modern S-E handsets?)

Arguably, Twitter is the way SMS should work, now that we're a good decade since its widespread introduction; technical and scaling problems aside. It's cheap, it's effective, and it's rapidly becoming ubiquitous: precisely like SMS.

Dean Bubley said...

Hi Mo

Yes, I am "professionally interested" in Twitter - hence this post. However, I'm also professionally interested in many others sorts of mobile devices, mobile networks and mobile services, as well as a variety of fixed and Internet technologies.

But I don't have time (or money) to personally investigate more than a tiny fraction of them. I can't buy every handset, I can't sign up with every MNOs' services, I can't look at mobile user behaviour in every country.

Is Twitter SMS 2.0? Well, it's certainly nowhere near "becoming ubiquitous". It has very little mass-media "buzz", certainly less than social-networking, for example. None of my personal non-industry acquaintances use it. Whereas they all use SMS & email, almost all use FaceBook and occasionally MMS, and about half use IM.

The problem I see is that it seems to be mostly advocated by "fanboys" rather than normal people. Generally, that by itself marks something down as being much less "cool" than advocates believe.

I may be wrong, but thus far all the pro-Twitter arguments seem a bit circular.



Mo said...

You're perhaps right, and I suspect it may boil down to demographics: I know that most of my wife's friends, for example (all of whom are largely non-technical) use it. Lots of companies are using it, and although the press isn't talking about it all that much over here, representatives of the press are certainly using it (either in an official capacity or otherwise). In the US, the Barack Obama campaign is using it, fire departments are using it, airlines are using it. Over here, the Downing Street press office is using it (with more success than they've had with YouTube, I gather).

so, while there isn't much “buzz” through the usual channels, lots and lots of ordinary people outside of your circle of acquaintances are using it—to my mind, that matters far more than what's in the papers.

out of curiosity, did you get any feedback on this post asking what the hell twitter was?

Edsard Ravelli said...

Many people jumped on the Second Life bandwagon as well and look at how that is ending up.

No twitter for me either. People know how to reach me. Too often I hear the argument that "everybody does it". So?

Greetz, Edsard - Fellow Twitter-heretic ;-)

Joshua Davidson said...

The reason people are telling you to 'try it, before dismissing it' is because, (as I have discovered writing this post)it is very hard to surmise the benefits of Twitter. Although I'm relatively new to the service, 34 tweets and counting, I have discovered numerous advantages. Not least of which has been, being able to learn from people that I would otherwise have no point of contact with.

Random Story: I remember I once had to call around looking for a room to rent. There was a book shop window in Melbourne that people used to advertise for house mates. So all I had to go on in choosing those to call and those not to, was their scrawled text on a small card in the window.

Never-the-less, I quickly dismissed some and happily called others. How? It was small turns of phrase, 'must enjoy a drink', 'social', 'house of film fanatics'. My point is that the same thing happens on twitter. You can quickly spot people you might be interested in, because it is a human voice. A human voice makes sense of social media, tagging, Friendfeed etc. I'm more interested in someones online activities if I have a sense of who they are.