20 September 2008

Is There Truth to the Twitter Song?

"If you haven't been bookmarked, re-tweeted and blogged - you might as well not have existed..."

This line comes from Ben Walker's Twitter song, "You're No One If You're Not On Twitter." With over 200K views in just 3 weeks, Walker's song pokes fun at Twitter fanatics who publicly announce their every sneeze on Twitter.

I picked up the video yesterday from VentureBeat and found the song pretty hilarious. As far as I've seen, there is a lot of truth to the lyrics.

I've been holding off from blogging about Twitter because it seems almost cliche by now. Surprisingly, some of my high tech clients are NOT on Twitter. Those who are avoiding it have reactions that are similar to my college friends who boycotted Facebook four years ago - they don't want to share dull moments like "I'm having a hot dog for dinner" in a public forum.

I admit I had the same "I'm too cool for Twitter" reaction at first. Since the tool is becoming essential for PR pros, I joined and now find it pretty useful for business. For example, I have arranged client interviews based on blogger "tweets." In addition, following analysts, journalists and other outlets helps me catch breaking news faster than Google Alerts. For rapid response pitching, Twitter has been great.

At the same time, Twitter can be incredibly distracting. The New York Times elaborated today on how Google and Twitter ultimately expand our minds while also limiting our attention spans. I enjoy following my friends' updates, but there are definitely characters on Twitter who are just too noisy. I sometimes wonder if people like Tim O'Reilly have hired someone else to tweet for them. I mean, how can you tweet every ten minutes - or more - while still functioning as a normal person?

If you aren't on Twitter, I recommend you check it out. When used correctly, Twitter can be an effective marketing and customer service tool. For this reason, as you search for friends and family to follow, you might look for retailers, service providers, magazines, newspapers and non-profits, too. You'll probably be surprised by the number of feeds you want to follow.

Twitter keeps people, organizations, causes and companies that I care about high on my radar. Do remember that standard rules of social etiquette may apply. For example, please don't use Twitter for shameless self-promotion. As you get connected to more people, it's easy to get into the "tweeting" groove, but don't forget that distance can sometimes make the heart grow fonder. In other words, you don't have to tweet more than a few times a day to stay connected. Pick a few tweets and save everything else for conversations with real people.

Concerned you'll be overwhelmed if you sign up? Don't let Walker's song scare you off. One of the best things about Twitter: you can always tune it out. Just start small by checking Twitter a couple times a day and go from there. After all, what is there to lose?

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