Friday, 3 June 2011

What I don’t get about Twitter

I'm still a relative novice at Twitter. I've really only been tweeting for a few months. I probably only tweet a few times a week, but this is mainly because I don't often feel that what I've got to say would be remotely interesting to anyone else!

I've found it useful in lots of ways. I've picked up on some really useful websites and other resources as a result of links in various tweets, such as elearning resources from @gconole. It's also been a good news stream for certain things that I wouldn't normally pick up on via mainstream sources, such as higher education (@timeshighered), construction economics (@brickonomics), and even a journalist's perspective on the goings on at Loftus Road (@davidmcintyre76).

However, whilst I'm glad I'm on Twitter, and I do value it, there are certain aspects of it which remain a bit of mystery to me. So, here are the top five things I just don't get about Twitter. 
1. Meaningless hashtags

I understand the principle of hashtags and I think it's one of the things that makes Twitter a potentially really useful tool. Adding a relevant hashtag means that users with common interests or a shared group can easily locate tweets which are relevant to them. Hence, I make use of #H807 for my Open University studies (because H807 is the module number) and #QPR to locate tweets about, yes, you've got it - QPR.

But could somebody please explain the point of hashtags like #wornoutbeforeistart #needsomesleep #lookingforwardtotheweekend ? What purpose do they serve? I just find them really annoying.

    2. Follow Friday

I thought "Follow Friday" (#FF) was supposed to be used to recommend people you follow to others. I also thought that you were supposed to state why you are recommending them. So why does every Friday produce a deluge of tweets that contain "#FF" followed by a whole string of Twitter names with no reason to follow them?

3. Being followed by random people 
Why would someone who has no connection with me whatsoever want to follow me? I could understand if we had something in common, but there doesn't seem to be any reason at all for some people to follow me. Strange.

4. Banal tweets
I must confess that I've tweeted occasionally about something that just happens and you feel the need to tell someone. But really .... am I seriously interested in the fact that you are wondering what to have for dinner this evening or that you're on a coffee break. Why do people think that anyone would want to know that?

5. Retweeting everything 
Like hashtags, retweeting is a really useful tool. If I see a tweet from someone that I follow which contains a link to a useful resource, then the obvious thing to do is retweet it. But some people's tweets seem to only consist of retweets. If all they do is retweet other people's tweets then maybe they've missed the point of Twitter in the first place.


So there you are. As useful as Twitter is, I think these points will continue to bug me. Having said that - I'm still discovering new ways of using Twitter, and I'm keen to experiment with using it in connection with my teaching.


  1. Here's my take on things:

    1. Meaningless hashtags are useless. But I use them sometimes. If nothing else, it can #savepreciouscharacters to keep within the 140 limit.

    2. You're right, a string of usernames doesn't explain a great deal. It can, however, act as a friendly shout out so people know they are appreciated. Nevertheless, I try to find other ways to let people know I value them.

    3. I am followed by all sorts of accounts. Some are spam and/or hoping for a reciprocal follow back. Others are people who don't have a direct link in common according to their bio (if they even have one), but they do want to hear what you have to say. I have struck up good tweeting relationships with some people who, at first glance, don't have anything in common with me.

    4. The vast majority of my tweets are links to interesting content, or replies to others. Some users suggest I add more personal tweets. I guess it depends on so many factors that you can only ever write what suits you. I don't have a problem with anyone making banal tweets if they still strike gold once in a while. :)

    5. If all a user is doing is retweeting others, I guess it could act as an extended Follow Friday...
    Of the users I see who solely retweet other users, it may be a genuine wish to share great content, or it could act as a bookmarking service. I know there are other, more convenient ways of bookmarking links, but there you go!


    In the time I've used Twitter, it's become clear that no matter how you use your account, it won't suit everyone. I've written about it before at TwiTip:

    I hope you keep enjoying Twitter, even if it's hard to understand all the stuff that happens on there. I've been using it for over three years now and I'm still trying to make sense of it all!

  2. Hi Tony, you raise some good points and Twitter can seem odd at first! (Rob Garvey asked me to say hello!)

    1. # Hashtags merely highlight a word or phrase, if you #Social #Media it'll show up more in a Twitter search, simple as that!

    Some people thinking too many #'s look very spammy, so watch out! I experimented one evening and an old online friend thought I was losing it!

    2. #FF is used differently by everyone, to me it's kind of obvious that if you #FF someone you consider them worth a follow, you wouldn't bother otherwise would you? But some people (like you) consider a message important. It's very much an individual thing.

    It can take hours if you don't use Friday Follow helper!

    3. When you 1st start it's a matter of getting connected and later deciding who you want to keep. I often have a little 'spring clean' and it pays off. (It helps you PeerIndex social capital too!! to have a good follow/follower ratio but that's another subject)

    It's good to use to see who is following & who isn't etc.. lots of stuff here!

    I also recommend that you Tweet other content regularly, not just your own blog content. You can become a greater authority by Tweeting information that people will appreciate, they'll look forward to your Tweets. If you're into Social Media Social Media Examiner, BizSugar and Blokube are good places.

    I love Tweeting video links from YouTube, I think that's a very effective way of getting your message to someone!! I had some time lapse photography videos and they're great for construction and excellent Tweets!

    Tweeting is a great way to meet people and to communicate business. Willmott Dixon announced their mega deal building a Tesco village a while back, the Tweeted the info and within a few hours it was headline news! Not a bad strategy.

    I'm sure you don't but DO NOT try and sell, sell, sell on Twitter, it will not work! Social Media isn't about selling, but that's another subject! (Watch Seth Godin or Brian Solis videos!)

    If you are busy and want to protect your Klout score, use Buffer to auto send Tweets 24/7. Plus Buffer now has a Blog button which you'll see on my blog. I love it!!

    Also Twitpic is great, I've added my social Media satire cartoons to it and I've had hundreds of views, literally hundreds! Plus the guys at Buffer use my cartoons for people to auto Tweet now, I'm humbled by their generosity!

    About the banal Tweets, they by banal people, what can you do??

    Here's a couple of links that may help you.

    I hope I've address some of your questions, please feel free to contact me if I can be of any further assistance.

    Very best regards, Peter L Masters

  3. Hi Tony,
    Thought I might answer a couple of your questions;

    1. Meaningless hashtags are a form of emoting on twitter. People often use them to show in brief how they are feeling about something or what is happening to them. More about that later. But in addition, remember that hashtags are crowdsourced quite often – that is, people try them out and once in a while they lead to something. For example #sugarfreetweets on Tuesday nights is an emotional tweet, a statement of resistance, and a joke.

    2. Follow Friday – yes this is a bugbear of mine too. The best compliment you can give someone on twitter is to Retweet something valuable they have shared and encourage your followers who find it useful to follow.
    There are some advantages to tweeting several people at once. It introduces them to each other. However once the volume gets high, Fridays can become a bit of a drag on your @mentions stream.

    3. No-one is random. You’ve no idea why they follow you, and that’s fine. Some people come out of the dark and tweet me about construction when I had no idea the worked in a large construction company (and are ‘incognito’ due to the firewall their company places on social media.)
    Remember, you don’t have to follow back. Only follow people in whom you are interested. There are many advantages of keeping a healthy disparity between following and follower lists – it means when you RT something, many of your followers won’t have seen it yet, and that makes you more valuable as a curator.

    4.Twitter is quite a person-based tool, it encourages people to be human. I think this is a good thing. People lower their guard, just a little, and you can spot the ones you’re really going to want to meet, and avoid the ones who are boring or self-contratulatory, for example.
    The other reason why it is good to tweet what you’re feeling or concerned about is SEARCH. Instead of reading everything that everyone says (though you can if you like, but there are over 2,200 tweets a second at the moment…) I use search a lot to find conversations in which I want to be involved.
    At the same time, I say what I’m looking into, or am doing, and find many people searching for those terms so they can offer their expertise - for free on many occasions. The important thing to remember is to only tweet what you want to talk about.

    5. You’re right about mass retweeting being rather pointless. The main value of twitter is the conversations, the brand building, and the sharing of valuable content. Much better to RT with a comment or blog your thoughts on the topic (with links) and share them. This brings people to your blog who are self selected around a topic which interests you both. There are many tools which can make this on-twitter off-twitter thing work. Twitter is the hub of the internet, not the whole of it!

    Hope these are useful/provocative…