Why I don’t like Twitter (and why you don’t have to either)

Let’s play a game. I say two words, then you say the first two words that pop in to your head. I’ll then attempt to guess your two words. Sounds fun, right?

OK, here goes: “Social media.”

Now you go. Yes, you!

I knew it! You said, “Facebook and Twitter” didn’t you? And you snuck in an extra word thinking I wouldn’t notice. Well fine, I’ll let it slide this one time.

Truth is, Facebook and Twitter, or FacebookAndTwitter (said with one breath) are synonymous with social media; they’re the real MVP’s, the go-to guys. They’re complementary, different, yet equally influential powerhouses that have rightfully dominated the social media landscape since the dawn of time.

But here’s the thing: I just don’t like Twitter. I don’t like it for myself, but I like it even less for clients who are seeking to use social media to achieve their business objectives.

Here’s why.

While you can’t judge the success of a social platform solely on its userbase, just last month (March 2017) Twitter recorded three million Monthly Active Users (MAUs) in Australia and 313 million MAUs worldwide. Let’s compare that to Facebook, which had 17 million active users during March in Australia alone and, as a monthly average, records 1.86 billion MAUs globally.

To put that in context, Twitter recorded only 600,000 more users during March than Tinder, 900,000 fewer than Tumblr (Tumblr!!?) and actually, fewer users than not only Facebook but also YouTube, WordPress, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, and I’ll say it again for effect, Tumblr.

Despite its ubiquity, Twitter’s global appeal has continued to diminish. Sure, its name gets fired off whenever anyone talks about social media; but the channel is quite a niche. It’s been batting above its global usage and engagement averages for a while now, with its growth remaining fairly stagnant (give or take a few hundred thousand here and there) over the past two years.

Twitter has its loyal, somewhat forceful following and for public personalities, maybe, I get it. And for people with a particular interest, you know, like dragon boating or something, who want to engage in existing conversations about dragon boating, it’s fine. But professional communicators who want to use social media to achieve specific and measurable communications goals? Forget it.

There is so much noise on Twitter, and a painful amount of it is spam. Did you know that the average tweet lifespan (that is, the length of time a tweet appears in your followers’ news feeds)  is just 18 minutes? Twitter notwithstanding, how much time and energy would you reasonably invest in crafting a message that will likely only be seen for 18 minutes? My guess is, not much.

Getting meaningful engagement on Twitter is difficult and requires adequate resourcing. And adequate resourcing means having someone monitor the platform pretty much full time. For communications professionals, particularly those in the public sector, this reality simply isn’t viable.

Twitter’s value proposition lies in the way it facilitates dialogue. If it didn’t, it’d be just another broadcast platform. The Twitter objective is to get your audience to engage with you, to have a conversation with you. Yet in order to do so effectively serious time, budget and staff need to be invested in it.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the trolling. Twitter has become a platform flooded with egos, and something about its fast-paced nature seems to embolden these kinds of people and encourage them to abuse others.

It’s been opined that Twitter is for social publishing what AOL was for email. The appeal of Twitter has shrunk, while its userbase remains stagnant and stale. So, for organisations looking to meaningfully engage with their audience, the case for Facebook is powerful.

We have a mantra at contentgroup: test and learn.

I’ve tested Twitter, and I’ve learned that it ultimately hasn’t helped me to achieve communications objectives for my public-sector clients.

What has been your experience with Twitter?

3 thoughts on “Why I don’t like Twitter (and why you don’t have to either)”

  1. Lydia Stevens

    Hi @aussiewriters:disqus and @disqus_AUA0yd51BP:disqus. Thanks both for your comments – I suspected this one might divide opinion somewhat! 🙂 I agree with you both; for personal use (and for those seeking to build their individual public profile, journos and news outlets included), keeping up with trending global events and conversations is a real benefit of Twitter. I also accept that as a customer service channel it would also have some currency.

    My position, though, is born out of my experience specifically with public-sector clients, whose communication objectives (more often than not) involve referring traffic to their owned platform, their website. Due to its fast-paced nature, character limit, the amount of spam and the intensity of trolls (which of course do pop up elsewhere in the social media landscape!) as well as the intensity of resourcing required to “do” Twitter well, it simply doesn’t offer the return that Facebook does.

  2. I agree with @aussiewriters:disqus Twitter is about immediacy and the media definitely seems to rely on it for getting up to the minute, ‘blow-by-blow’ information about what’s happening re: particular events. I was returning from the airport at the time of the recent Bourke St tragedy. We heard breaking news about it on the car radio but as information was sketchy I went onto Twitter to find out more and so did the media, who were actively engaging witnesses to build a clearer picture of what was unfolding.

    Twitter is also a very useful platform for consumers to engage with brands, products and services – just test response times to a Twitter complaint versus using traditional customer service lines. That’s why while communications people may not actively use Twitter to begin conversations they most certainly need to invest in monitoring traffic and responding to discussions once they occur.

  3. aussiewriters

    Dear Lydia – Thanks for raising this subject. It’s an interesting one. But, I think you have missed the most important benefit of Twitter – and that is that it is the platform of choice for all the media! If you want media attention then this is where to get it!

    Secondly, it’s not the numbers that matter most, but the influencers and quality of the followers you have.

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