Before we start, you should probably read How Twitter’s Staff Uses Twitter (And Why It Could Cause Problems) at Read Write Web. You might also want to read How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live at Time for some background, but that’s up to you.
All done? Good.
Now here’s my question: who says that the so-called “power users” of Twitter are using it the right way? For that matter, is there even a right way to use Twitter? Here’s what Read Write Web says:
What if the people working at Twitter Inc. aren’t using the service the way many of its power users are, though? … This could be cause for concern among power users who depend on the service as it exists now, much less for those hoping it will be developed for even more powerful use cases.
What I want to know is who set the rules? Who says that we all have to follow them (no pun intended)? Who decided that reciprocity rules the day when it comes to followers? And who decided that power users are the ones I should be seeking to emulate on Twitter?
In his response to Read Write Web’s article, Evan Williams (@ev, Twitter’s CEO) states that we should drop the notion of symmetrical relationships on Twitter. I completely agree. It’s actually why I have two different Twitter accounts – @jedcohen for my public persona and another account where I follow my real life friends (see atebits’ (maker of Tweetie) blog entry Twitter Groups for the basis of my decision). Sure this complicates things a little bit; I have to manage two accounts. But isn’t the role of third party applications in the Twitter ecosystem to improve the service and add on new features that suit the needs of individuals?
Now I, probably like most people, have had people start to follow me and then stop when I don’t follow them back. Are those really the kinds of followers I want? Because they’re really just seeking to increase their own follower count. It’s the same reason users send you direct messages thanking you for following them or if you retweet them – it’s something seemingly designed to personalize interactions with other users, but it’s often just software sending out automated message.
Unfortunately, I, also probably like most people, go out and follow people in the hopes that they’ll follow me back. In terms of numbers, I’m currently following 175 people and being followed by 184. That’s 95%. I know that some of those relationships are asymmetrical (the numbers don’t compare the two lists after all). But I still feel a small glimmer of hope that when I click that follow button on someone’s profile, an e-mail will appear in my inbox telling me they’ve followed me back – even though I don’t intend any kind of obligation. And I suppose that’s because I’m not a celebrity, or an executive at some company, or an ambassador for a well known brand. I’m just a recent college graduate testing the waters of the social media space.
I hope that people are following me on Twitter because they gain some sort of value from my updates (and not because they want me to be in their spy ring). If they aren’t, then I think I’d prefer it if they stopped following me – it’ll give me a sense of who actually wants to read what I write. And if that leaves me with a fraction of the followers I have now, well, I guess can live with that. Because I don’t need my Twitter to be the same as your Twitter – I just want to get whatever value I can from the platform and let you do the same.