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

  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

(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.

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?

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

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A Twittering (and Related Social Platforms) Update Part 2 – Watches

[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 second 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

  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”

Onto it, then, shall we?


My twitterings start with guideposts that take the form “xWatch”: MundaneWatch, MascotWatch, ThanksWatch, ResearchWatch, MemberWatch, BlogWatch, ReadWatch, PresoWatch and others as they occur to me or the need arises. These Watches were introduced in They’re Following Me! (More on Twitter) and are based on what I wrote at the end of A Twitter Social Contract:

So here’s my Twitter Social Contract; I won’t twit unless I truly believe the information might be useful to you, which of course means whatever I twit will have use to me.

[And I note that here in 2016 that one’s gotten loose. Now the name of my account is “NextStageWatch”]

Some people may question the usefulness of a Mundane- or Mascot-Watches, except we learned in A Twittering (and Related Social Platforms) Update Part 1 – Followers that some followers find them more interesting than all else I may twit. Based on responses (and most people are still more comfortable interacting with me via email, phone or Skype, something that’s been true since I started publishing online in 2005), Mundane- and Mascot-Watches being my most popular twits is true.

Mundane- and Mascot-Watches being the most popular isn’t surprising. These are my forms of phatic information (something I cover in detail in Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation). Psycho- and socio-linguists recognize phatic information as “low quality, high discovery” communication, something I wrote about in Usability Studies 101: The X Funnel :

The conversation doesn’t have any revealing information, or does it? There’s very little of psychological interest being communicated and there’s a great deal of emotional interest being communicated. Specifically, our two strangers are exchanging a great deal of “Can I trust you?” “Are you somebody I want to get to know better?” “How open can I be with this person?” information without ever using those words.

This part of the conversation is low quality but high discovery. The topics are low level but the purpose is very high level; to find out if another meeting will occur and to foreshadow what might occur at that meeting.

Low quality, high discovery, phatic information is what allows society to move along smoothly. It allows us to know the social hierarchy in groups without having to ask “Who’s in charge here?” or “Who reports to who here?”, what jokes we can tell to whom and about what, so on and so forth. Business deals may be signed in the boardroom but they are made in the bar, the gym, at cookouts, company gatherings, during hallway conversations, breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings. The boardroom conversation is “What is going to get done by whom when” but it won’t occur without the gym, cookout, etc. “Can we and how far can we trust each other as people?” conversation.

Let me give you an example of phatic information gone awry.

Long ago and far away, I had a serious relationship with a particular woman. She took me home to meet her family. At one point and after a wonderful dinner conversation with her, her parents and two older brothers, her father invited me downstairs for a game of pool and cigars.

I don’t know much about pool. I know more about mechanics and ballistics, things that pool is based on. At that time I didn’t smoke cigars so refused when one was offered.

First social cue missed – acceptance of a token to establish similarity.

I beat one brother in a close game. I was perfecting my calculations and skill during this game.

Her dad handily beat her other brother. It was no where near a close game.

I now played her dad while her brothers watched. All three were puffing on cigars. I made shot after shot after shot, not paying much attention to them, focusing on each shot and making ballistic calculations. I do remember that their puffing became more pronounced as I finished run after run after run.

At the end of the third game, my eyes still on the table, I said, “Rack them up again?”

The coldness of her father’s “No” made me look up. The three of them were staring at me from the other side of the table, father in the center, brother on either side, all three with a cue in their hands, white-knuckle grips on the shafts, bumpers on the floor and tips up around face level so they stared at me over the green of the tips.

They could have been wearing six-guns and saying “Get out of town.” The message was that clear.

Second social cue missed – recognition and acceptance of social hierarchy.

One brother stayed downstairs to clean up, the other brother and father marched me upstairs where the evening slid into a miasma of innuendo about my ethnicity, heritage, education, language skills, clothing, financial prowess and so on. The woman later told me that her parents didn’t like me and wouldn’t accept me into their family.

Lucky me, yes?

Compare that with my interactions with Susan’s (wife, partner, All Things Bright and Beautiful) father. During one visit to her parents’ home I noticed he was working on a presentation paper (he was Sr. VP, R&D for an international firm, and a PE) and asked if I could read it. Sure, go ahead. I made some corrections to his formulae and gave it back to him. “I think my suggestions will save time and development costs. Let me know what you think.”

He invited me down to his offices and opened several doors for me, often hiring me to review their work. My favorite anecdote about him is that, during my first visit to his offices, he asked what I’d charge for my consultations. Sitting across from his desk, him in silhouette and my back to the door, amazed by the panoramic view of a nearby lake from his top floor, corner office, I bid ridiculously low due to ignorance of the market.

He looked at me, got up, walked around his desk and closed his office door. He then sat on the edge of his desk next to me, leaned over and said sotto voce what I would charge him for my time (it was more than double what I suggested). He then told me when I would raise my rates for him. Next he told me that he would introduce me to his opposite numbers at conferences and what I would charge them (more than quadruple what I was charging him). He explained that they would pay that because he would let them know how much I’d saved him.

Then he smiled and said that I would always charge him less than his competitors because he’d made all these introductions for me and started me in this line of work.

Finally he stood up, opened his office door, resumed his seat across his desk from me and said, “Want to get some lunch?”

Gosh, I miss him.

And did I mention that Susan and I have been together going on 34 years? We’ve had our ups and downs, sure. We’re still together and now more than ever she’s the love of my life.

A Bit Too Much Phatic For You?

From “Let me give you an example of phatic information gone awry.” down to “A Bit Too Much Phatic For You?” is all phatic, low quality, high discovery information.


What it is is anecdotes. Anecdotes are one of the purest ways of conveying phatic information. They tend to detail social information about the protagonist (me, the storyteller) and often involve boons (as with Susan’s father) or busts (as with the nameless woman’s family). These tales of boons and busts are known worldwide as The Hero’s Journey (Joseph Campbell’s excellent book on this out of print or I’d provide a pointer).

But such anecdotes also go beyond pure phatic information because they’re also examples of personal mythologies. The stories we tell about ourselves are Rashomonic even when we’re the only person who knows them because our Core, Identity and Personality change them to suit each venue’s needs and whatever {C,B/e,M}s we’re working with at the time (audience, self, …). Read through the two provided anecdotes carefully and several aspects of my persona, beliefs, identity, self-concept, social awareness and willingness to tolerate fools become obvious (enter what you learn as comments. Everybody’s answers will be correct, just so you’ll know).

Personal Mythologies in 140 Characters or Fewer

So while Twitter is teaching us all to use active voice and direct address, its also tchng us tht vwls & pnctatn r meangls

This is how language evolves over time. The only time a given language consolidates to a “standard” form is when it’s written down and a large enough population understands what’s written. More so when that writing method becomes more dominant, such as print and now, the ‘net. The only reason a language consolidates is to increase audience. Very much like marketing, that.

But without language (more correctly, without semiotics), there’d be no marketing.

Back to Guideposts

Audience brings us all the way back to Twitter and my use of guideposts, the xWatches that preface my twits.

I do them for you, dear readers, so you’ll know whether this 140 character message is as important to you as that 140 character message. As one reader told me, “You’re self-categorizing your tweets and I appreciate that. So many of the things I read out there are a waste of my time. I can tell right at the start of yours if it’s going to be worth my time or not.” [I’ve since learned that people glance at the twit as a whole and perform an attentional valence decision based on the form of the twit, not necessarily the content. People who actually read the words are disappearing, it seems.]

Thank you, and you’re welcome.

My xWatches are because I value your time and mine.

The First Take-Away of this Research

I’ll admit this one is obvious after the fact.

Companies using Twitter for marketing have to understand that the best communications for 140 characters or less are phatic, high discovery, low quality messages. Consumers using Twitter don’t want the Gospel According to P&G, Toyota or any other brand. What they want is the juice that’ll interest, excite and engage them enough to go read your brand’s gospel.

This holds for Pinterest, too, by the way.

Next up, why don’t I follow anyone?

What’s with the “Watches”, Joseph?]]

A Twittering (and Related Social Platforms) Update Part 1 – Followers

[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!]

I’ve written about my Twitter experiences and philosophy in A Twitter Social Contract, They’re Following Me! (More on Twitter) and They’re Still Following Me! And Now There’s More of Them! (A Twitter Update). It’s been a while and, as Twitter and several other social platforms have been part of several sociality experiments NextStage has conducted recently, it’s time for an update.

This post is the first in a blog-arc (some people prefer the term series) of six separate posts. These posts will cover

  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”

Part 4, “Twitter v LinkedIn v Facebook v FourSquare v Pinterest v …”, is where the real meat is, we thinks. The other five deal with issues that came up or questions we were asked during the research. I’ll backfill the links as the separate posts are published. Also, Part 4 may appear on TriQuatroTriteCale as it’s more researchy than the rest and, as I’m bouncing around traveling this month, why shouldn’t my posts do the same?

We start with


As I write this (started it the end of June 2012) I have 374 followers. Yesterday, when I was writing the rough draft of this post, I had 375. I lost one due to death or illness, most definitely. It couldn’t be due to — as I often tell people — the fact that I’m dull and boring.

Do you want more followers?

Well…sure…I mean…maybe…why?…Where would they all sit?…And then there’s the dinner arrangements…And you know nobody wants to sit across from Sturpa…

Anyway, 374 (and as I publish this on 7 Aug 2012, 377!!!) [and now in 2016, I’m overflowing with 408! Stand back, folks, she’s going to blow!]! A better question (to me) is “How did I get that many?”

I hope following me is worth it to those 377 (obviously it wasn’t to #375 at the time). I asked several people why they follow me and most responses can be summed up to either “A lot of us follow you because, we feel if we don’t, we’ll miss out on something terribly important.” or “I don’t know why I’m following you so I did a little digging and found…” followed by a data trail of someone else pointing to something I’d written that my follower found interesting at some point in time and they simply haven’t dropped me. (It’s nice to know my followers are so black or white, though, don’t you think?)

To the latter I sometimes follow up with “Do you pay a lot of attention to Twitter?” — No.

My challenge with all such laudanums is that what I do that I find exciting others don’t. Example: Over a year ago we had some research indicating what print media could do to remain a) advertising revenue based, b) vital and c) increase its dwindling audience. This was incredible stuff to me. The research was neat and clean and the findings to date were brilliant (and another researcher’s, not mine).

Yet nobody was particularly interested in that research. Currently that research sits on a shelf waiting for someone to write it up.

I have had a few people write me that they like my MundaneWatches because MundaneWatches provide better insight into me, something I cover in a bit more detail in part 2 of this arc, Watches.

More people respond to Mundane- and Mascot-Watches than anything else I twit. To heck with the research, you play piano? And harpsichord? That’s neat!

(and oh, if you think my tweets are boring and dull, you should hear my piano and harpsichord playing!)

Do you want fewer followers?

Hmm…it’s nice to be liked…but I don’t know most of the people following me…so if they all went away…hmm…wouldn’t that be like it was before I’d even heard of Twitter? or LinkedIn? or …

As with wanting more followers, wanting fewer has to do with what people are following me for.

This leads to the next post in this arc, Watches. More to…umm…follow.

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