It's no secret that I'm addicted to social media, or that my favourite outlet is Twitter.
Why? So many people I (or my friends) come into contact with don't get it. They say Twitter is stupid. Given, most of them haven't checked out the service. But while they're making fun of Twitter, they're off spending hours on end on Facebook or MySpace. You know, the old social media. (Strange we have old New Media already, yes?)
But Twitter is the anti-Facebook. On Facebook you're bombarded with photos, fan suggestions, 'Become a Zombie' requests, snowballs, and God knows what else that is hiding in the depths of their app schemas. Last week it was suggested I become a fan of curly fries. Really? Curly fries?
Facebook pushes and pushes at you. It's become rampant with advertising, idiot chain-letter memes and even our parents! There's so much noise that in order to pay attention to anything you have to dig. It takes a lot of work to set privacy levels and filter down what's smacking you in the face into the things that matter to you in your 'mini-feed'. That noise decreases a lot of the social interaction that the service had in its early days. Facebook has turned from being person oriented to being feature oriented.
In contrast, Twitter doesn't have any of that crap. No apps, no ads (at the moment), no groups, no nothing. It's simple person to person communication and it leaves group interaction up to the user. And that's why it's a success. That is why it's making headlines. That is why I can ask a question and less than two minutes later have solutions from 10 of my followers. And more often than not those followers become friends. Twitter brings a level of personal interaction to the "evil digital communication" channels that we haven't seen since email was first introduced.
One Higher Education colleague astutely observed that Twitter is redefining what a coworker is. It's so true. People I've met only once, and in some cases never, help me everyday to solve problems or refine ideas. This one-on-one interaction is what makes the service great.
Of course there are the businesses out there that don't abide by this rule. They post stupid anonymous advertisements or they simply import links from their site's feed. They attempt to behave like old media on new media and wonder why it's not helping. To them I say YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!
The companies that are making a difference are the ones that have REAL PEOPLE manning their Twitter streams. Companies like Starbucks and Paste Magazine do it right. Even Comcast, one of the most hated companies in the country, has improved its customer service by having a real person behind a company-branded Twitter account to answer real customer questions.
That's what people seem to crave in social media--a conversation. Not games and noise and a false face. That's all a distraction from what social media should be: Social.