Twitter ROI – Is it Too Popular?

istock_000002445168xsmallThis is not Pick on Twitter month – I am just posing some questions to get the attention of those who see things for what they are, not how they should be.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the effects of Twitter’s popularity and just did a phone  interview with Janice Magin of the Pacific Business News on how many local businesses are getting on Twitter. Twitter has become incredibly popular, and so that does by default lower the value proposition. I am thrilled that small business is embracing social media. Being on Twitter is becoming a new normal. However that also raises the challenge bar for how to use it innovatively.  If everyone is offering a coupon, then a coupon is no big deal. Same is true of traditional coupons.

Dell was a leader in selling $1M worth of used computers on Twitter on 6 mos last year; they now offer exclusive discounts to their followers. When people have thousands of others in their stream, more of your messages will be filtered out. The people with the longest experience on Twitter know about these filtering tools, and many only respond to “@” messages or “DM’s” ignoring the general stream from their followers.It’s not rudeness or snobbery; it’s just math.

My colleague, Robyn Levin, stated it well on her blog:

On a whole, I think this is a good thing, but here’s the problem: whenever technology becomes fashion, return-on-investment (ROI) tends to get lost in the excitement of the latest .com catwalk.

My traditional business mind says find out at least a little how it works before jumping off the cliff, that crowds can and often do spoil many things, and be careful what you ask for in terms of being popular.

My “here and now” mind says that this explosion of connectivity and creativity is producing “wins” from many unlikely sources – just like the story of Ed Morita’s Twitter Case Study at Social Media Club Hawaii we recently profiled. It says that people are able to filter themselves too and proactively signup for things that are if interest. 

My consumer mind is sick of the automated robots, spammers, and auto-DM’s on Twitter. Please go away and join me in supporting #noAutoDM.

I do think there is a some incredible creativty to be tapped there. Just keep in mind that much tactical advice for “how to use Twitter” gets out-dated within 3-6 months at this current pace. The place just keeps morphing in new directions. One thing that seems to be a constant is the desire for authentic conversation. Getting one of those “@” messages directly to you sure does get your attention now doesn’t it? It’s just not that practical for mass marketing.

If we look at the photo in this post, you might see lemmings jumping blindly to their death or you might see cliff jumpers taking the fast and exhilarating ride down into the sea. Much of social media is what you make of it.

If you are someone who uses filtered groups and keyword search notifications to manage your Twitter stream, I have a question for you:

What percent of your filtering is for friends vs. business competitors vs. tracking companies from whom you buy things?

If it all gets to be too much noise for you, you can do like Loic Le Meur did: unfollow everyone and start over.