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Posted: May 11, 2009

Are you a Twitter quitter?

To twit or to quit twit, that is the question

Steve Baker

I have mixed feelings about Twitter.

I was told by many friends that I was “stuck on stupid” in the Stone Age and just had to start using Twitter.com to get into the real new world. I took a very good class on Twitter and set out to share my goings-on with the waiting world. I was told that I should strive to get as many people following me, and I, in turn, should follow them and read their 140-character impulsive thoughts because they would be reading mine.

I also read that using Twitter could help my business grow if people get to like me.

So I started "tweeting" but could not bring myself to confess to total strangers that, as a successful businessman, I had time to share that my grass is growing.

I've been using Twitter for awhile now, and I must confess that in reading other people’s tweets, what I've found is that a whole lot of people have a whole lot of time on their hands and want me to know that they are enjoying a cup of coffee somewhere or that they're stuck in traffic (and tweeting this important information while they're driving… hmm, I see a new traffic law coming).

It also does not seem to be two-way communication but rather a narcissistic "Look at me, and what I'm doing" one-way street. I very rarely see anyone respond or comment on others’ tweets, they just keep telling others about themselves.

I kept thinking, “Maybe I am Stone-Age stupid – I don’t get this.”

Well, this week I read a Reuters report: "Many Twitters are quick quitters."

The article reports data that questions the long-term success of the latest social networking sensation used by celebrities from Oprah Winfrey to Britney Spears. President Obama used Twitter during last year's campaign.

Sounds like the new wave, but data from Nielsen Online, which measures Internet traffic, found that more than 60 percent of Twitter users stopped using the free social networking site a month after joining.

"Twitter's audience retention rate, or the percentage of a given month's users, who come back the following month, is currently about 40 percent," David Martin, Nielsen Online's vice president of primary research, said. "For most of the past 12 months, pre-Oprah, Twitter has languished below 30 percent retention."

It has enjoyed a recent explosion in popularity on the back of celebrities such as actor Ashton Kutcher and Oprah Winfrey, among countless others, who’ve sung its praises and sent out "tweets," alerting followers to breaking news or the sender's sometimes-mundane activities.

Twitter, as a private company, does not disclose the number of its users but according to Nielsen Online, Twitter's website had more than 7 million unique visitors in February compared to 475,000 unique visitors in February 2008.

But Martin said a retention rate of 40 percent will limit a site's growth to a 10 percent reach figure over the longer term.

"There simply aren't enough new users to make up for defecting ones after a certain point," he said. Martin said the more-established social networking sites Facebook and MySpace enjoyed retention rates that were twice as high and those rates only rose when they went through their explosive growth phases. Both currently have retention rates of about 70 percent, with Facebook having about 200 million users.

"Twitter has enjoyed a nice ride over the last few months, but it will not be able to sustain its meteoric rise without establishing a higher level of user loyalty," said Martin.

My conclusions so far:

Starting out on Twitter is like using a spoon to carve a steak. It might work but you need more utensils to work effectively. I have discovered that there are a great many tools out there to make Twitter more effective, like Twellow, Twellowhood, Tweetstat,Twitterfriends, Twitpwr, Twtpic, TweetBeep and more. But you need the time and desire to learn how to use each of them to get the most out of Twitter.

Twitter is a fad. It's great for celebrities, but don't for a minute think that they are following you back. Okay, I confess that I do want to have a million adoring fans following ME, just like Oprah, hanging on my every thought to make their lives more complete and then rushing out to buy my book, “PUSHING WATER UPHILL With A Rake.”

But back in the real world I have no illusions that if I am following 5,000 people –and don’t have time to read their comings and goings – that they are all following me or caring about what I’m doing or not doing.

I think Twitter might have value if used in conjunction with other networking media. Successful Internet networking needs to be more related to personal networking and less about chatter. I have found success with smaller sub-groups on Twitter that have shared values and geography, including the Denver Twitter Connection. These types of groups are twittering within Twitter, much like groups on Facebook.

So for now, I’m not a Twitter quitter, but I’m certainly not a fan.

What do you think about Twitter?  Please leave your comments, and feel free to tell me I'm Stone-Age stupid... just tell me why.

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Steve Baker is a founder of successful businesses and a business advisor with a passion for every phase of business cycle from startup to exit He’s also a public speaker and author of "Pushing Water Uphill With a Rake," as well as an avid poor golfer. He welcomes your comments and e-mails at steve@PushingWater.com  and invites you to visit his website www.PushingWater.com
 

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Readers Respond

Steve, good meeting you recently at a "real" networking event. I just have a few comments for those skeptical of Twitter: 1. I was too, until the light bulb went on - it's all about the customer (target market, prospect, stakeholder, etc), and where THEY spend their time and pursue their interests. Guess where they are - 200 million on Facebook (20 million at any given time), 18 million on LinkedIn, 18 million on Twitter, not to mention all the lesser sites. There are many sociological and demographic reasons for this - busy schedules, scattered families and networks of friends, etc. 2. One market I serve in my internet marketing consultancy is automotive dealers - customers are not coming into showrooms; they are researching cars online. 3. E-commerce has moved shopping for retail mostly online (no wonder retail stores are closing in droves, yet you still hear people say "I need to touch and feel it before I buy it". 4. If one takes the time to research how businesses are using these sites successfully, it becomes obvious that this is not a fad; it is the modern 21st century form of marketing. People do not want to be sold, they want to get what they want and need when and where they choose, from whomever they choose. The internet facilitates this. 5. I have gone from disinterested to practioner, and I am now scheduling social media marketing workshops for business owners. coming soon at www.tweetingwhat.com , on Twitter @kennywg By Ken Gibson on 2009 06 02
It gets interesting when you have over 5000 followers http://www.cobizmag.com/images/smileys/wink.gif. With 5000 followers, it was described to me once as walking into a bar with 5000 people and allowing you to walk up to any table and listen in, drop off or join in the conversation. It can be used as a very social networking tool. http://twitter.com/GuyFromChina By Dean Hiller on 2009 05 14
Hi Steve, nice chatting with you at the last Creative Connections. I'm so very with you on this. I have tried Twitter, twice, and have not fallen in love. It seems like it's a fine personal tool for those who like to micro-blog for their own future reference. But the practical uses of Twitter are tough to fathom, even for an IT professional like me who has attended seminars on 'How to use Twitter for business'. By Dan Chick on 2009 05 14
From the responses, the buzz about Twitter is much more than the actual entity that is Twitter. Like Paris Hilton. With all of this buzz, if they don't turn it into real profits (like Paris Hilton), what a waste of exposure. Personally, I can see that Twitter has its uses, but won't support or be one of the people who spend so much time on it. Certainly, as a PR professional, I appreciate the newspeople who share insightful news on the spot. It's part of doing their job well. On the other hand, it can be just another device to keep you from being in your own skin, or to be anywhere but where you are. I followed someone who tweeted while taking his son to a baseball game. I "removed" him immediately. By Stephen Koenigsberg on 2009 05 13
P.S., to see how I'm using Twitter as my news feeder, see the right sidebar at http://www.wildsnow.com I don't know if that's the way I'll be doing it a few months from now, but at the moment it is very efficient and a good tool. Probably won't be twittering while mowing the lawn, but I could see twitting that I'm at the coffee shop, in case a friend felt like stopping by and chatting in person. By Backcountry Skiing Guy on 2009 05 13
I'm using Twitter mostly as a way to easily share news items as a blog sidebar. I like it because of the quick post ability, but agree that it is of questionable value as an ingredient in my social life... By Backcountry Skiing Guy on 2009 05 13
I've twittered for probably a year and a half or more I'd guess. I thought of it as an interesting hobby, trying it out to see what happened. I gave up on following everyone who followed me as I just didn't have time to read everything, but different groups (informal) of twitters started to form; security professionals, social media leaders, and entrepreneurs. Tweets from news media, like Computer World, Network World, ZDnet, CNN and others became useful too. I also enjoy hearing social commentary people offer, about politics, news events, the latest movie, travel, etc. I call Fridays Twitter Travel Day because so many people are twittering about the travel to get home from the week. When I realized I got a lot of value from Twitter was when I went to a security conference and met in person many of the people I'd followed (and some I'd replied to) on Twitter. It was really odd but when I met the person, I felt like I already knew them; did the kids change school, did the kitchen remodel get done, did you find a consultant for that project, I can recommend a product that might work for you, ... everything from social to work related things. I already knew most of these people, it was great! People think too hard about what twitter is and how to use it. Just follow it for a while, comment if you feel like it, and see if you get into it. My $0.02 Mitchell http://theconvergingnetwork.com http://www.nww.com/community/ashley http://guitartropolis.com By Mitchell Ashley on 2009 05 13
A fool with a tool is still a fool. Twitter has a great concept and in its infancy of beneficial use.I feel 90% of it is noise at this point. I have no desire to hear what Steve had for lunch or even his golf score today. (no offense Steve) We have started a business that celebrates high school sports - see www.VarVee.com or www.fox31prepzone.com Using Twitter we have a real business application. We can send out a tweet to those who want it, that provides notification of a completed high school game, its score, and a link to the web for complete game details and stats. I can't understand that people working for a living have time to detail out their daily activities and others have time to read it. Eventually we will cut down on the noise and use these tools for beneficial use. Here is the latest quote on the "decline of Twitter' "If Twitter is experiencing a 60 percent abandonment rate every month, as Nielsen recently suggested, those people sure are being replaced at an awfully fast clip," says TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld. Indeed, Twitter kept up its torrid growth in April, reaching 17 million unique visitors in the U.S. -- an 83% increase over March's 9.3 million uniques, according to comScore. That's down from 131% growth in March. By Mark Eagle on 2009 05 13
I Agree with Sandusky. I love it when people nay say Twitter. Just tonight I am providing feedback to a CEO regarding assembling his board of directors, which is a terrific contact for my practice. The value of the contacts and friends I have made, on my own schedule (at all hours) is worth more than many business lunches and how do you value friends? Stop watching if people are talking with one another and talk to them. Twitter is people. It's not mysterious. How do you feel about people? Kira Riedel, President www.cfoservicesnow.com By Kira on 2009 05 13
The data and your perspective are what makes this a great post for discussion. The fact of the matter is that people who have an offline networking strategy and add value have success, those who don't fail. Online too. People tend to network when in time of need...need a job, need a client, need funding...and as soon as they don't get what they are looking for, they give up. Many people don't play in the right sandbox either. Have you ever been to a offline networking event where new people show up twice, say the wrong thing, leave and complain that networking does not work? On and offline tribes tend to expand and contract. The contraction, like twitter and others, is a good thing for those of us who are thanked for adding value and see a return on time investment. I love how my twitter network works and don't care about the rest - the same people play and it grows with actual business getting done! Chat rooms like #brandchat and #smbiz are great examples for me. Here are some summaries as well as an example of leverage: http://www.yourbrandplan.com/forum/networking-connecting/ Social networking sites help sustain my 1,000,000 hits/month and growing but the *most recent* great example happened last night. My wife has been on twitter for a month (@JulieSandusky) and received a *phone* call from a local wedding planner who needs our products for a client. Closed! Done and Done! seven years ago, I remember naysayers about LinkedIn that are now making $ because of it. This stuff works when you add value and have a purpose. David Sandusky http://www.PersonalBoardofAdvisors.com By David Sandusky on 2009 05 12
Enjoyed the article. You can call me "stone age stupid" I'm a non-Twitter, therefore not a Quitter but give me a driver and I'm a long ball hitter! By Dave Brinks on 2009 05 12
As many have said here, Twitter is much more than meets the eye. Yes, there are many that use it to post personal status updates, but there are also those that tweet very useful information. If you use a tool like tweetdeck, you can filter out the noise on Twitter and actually monitor conversations around topics or brands. I used tweetdeck and Twitter Search to monitor topics around user experience and social influence marketing that allowed me to connect with others who are interested in similar topics. Many of these connections have developed into relationships, friendships, and opportunities. I've also experienced first hand, companies that are monitoring conversations and then engaging customers. Others are using Twitter for brand building and exposure. A good example of a company using Twitter to add value to their business and to their customers is Southwest Airlines. Just today they announced a Twitter Photo Hunt. Each day this week, Southwest Airlines will send a “tweet” asking followers to submit a photo of a very specific travel or tourism-related picture. For example, one day they may request a photo from a national monument or a major sports stadium. The next day they may ask for a photo of Mickey Mouse ears or a state line sign. For each picture they are hunting, they will offer up a sweet travel package (2 roundtrip plane tickets, 2 nights at an MGM Property in lovely Las Vegas) to the first person who can tweet them the specific travel-related picture. That first person will receive the travel package (must be 21 to win). http://www.blogsouthwest.com/blog/southwest-photo-hunt http://twitter.com/Southwestair This is only one example. There are many success stories on how companies are using Twitter to meet various goals. I would invite you to take another look at Twitter. By Mike Slone on 2009 05 12
I joined Twitter to see what it was all about. I was told by a few friends that they were now "Following me"! Might be an ego boost, but I certainly don't need one. I never went back after the first few visits. By e on 2009 05 12
I didn't have time to read all the comments, but I wanted to note that a large part of that 60% who don't come back are probably spammers. Twitter has gone through phases when it's been terrible. Profiles are created en masse, then blocked from the site, which can create the illusion of a lack of retention. Above all, people should realize Twitter can be used for a lot of different things. Finding good follows is rare, but can be both intellectually useful and a lot of fun. By Josh Clauss on 2009 05 12
I joined Twitter 15 months ago. Played with it for a month. Pretty much set it aside. Now I am back on it and now that I actually get it, I find it immensely helpful. I get updates from brands and businesses that I follow. I don't follow friends who use it to post their coffee breaks. I don't post my feeling of the moment. It combines business and personal - I follow retail brands for work and Lance Armstrong because like cycling. It takes about 20 seconds to read 10-15 Tweets. If I post it takes about 20 seconds to type 140 characters. I do it from my iphone when I have a spare 20-30 seconds like as I wait for lunch to be served. If you don;t have time to fit in quick updates about business and personal interests, you are simply not prioritizing time properly and don't get how to use Twitter. That's okay. But to say you don;t have time is just a cop out because you don;t get how to use it. Its not the be all end all of information flow. Its quick and too the point. BTW, I did not read your entire articel. I got the point right away and moved on to post this....too many words, too much whining to say like so many others - "I don;t like twitter because I don;t get it" Tweet That! By john on 2009 05 12
I love Twitter, but quickly found out that I needed to target those who I want to follow, and not automatically follow those who follow me since many people are selling something, and don't share anything that's interesting to read. Twitter is a two way street, and those who get that can enjoy Twitter. I find that using the # in front of initials that might be interesting like "pm" (product management) or cipros (competitive intelligence professionals), was a good way to find interesting people to follow. Another way is to look at who others are following who are relevant to you and check out their profiles. If you're still reading, ths takes a good bit of time. Twitter and other social networks take time to develop just like any other relationship. There is always another way to connect such at Twitter Twibes and there will be more tomorrow. You have to work at it and you need to decide if you have time for yet another social network in your life! By Ellen Naylor on 2009 05 12
Twitter is defined as microblogging, which is exactly how people should approach and use it. You wouldn't go to a blog site several times a day if you didn't want to read the info on it, so don't follow people that have things to say that don't interest you. On the flip side, people shouldn't tweet that they just found something growing in their frig, are standing in line at Starbucks or have decided to order the salad for lunch. No one cares but their mom (and hopefully those women have better things to do)! It's just another tool that will work for some and not others. Also, Twitter's long-term viability is still in question. Not sure Google or Microsoft are stupid enough to buy them - see the hemorrhaging Google is facing with YouTube. Right now they are living off VC money which eventually will dry up if they can't figure out a way to make money. There are smaller companies out there actually making money off similar services, but charge for use and added functionality. By Michelle Mink on 2009 05 12
Our pastor sends out encouraging words with twitter, throughout the week, that many have forwarded to their electronic communication devices. It's usually quite a lift when the messages come in. If you join up for a purpose, and not for a time-killer, it's beneficial! By Carla McBride on 2009 05 12
I felt much the same way as you and some of your responders but have taken the time to 'figure it out' both for my own use but also for the use of clients. A simple key for me has been to more closely define whose tweets I want to read and know how to search effectively for information. I won't deny it's taken some time to understand in conjunction with discovering tools beyond the Twitter.com interface, but it's been time well invested. I have both a web development business and an online store that sells a range of products comprised of wine accessories, home and bath products and gourmet foods. Defining my own parameters to build groups that include tweets from wine and food people has been beneficial, educational and fun. Offering something as simple as tweets for new recipes or wine reviews I've posted to my blog has resulted in seeing increased visitors to my online store. I've not only seen sales as a result but have also found some great products to carry that I would not have discovered through typical channels. It's not a quick road to understanding or a quick fix to your marketing plan, but I certainly agree with Kim that it's here to stay and worthy of some time investment to determine how it can be beneficial to you. By Barbara Kiebel on 2009 05 12
Excellent article Steve! I am considering making a marshmallow roasting skewer out of a tree and have posted it on Twitter. With all of the green washing going on you would think there is an audience who'd be anxious to "save the tree." If something as controversial as this doesn't stand a chance of rising above our cultural drone than what does? Twitter and the social media offer an opportunity to experiment with reaching masses of people and whenever there is a tool that can do that there is potential... By Snowytrees on 2009 05 12
First, here's why people quit Twitter in the first month: they've got the wrong personality style. To enjoy Twitter, you've got to be outgoing (not shy with strangers), be interesting (educated, well-informed), and be verbal/literate. To enjoy Twitter, you've got to be hooked into a group of people with similar interests, such as quilting, politics, marathon running, etc. You can't just read random people's thoughts and expect to enjoy that. Lastly, I haven't met anybody on Twitter who's interested in "the marketers" as we call them. Selling a product? I'm never going to "follow" you, which means I won't be exposed to your "tweets", which means I couldn't possibly buy your product via Twitter exposure. I benefit greatly from Twitter, and so do the people I interact with daily. We share ideas, implement them, and report back; give advice; buck eachother up, and laugh a lot. By Crista Huff on 2009 05 12
As someone that advises clients on social media, I can tell you firsthand how Twitter can benefit business. Companies large and small are having "conversations" on Twitter with their clients to improve loyalty, fix problems and get feedback. Check out Comcast, Zappos and small microbrewer Oskar Blues. Savvy businesses are taking advantage of this new media to build their customer base and keep them, not by shoving traditional ads at them, but by listening and acting on the feedback. As I tell the reluctant, the train has left the station and you need to catch up if you don't want to get left behind. We are just nicking the surface with Twitter and other Social Media outlets - it is definitely here to stay and will be a huge force in marketing in the coming years. By Kim Mears on 2009 05 12
Not so fast, Steve! We're looking now at how banks across the country are using Twitter and Facebook, and we're finding results that are intriguing -- a mix of stumbles and impressive success. The key is applying it properly. Check my current column in the Northern Colo Business Report for the details. Check, especially, the summary of Top Ten applications we are examining. Title: "Will it be sweet tweets or sourtweets4U?" http://www.ncbr.com/article.asp?id=100033. Take a second look at Twitter. By Don Condit on 2009 05 12
People People.... lol....Individuals have to pick a demographic I feel and "understand the forum". Its not all about ..."oh i want to be cool like my friends" (even tho im 40 or 50). Sure it can work at any age but you can't jump into just because your friends or daughter is using it. You have to think for yourself and use what works for you. Understand how it works Understand how it works, oh did I say Understand how it works. It is like anything..."it is only as good as its user"...PERIOD Keith Miller http://www.denverwineguy.com By Keith Miller on 2009 05 12
I was the biggest skeptic of Twitter. I too saw Twitter as a silly star-following type of deal with little being expressed that is intriguing, similar to television with it's monotonous content only interactive. Can't get no satisfaction? Is Mick Jagger on Twitter yet? I made my 10 Tweets in 12 hours and now am not going to revisit until after July 4, 2009. By Snowytrees on 2009 05 12
Steve, I agree with you! I really don't want to know if someone is drinking coffee or stuck in traffic, it just isn't meaningful to me! Thanks for the information about the smaller groups within Twitter, sounds worth checking out. I have a passion to touch others' lives by letting them know how much I appreciate them. Send Out Cards lets me do that every day, plus it's fun, inexpensive and profitable at the same time. Check out how to send personal cards (through the regular mail) in just a few minutes. Make your business "Stand Out" from the others! By Debbie Boutin on 2009 05 12
Ruthie Suli Urman is available for writing/editing creative nonfiction (self-help, memoirs, etc.) and children's books. Her writing can be viewed at: http://open.salon.com/blog/gypsy_island_girly By Ruthie Suli Urman on 2009 05 11
Thank you both Steve (for writing/rating) and Mike (for responding). As a fellow tech. phobe/stupid person, I have not had the pleasure/displeasure of using twitter or its various subordinates. I do believe it will be around for awhile (I notice that Europeans prefer to use it over other vehicles) yet the posting of silly things do seem, ...well, silly. Personally I'd rather live/experience my life than to take the time out to post about what I'm doing every few moments. Then again, that's me. By Ruthie Suli Urman on 2009 05 11
Steve, this is a wonderfully written article and you're certainly not alone in your assertion but I think perhaps a bit too short-sighted and limited in scope. Twitter is being used more broadly than you give it credit and it has recently launched some business-oriented initiatives that may cement its profit model--something with which every player in this nascent industry struggles--and move the product beyond "fad." In the next 24 months this industry will experience consolidation, shakeout and a move toward standardization. Twitter may change but its brand is too strong within the market to just disappear. By Mike Hanbery on 2009 05 11
Since there are so many new social media sites, I feel overwhelmed and pressured to join them all, but would rather network the "old-fashioned" way...face to face. I've heard of many people who have made contacts and have gotten business from Twitter...and someday I hope to have enough time to figure it out! By Debbie Davis on 2009 05 11
Steve, I think that most busy business people can relate to you about twitter. We want to play the game, but have so many other things to do! I have to add something else to my crazy schedule! But it's a "fun" something extra. So give it a try!! By julie case on 2009 05 11

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