Twitter: more than talking about your breakfast

by | Feb 25, 2011

There are still a load of people out there who dismiss social media sites like Twitter as being where young people LOL and ROFL and talk about their breakfast.
Janet Street Porter was taking pop at Twitter on a TV show last week and repeated lots of the same arguments we’ve probably all heard from people who’ve never given social media a real chance.

Yes, some of us OMG and make banale pronouncements.

But here are some of the arguments I make to the Twitter naysayers* (yes, they still exist!).

1. Let’s stand up for small talk. It eases the path to meaningful communication and we all do it to some extent face-to-face. One of my favourite people who talks on social media, Joel Hughes, has pointed out that it doesn’t just happen on Twitter – if you could measure the amount of quality information we share on the phone in comparison to chatter and small talk then the ratio would swing in favour of the chatter. (Apologies to Joel who makes the point more articulately than I do).’

2. We don’t have to engage with small talk. With Twitter you only have to respond if you want to. We don’t have that luxury face to face or on the phone. We’ve got to come up with something on the spot: “Oh really, it’s raining lots out there is it? Well, there we go eh. Welsh weather huh? What a nightmare. Can’t wait for the summer – if we ever get one!” etc.

The difference is that in our offline lives, people we’re not keen on are harder to get rid of. The bloke at the bar droning on about his car and how his band could have made it big – he can’t be quickly and conveniently blocked or unfollowed. An overdeveloped sense of politeness, a fear of physical or verbal harm at your rejection of him or just the fact he might be nice/vulnerable under the obnoxious exterior means we nod and give full attention.
And that eats into the time we want to spend talking and thinking about cool things with cool people.

3. Twitter lets us talk and listen to lots of interesting people we would never have had access to. A good analogy is one I saw on saw on Quora – the Twitter/crowded pub example from Peter Kay:

“It’s like walking into a pub and being able to hear everybody’s conversations without anybody realizing you are there. You can choose which ones you listen to and which ones to ignore. If you want, you can join in too.”

4. Twitter gives you access to things that interest you that you wouldn’t have known about.
On Twitter, we don’t try to condense very complex issue into 140 characters.  We link to spaces where thoughts and information are expanded upon.
If you follow people who interest you, people you admire – you can learn from them, from the links they share.  These people will take you to places online and off line that open up a world of debate, data and entertainment that can enrich your offline activities and knowledge.

5. To finish off, here’s a quote from m’learned friend Esko Reinikainen:

“If you are still one of those people who dismiss social media on principle, then you can count yourself among those who, in the 1960’s with the phone, and in the 90’s with email, failed to recognise that what could have passed as a fad has in fact become completely mainstream. The consequences of not accepting that a communications shift has already happened are a potentially crippling competitive disadvantage. It’s also why your kids look at you funny.”

Better posts than this on the value of Twitter (which I found on Twitter):

From Dan Slee’s blog: CASE STUDY: ‘I’m showing two colleagues Twitter. They say they don’t get it…’
Alan Rusbridger: Why Twitter matters for media organisations
Chris Frede: Twitter Is Just A Fad Anyway ….

*If you are one of those people who dismiss social media you’ll probably agree with Andrew Marr that bloggers are ‘inadequate, pimpled and single’ and you won’t even be reading this.  (By the way Mr Marr, I am not inadequate.)


Photo by François Meehan

1 Comment

  1. Mark Tugwell

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Hel Reynolds

Hel Reynolds

Author of this post

Hel is social media trainer and boss of Comms Creatives. She has been working in comms since 2005, and has been brushing up her expertise in social media for brands since the good old days of MySpace. She also draws the Comms Cartoons, and is usually attached to a mug of coffee.

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