Where Did Twitter Go? Recovering the Lost Soul of Social Media

Recovering the Lost Soul of Social Media Remember when brands and companies wanted to be on Twitter instead of having to be there? Remember when someone posting the same tweet to the same article was grounds for an unfollow?

Long gone are those days. In the past month I’ve tracked one prominent online magazine tweet the same link with essentially the same text more than four times. That’s at least four well-deserved unfollows by 2008 standards.

We live in the age of the triple (and unfortunately, the quadruple and quintuple) tweet. It’s not accidental either – it’s a recommended strategy by most digital strategists. And a regular practice for most marketers. Entire infographics are devoted to ideal posting schedules as automation services multiply like rabbits. Even Twitter added a scheduling module to its platform last fall.

What does this amount to? Scott Stratten of UnMarketing put its starkly,

Syncing, scheduling, and absentee tweeting has killed Twitter.

This isn’t 2006 when Twitter was nothing more than a glorified status update platform (Facebook’s status updates used to be limited to 140 characters too). There were no scheduling or syndication tools. If you wanted to be on Twitter you had to be virtually present. Following over 100 people was a big deal because that implied – get this – you actually read what they tweeted.

“Wait a minute,” you argue, “I don’t need to be on Twitter. I get email updates when someone mentions me. I get push notifications for my favorite users.”

But to Stratten’s point, even this shows the shift in platform use. If this is how everyone used it, Twitter would no longer be a social community – a place to come, learn, and contribute. Instead, it’s only community so long as it’s convenient for me and people are mentioning me. In other words, it’s conditional.

Now, before we cry foul on the marketers, I have to admit my own part in this. Though the triple tweet is not my bag of tricks, I regularly use Buffer to schedule my published content.

I get it. Social media is now a viable marketing tool for brands, businesses, and publications. But instead of taking the time to learn the craft, many marketers have hijacked Twitter and other social platforms to push content and shout loudly with no intention of listening. Twitter is about distribution more than it is about socializing.

With over 500 million tweets a day, it’s a given that less and less people see your single tweet. The Twitter user base is increasing, more people are tweeting, and more followers are added. But as social media becomes more and more automated, how can we retain its real-time and personal soul? A glimpse of the old days only seems to come in national or global events, like the World Cup.

Far from this being a rally cry to abandon the platform, this is a gentle pleading to consider how you use Twitter whether as a person or on behalf of a business. Social media is just that: social media. Don’t treat the platform as yet another megaphone to shout. Take time to listen, invest, contribute, learn, and give.

Image credit: Josh Semans onĀ Flickr.

Caleb Gallifant

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I'm a digital business leader and strategist at Humana. I enjoy reading, single-origin coffee, design, innovation, technology, traveling, and digital transformation. I'm a Christian, husband, and dad.

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