Why Twitter Has Already Jumped the Shark
As most folks know I’m not a big fan of the whole Social Networking craze but I’m trying really hard to embrace the new, new thing (which, by tomorrow, will probably be the old, old thing). I once thought that Facebook was the biggest waste of time on the planet but I’m now convinced that Twitter has taken over that dubious distinction. Nevertheless, I try to keep my hat in the ring and follow what’s going on in the Twittersphere.
One thing I’ve noticed lately is that companies are now starting to treat Twitter as a cheap mass-advertising mechanism. They pick a hot hashtag – say, #sharepoint – and blast out short marketing messages to everyone with a search configured for that tag. Well, OK, I guess that was bound to happen but Twitter is already full of too much noise; fill it up with marketing messages and it becomes wholly irrelevant. If you want people to pay attention, find better ways than blasting them with a Twitterbomb every time they mention a word even remotely close to what you’re pitching; otherwise, they will tune you out and the entire experiment will be a grand failure.
To make matters worse, the Twitterbombers of the universe don’t seem to get the fundamentals of what makes a social network actually work; that it’s all about like-minded people swapping thoughts and not about intrusive advertising. This is a real turn-off and the tools don’t do anything to restrict this type of behavior. No, I really don’t want to know that someone I’m following just went to lunch or is tired and going to bed but I chose to follow them so I can unfollow them if their posts don’t interest me anymore. But if someone jumps on a hashtag or user ID and starts blasting out spam messages there’s nothing I can do about short of removing the search term or person that is otherwise of interest to me.
It would seem that the Twitter folks would like this to be a self-policing effort. Ok, that’s worth a try, but what happens when spammers don’t play by the rules? I recently saw a hosting company with a Twitter ID of @fpweb (apparently used by someone who works at FPWeb.net Managed Hosting) post some ad blasts in response to some poor Twitterer looking for SharePoint hosting who happened to make the unfortunate mistake of including the #sharepoint tag in their post. One response from @fpweb would have been fine but, alas, they had to keep going and going. What really got my ire up was that they claimed to have over a decade of SharePoint hosting experience. Say what? SharePoint hasn’t even been around that long (and no, FrontPage and Commerce Server do not count). That’s just false advertising, plain and simple, so I asked them to knock it off. Self-policing and all that, right?
Wrong. No surprise, @fpweb got angry with me and retaliated, going so far as to infer that I was making MVP’s look bad by calling out their deceptive behavior. Hmm, lemme see, if I wasn’t an MVP, would I be making my dog look bad? How ’bout my best friend? You wanna insult my mother while you’re at it? C’mon, how childish can we get here? How is it my fault that you posted something that wasn’t entirely truthful?
And then it hit me. Twitter has jumped the shark. Just like email is mostly unsolicited spam and Facebook has degenerated into a bunch of silly games and incessant join-this, join-that chatter, so too has Twitter become one vast ocean of meaningless noise created by marketers who just can’t leave well enough alone. This led to an epiphany – perhaps the true value of Social Networking inside the enterprise is that you can put an impenetrable wall up around your employees and the @fpweb’s of the world. Perhaps the free public stuff is really just a proof-of-concept and, once the ad monkeys drive it off the rails, it has to go inside the corporate firewall to maintain any sort of relevance. It’ll still be a time-waster but at least the only ad bombs we’ll have to put up with are announcements about Suzy’s garage sale and reminders about free doughnuts from that creepy guy in accounting.
Death to the inter-Twitter. Long live the intra-Twitter!
UPDATE: See the comments for remarks from the President of FPWeb. Fair play, Tom, and thanks for making your voice heard.