Twitter is a curious beast. It has morphed as it grows, due to the community of people who use it. And in researching the online social sphere for my graduate thesis, there are some key aspects of how people use Twitter that are indicators to how this is going to go.
Twitter is a tool used by a community. The tool of Twitter is no different to any other tool. The tool of Twitter exists as an infrastructure, and becomes what it is because of how the community uses it. Just as a knife can be defined as a weapon because people sometimes kill very effectively with it, so Twitter is a community because people interact on it.
Over time we’ve seen Twitter move on from being a post-modern, Web 1.0 Facebook-style status update of ‘what are you doing’. That whole status update thing had the whole broadcasting ethos of me! me! me! It was about telling the world about me and not really caring that much about what everyone else thought of it.
But Web 2.0, and beyond has seen Twitter’s ‘what are you doing’ develop to people actually asking each other ‘what are *you* doing’? And ‘doing’ for the Twitter community now really means ‘thinking’ and ‘wanting’ and ‘needing’ and ‘hoping for’, etc.
The community online uses social media to really connect with each other. To connect with people who you feel an affiliation with, or can learn from, or just feel close to. Not to broadcast.
And this is why I’ve stopped following Guy Kawasaki.
I’m sure Guy is a nice guy (sorry). He’s done a lot of good stuff, written some books that people rave about and stuff. He also gives a good party by all accounts. He certainly believes he’s extremely influential, and some other people do too.
so where’s the problem? A while back on Twitter @Guykawasaki was really him. He’d tweet stuff and interact with people. But as time has gone on, Guy’s Twitter account has morphed – much like most of Twitter. However, I’d argue the morphing that Guy has sought has been detrimental to his personal brand, and non-reflective of where the community of Twitter is heading. He’s introduced ghost twitterers, for which has received a lot of criticism – and he doesn’t seem to get what the issue with that is. He spends a lot of time on Twitter defending himself over this (it gets tiring). He’s also focused on the numbers and believes that putting out what he terms “good content” (ie: links to stories and ‘interesting things’ on the web that he has located and simply aggregates, not that he’s created) is all Twitter needs to be.
All of this means the stream of “Guy Kawasaki” really is about as authentically Guy Kawasaki as the fake accounts of myriad celebrities. When I started following Guy, that wasn’t the case.
And Guy, the fact is we use Twitter differently. I’m into conversation. Looking at my stats, I tweet an average of 13 times a day, and 70% of those are @ tweets. Connections and personal resonance is my focus. I’m not as into the numbers as you and all those traditional marketers and journalists and old-school bloggers with ‘number of eyeballs’ perceptions are. I have a relatively large number of followers and am extremely happy about that because it gives me the opportunity to talk with lots of different people, find out what they’re doing, how I can assist them, and vice versa. (To clarify: I gain followers in the old-fashioned way. No 3rd party tools, or requests for follows being broadcast. You won’t see me tweeting about my following as being a big thing for me.)
I’m interested in people individually. And I sincerely believe that’s where the future of online communication lies. Not in trying to elevate your own name by broadcasting what you think is ‘good content’ (no matter who created it), but by having conversations with people, everywhere. We’re not living in a Web 1.0 environment any more.
So time will go on and Twitter will continue to morph. I feel old school. The general real life community has heard of Twitter. People talk about “getting a Twitter” (which is strange phrasing to me). Mainstream traditional media is not only covering Twitter but is getting stories from its community.
The thing that’s driving everyday people to Twitter though, is not to just receive traditional mass media. The thing the people want is connections with other people, and real life celebrities such as Ashton, Demi and Kevin are using Twitter to connect with their fans. They have conversations with them. Really. That’s why they’re coming. That’s why Twitter’s growth is 30% a month. Connecting individually with resonance is everything.