The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

[By Nic Lindh on Sunday, 20 March 2011]

Twitter is not your free advertising

Nic gets his panties all in a bunch about how some people are using Twitter as an ad-hoc means of getting free advertising.

Judging from the amount of local businesses that are all of a sudden “following” me on Twitter, it looks like some kind of social media “expert” has been making the rounds in my neck of the woods.

I say “following” since if you’re following 3,000 people or more there’s no way in hell you’re able to read all those tweets, or even any meaningful subsection of them. So you’re following people just to get them to check you out.

Which makes you an asshole or a sociopath.

There’s really no other way to put it.

Call me a hippie, but the whole idea of Twitter—or any kind of social network, really—is that we can find people we want to listen to and interact with outside of the established media and have ourselves a groovy old time. So when I follow somebody it’s because I find them interesting and want to hear what they have to say. And then, if they annoy me somehow they get unfollowed. No harm, no foul. Boom. Excellent.

Lordie, the simple haystacks-and-sunsets idea that is. Follow who you want, just because you want to. Not because you have an SEO plan to follow or because you are obsessed with watching the number of followers you have climb up, up, up. But you know, you do what you do. Bearing in mind that some ideas are empirically better than others.

(An SEO plan is a good idea, but it’s also a crushingly simple idea. Google—and I humbly ask you to stop and read the following words slowly, then put it in your pipe and smoke it till you understand it—tell you how to do this. There’s no magic, no trick, no silver bullet. It’s actually kind of boring. And if your SEO plan involves spamming random people on Twitter, you are an asshole or a sociopath.)

See, what you’re doing when you’re following people you couldn’t give less than a crap about just because they’re in a geograpical area or they’ve used a certain word in a tweet is you’re breaking the code. You’re abusing the system to get my attention without wanting to reciprocate[^3]. If that’s how you want to roll, we have a perfectly good, working mechanism for you: Buy an ad.

Yes, ads cost money. That’s because they’re a fair trade: your money in exchange for somebody’s attention. What you’re trying to do is hijack people’s attention without paying for it. Which is offensive.

Or, if you’re determined to not spend any money and use social networking instead, how about actually engaging people on Twitter? You know, being social. Which the term “social media” does more than imply, yes?

I know, I know, that takes time and effort. Not like buying some skeezy script to auto-follow everybody in your geographical area whether they loathe you or not. You know what takes time and effort? Friendship. Trust. Respect. You know, the things you’re undermining with your inane robo-follows.

In the end, this here social media thing isn’t about numbers. It isn’t about how many people are following you or friending you or whatever the next term will be; it’s about attention—the most constrained commodity in the civilized world. And it’s about people. All those little icons on twitter.com have people behind them. Real people. People who feel things.

Don’t piss on them to make a buck, is all I’m saying.

Oh, and do go ahead and follow me on Twitter….

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