Stop Twitter, That's TMI!

IntermissionTo make friends, you have to reach out.  At least that's what someone's mother once said.  So when I frequent the increasingly crowded spaces of the Twittersphere, tweeting and retweeting all the way, should I not expect to find budding friendships in every direction?

Despite the rhetoric around followers and friends, developing relationships online is not as easy as shouting a carefully crafted message into a crowded room.  Rather, stepping back from the blinding cloud of pervasive utterances may offer better hope for connecting with those that truly matter -- members of our target audience.  As developments in social networking allow communicators now to segment their audiences and target their messages, many find it hard to break the excruciating notion that popularity alone (or volume of speech) -- not quality -- equates to reach.  Sharing TMI (Too Much Information) does not improve the quality of social media campaigns that use Twitter.

The experimentation that characterizes Twitter use today exemplifies our collective struggle to find effective ways to use microblogs and other similar communication tools.   The hail of quasi-random tweets, mixed with half-conversations, I see on Twitter are often too haphazard to deliver consistent value to my ears. Too many posts are simply sound-bites linked to articles from other sources.  Though I may follow others with interesting perspectives and lots to say, uber-frequent posts can pose as more of an interruption than provide assistance.  Thanks a lot for your persistent wisdom, but I can only absorb so many inspirational quotes in the course of a day.

To be sure, microblogging (and Twitter in particular) can deliver news and share unique perspectives -- unavailable anywhere else.  Public figures can share their perceptions as they participate in events that shape or shake our world.  Many members of congress, Democrats and Republicans (Barbara Boxer, Susan Collins, Chris Dodd, John McCain, Mark Warner and others), have adopted Twitter as a channel for reaching their constituents.  Likewise, protesters in Iran reported to the world their struggles, hopes and fears in the aftermath of their presidential election (Summer 2009), leading to worldwide advocacy on their behalf.  Apart from such serious matters of life, death and freedom, Twitter has the power to share the drama of sports through the eyes of the athletes themselves, sometimes creating a controversy in the process.   Twitter can provide me with talking points, or actions to take for a better world, courtesy of my favorite Association or charitable organization.  To learn from participants in a conversation, or vicariously live the happenings during a meeting, Twitter itself may offer a wonderful communication link.

Though Twitter is powerful, convenient and ever-ready as a tool for broadcasting messages to fans and followers, communicators might be well advised to resist the temptation to share, share and share again.  While we may be fully enamored with information about our cause, association or business at any time of the day or night, others can become fatigued from too-frequent updates.   

Used for its original purpose, frequent Twitter updates seem like they should be welcome to your online followers.   Indeed, answering Twitter's premiere question "what are you doing now" might actually require frequent bursts to interested family members.  But as the role of Twitter becomes less intimate, and more promotional, we must assess the need for immediacy and frequency in the messages and audiences we seek to reach.