USE #YYJ FOR VICTORIA! screamed a veteran twitter user at a stumbling fawn stepping gingerly into the raging torrent of tweets.
This, for me, was the point when Twitter lost the final vestiges of dignity and innocence, becoming the anti-social monster that it is today.
In the early days, Twitter was joyously simple. An exciting forum of discovery and interaction and a genuine social network, but that didn’t last long.
Businesses came, sniffing out the promise of cheap/free marketing. There was a sense that this was the holy grail of marketing; a tool that empowered businesses to establish personal marketing channels with customers for next to no cost. You could ditch your traditional advertising and marketing, save money and grow your business. Predictably, Twitter followed the path of the tranquil and charming getaway, ruined by glowing magazine articles and word of mouth. Now, it’s broadcast media, the screamer on the daily paper, it’s the tv newsflash, the spam email, its not social.
Is it really that bad? Well towards the end of last year I asked the community if they knew a place to hire a mini excavator for some (serious) weeding. No recommendations, but I did get 4 Excavator sales companies autofollow me within seconds offering leasing and easy finance.
I voiced this take on Twitter in Doug’s post on automated tweets, and in the resulting comments he suggested examining a Twitter stream to find the social tweets. So I did just that. Reckoning that local users might be looking for local tweets I sampled an hour of tweets containing the #yyj hashtag on Friday 27/05/2011. There were 98 tweets. So of those 98 tweets, how many were inviting discourse and would satisfy the notion that Twitter is a social networking tool?
One. Yes, one. Accompanied by three others that weren’t actually seeking discourse, but were at least open or community minded (click the graphic above to see the community tweets).
Those four were almost completely drowned out by an endless foghorn of tweets grandstanding, boasting, demanding RTs, hocking, selling & promoting.
So who’s to blame, well us. When Twitter opened the doors and set its creation free we invented tools to filter and analyse streams, measure every possible metric and correlation, milk every last drop of insight and relevance. It provided everyone with an ego or an agenda – and I include myself here – a soapbox.
It’s only now that I’m seeing people who have no crossover in their everyday lives with social technology, start to turn up on Twitter. Are they going to find a world of discourse and discovery? How long will they post those frank and unguarded opinions before they realise that every word is being and analysed, their value to marketers is being assessed and they are being filtered and ranked by their receptance to offers. And perversly, whether their influence deems them important enough to listen to if they complain?
So can Twitter be saved? Does it even need saving? Topics for a following post.