A Twittering (and Related Social Platforms) Update Part 3 – Following No One

[Note: This is a repub of a post originally written in Aug 2012 on the version of this blog that died. We’re getting lots of requests for it so we’re republishing it here. Enjoy!]

This is the third post in a six part blog-arc about some recent research NextStage has done regarding Twitter and several other social platforms.

These posts will cover

  1. Followers
  2. Watches
  3. "You don't follow anybody"
  4. Twitter v LinkedIn v Facebook v FourSquare v Pinterest v …
  5. Private v Public Personae
  6. "You rarely point to someone else's writing"

This post deals with something people complain about from time to time, the fact that… I Don't Follow Anyone …and therefore I'm antisocial. This is a demonstration of either such wonderfully flawed logic as to itself offer an explanation of same or such a limited world-view as to be saddening.

Twitter et al are becoming more and more marketing platforms and few marketers (in my opinion) understand the psycho-sociology behind them enough to use them properly as a marketing platforms (did you read the take-away in this arc's previous post?). Followers and twits (now do you know why I call them "twits" instead of "tweets"?) are for sale. Lots of companies (and some individuals) routinely purchase them as part of their marketing campaigns when products launch, rebranding occurs, etc. etc.

Let them purchase all they want. Unless that purchase includes recognizably genuine phatic content — mundane chatter from individuals who are psychologically vested in the product, brand, service, offering, … — it's worthless.

Being boring and dull, my needs are equally mundane. I'm not interested in adverts even if they are in 140 or fewer characters.

But I do follow people, simply not on Twitter. I correspond regularly via email, Skype, phone, etc, with a fair number of people. That fair number, regardless of medium, is typically around 70. Why 70? Read They're Following Me! (More on Twitter) for the answer. What am I doing with 375 or so followers? I'm providing them with Watches so that tribe size remains manageable, frustrations (followers and my own) are minimized and people only have to read what they want.

My regular use of channels alternative to Twitter amounts to following them and in what I believe is a much more intimate, much more personal way than Twitter, and specifically to an earlier point, in a way that greatly approximates how much I value everybody's time. If I don't know you, if I'm not somehow vested in your life, I don't really care to know what you're doing every fifteen minutes of your life. If I do know you and I am vested, I'll be in touch in ways that let you know you are genuinely important to me.

Is this what NextStage suggests to clients regarding social policy? Heck no! What, do you think we're nuts or something?

But can you understand that our (pretty much everyone here at NextStage has the same attitude) thoughts on how, when and where to interrupt people's lives with social information makes us killers at helping clients interrupt consumers lives in ways that stick positively?

No? Then I must ask "How are your social efforts doing, really?"

I rarely refuse interactions, be they phone or Skype. I'm known for not responding quickly to emails yet I am known for definitely responding. One correspondent also wrote that he had to get use to the idea that I actually read everything in an email, not just skimmed and not just certain parts.

My emails often start with

Howdy,
(catching up on emails)
Comments within:

My responses to a specific item come right after that item, much more like a discussion and much easier to follow as no one has to go digging for threads.

I do follow people and do so by occasionally looking up their streams for "interesting to me" items. There are two things happening there: 1) I determine what to look at (like walking down bookstacks in a library) and 2) I determine the schedule (I'm not interrupted).

The majority of Twitter streams don't interest me because they're either irrelevant to my day or embarrassingly unsubstantiated opinion. Some of what's on Twitter is phatic but it's from people I don't know hence, with no investment in them as friends, why do I care about their phatickly boring day? It's just as boring as mine, I'm sure, and sometimes mine is mind-numbing (what we in the NextStage offices call "brainpoo") and if mine is numbing enough why would I want to further subject myself to someone else's insipidities by encouraging theirs?

Or perhaps it's true and I am anti-social.

Sometimes I find something I want to pass on to my followers and do so via a ReadWatch. It doesn't happen often. It happens so seldom, in fact, that one can rightly determine something really has to impress me before I'll intrude on other people's times and spaces. The last time I posted a ReadWatch the author wrote to thank me for recognizably increasing their traffic. I was flattered because the increase was several multiples of my number of followers at the time.

So I do follow people, simply not obviously so, and I follow my friends in a way that allows them to keep their relationship to me private if they so desire.

A Link Does Not a Friend Make

From the above we can conclude that I have a definition of "friendship" different from the current social-marketing norm (see what a friend wrote about my friendship in my About the Author section of Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires (available in print and on Kindle.Tales Told 'Round Celestial Campfires Someone read that and wrote that they hoped their friends thought as well of them. I offered that it depended on how they valued friends. Go figure).

These concepts of friendship and time also explain my reluctance to refer people through online social networks. Unless NextStage has actually worked with someone or some company or I consider you a friend, I won't perform an introduction or offer a referral. A link does not a friend make and while some I do business with have become friends not everyone I do business with is a friend. Also, I know enough psycho-social behavioral dynamics to know that, for the majority of people, how one treats one in business is how they'll treat you outside of business, ergo there is, to me, a difference between those I count as friends and those I know in business. Sometimes the differences are only revealed over time.

The lesson here is, if you want something from me, don't act as if you're my friend if you don't really know me. Just ask me for what you want. You're much more likely to get it as my BS tolerance is extremely low. Example: a brand management company sent an email to our R&D group asking how to contact me. This impressed the heck out of me as my email address is easy to find with a few minutes search engine work. Eois got the email and wrote back asking what they wanted (nobody here recognized the company or the writer). They were interested in our research and how I do research. Eois wrote back that he could answer their questions, what research were they interested in?

At this point the writer owned up that they wanted to sell me something.

Eois' BS tolerance is higher than mine but that's why he gets paid the big bucks. State your goal up front when contacting us. We really don't want you to be all phaticky if we don't know you.

<RANDOMTHOUGHT>
NextStage's BlueSky (BS) MeterYou know, there might be a market for a BJ Meter, similar to NextStage's BlueSky (BS) Meter except it's more tuned to the types of BS that come from fawning and sycophantery when the goal is to make a sale. Imagine not being sure of someone's intent, passing their blather through a tool and knowing for certain all their praise is in hopes of getting something from you and preferably a dollar!

What'd'you think? Would there be a market for such stuff?
</RANDOMTHOUGHT>

Next up, Twitter v LinkedIn v Facebook v FourSquare v Pinterest v …


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