In the last post, I talked about how easy it is for even well-meaning Twitter users to slip into Competitive Twitter Syndrome (CTS). By missing the purpose of social media, by focusing on performance metrics instead of conversation, Twitter becomes a dull knife in the hands of your neighborhood barber performing brain surgery. Not fun to watch, and even less fun to participate!
There are lots of reasons why Competitive Twitter Syndrome exists.
- Humans love numbers. We love to measure and count things, and once we have numbers, we love to compare things. Human nature isn’t likely to change. There will always be some attention to the measurable aspects of Twitter and all social media.
- Old school thinking about new media. Like an addictive personality, some companies seem on a collision course with CTS. A lot of companies today focus on quarterly results rather than long term planning. This leads to the short-term over analysis of things that can be measured. Often, companies using this strategy ignore things that are more important but less easy to quantify.
- Abundance of analysis tools. Developers, eager to participate in this exciting realm, build applications that filter, analyze, and mash together data from the Twitter time line. As a result, Twitter users become aware of tools that help them empirically examine their Twitter experience and determine their power ranking within the community. These tools measure what is easily measured, but don’t provide a way to measure the effectiveness of your communication.
Don’t think I’m against analysis because I’m not. I know my Twitter Grade, and check my TweetStats, and frequently review my follow cost, among others. These tools primarily provide feedback, a way to understand your past Twitter behavior. Staring into them is a bit like driving while only looking in the rear view mirror, great for sitting in park, but dangerous when moving forward.
Some people are never going to understand that social media means talking and listening, no matter how many books or blog entries they read. If you want to understand how to harness social media and reform your Twitter use, here are some suggestions.
- What is your Twitter goal? Ask yourself why you are on Twitter and be honest. If you just like chatting with your Friday night coffee klatch during the week, that’s your goal. Your goal doesn’t have to be business related. If you have more than one goal, break out your effort for meeting each goal as a percentage.
- Define your ideal audience. Your ideal audience is the kind of people you want to engage in conversation. Describe them. What features do they have? Be as specific as possible.
- Review the list of people you follow. Are you following the people that allow you to meet your goal? If not, starting locating the people you want to engage. You are following the right people when you have interesting tweets to read that inspire your responses.
- Review your updates. What are you really saying? What conversations are you starting? Do some quick arithmetic and figure out how many tweets each day or week meet your goal.
- Review your updates for @replies. What percentage of your daily/weekly tweets go into responding to what other people say to you? Based on your goal and your ideal audience, does that seem like the right percentage?
If you stay focused on these things, you can improve your Twitter experience. You can enjoy more satisfying conversations with your ideal audience. These things might also improve your Twitter statistics, but that would be the icing on the cake. The whole purpose of this exercise is to engage your audience, not improve your scores.
What Not To Do
You might have noticed that I didn’t say to review your follower list. That wasn’t an oversight on my part. You have no control over the people who follow you. People make their own choices about who to follow and you must accept their decisions. If you are engaging in the conversations you want to have, other people who want to talk about the same things will find you. Your job is to be interesting and create content, not to fuss over who follows you. Put your attention on the things you can control, your content choices and who you follow. The quality of those decisions impacts who decides to follow you.
I can’t find the specific tweet, but Robert Scoble (@Scobelizer) wrote that he defines himself by the people he follows, not who follows him. That wisdom rung true with me, and became my first Twitter truism. Try it on, and see if it doesn’t improve your own Twitter experience.
Like many diseases, Competitive Twitter Syndrome is easily cured when caught in the early stages. Get clear about your goals and audience, and focus on what you can control. Forget about the metrics and enjoy the conversation. Twitter is all about conversation.
Now you can enjoy this two-part blog post as an ebook: Diagnosing and Curing Competitive Twitter Syndrome.