Tweeters—those who use Twitter—have been telling us that it is the next best thing since 2008. It dawned rather inconspicuously, I gather, filling the ethernet with inane messages about the sender’s activities, real time.
No. I really don’t care that you’re eating a sandwich right now. I mean, really, who would give a flying fig?
Well, apparently a lot of people did care.
Now I’m willing to admit that Twitter is what this decade deserves. It’s the poster child for today’s media: terse and self-gratifying. It’s “Look-at-me!” on Alice-in-Wonderland little pills. Its 140-character maximum is perfect for the attention-deficit age we live in. “Aren’t I wonderful? I’m eating a ham sandwich! It’s super yummy.” It’s all about me, me, ME and it’s on speed.
I guess if I were a Mother wondering what her children were doing at any moment, then Twitter would be an admirable technological eavesdropper into their lives. But I’m not, and I don’t care.
Twitter doesn’t leave room for thoughtful argument development, proper spelling, or any other of the things we English Majors were taught to treasure and emulate.
There’s no doubt that Twitter is a cultural phenomenon. According to the venerated Nielsen thumb-on-the-pulse of Americana ratings, Twitter traffic grew by 1,448% in just 12 months, from May 2008 to May 2009, from 1.2 million unique visitors to an astounding 18.2 million unique monthly visitors.
But the Average Joe is not alone in his adoration of this Cliff Notes’ version of communication. Celebrities by the score flock to the site, schilling their latest project and not coincidentally, promoting themselves. In 140 characters.
I may be a curmudgeon, but I care as much about so-and-so’s new release as I do about that ham sandwich. It’s still all about me! Give me a break.
Well, apparently a break is on the horizon. Now the poetically-inclined are writing poems, Haiku-like in their brevity, and with pithier content than today’s luncheon menu. Life—death—love. In 140 characters. It’s a start.
Can the commercial guys be far behind?
Moonfruit, a web site application provider, celebrated its 10th anniversary in July with a Twitter-based competition to use the company name in tweets. Apple MacBooks went to 10 lucky winners drawn at random. The result was spectacular, driving a 600% increase in traffic to their website, and doubling the Moonfruit subscriber base in just two days.
But before too many more commercial predators hit the Tweetosphere with similar campaigns, Twitter may be clamping down on commercialism entirely or may start charging for commercial usage. Apparently Twitter is so concerned about the potential proliferation of crass commercialism on its network that it wants to squelch messages irritating to hardcore users.
I never knew how important a ham sandwich could be to some people. Go figure.
Anyway, early in 2010 Twitter plans to introduce new premium features for companies using the network. For instance, one feature allows multiple users to contribute their Tweets to a single corporate account. Whether the new features will also promise additional tools for corporate users, or require payment for commercial use is TBD.
Moonfruit aside, marketers don’t know if Twitter is an effective use of time and resources. Although access is free, it takes a significant commitment of time and labor to maintain an effective presence. Furthermore, unlike traditional media which provide easily trackable results, Twitter does not. Does using Twitter pay or not? The jury is still out.
But there are a few folks who are making money off Twitter. At least for a hot minute.
Back in the 1960’s, enterprising college students rented their VW bugs to companies who painted the cars to promote cigarettes and personal hygiene products. Taking a page out of that book, college students today are selling their Tweet time to sponsors. These sponsors then resell the tweets to users on a cost-per-click basis.
The 1960’s rolling billboard craze didn’t last. Commercial sponsors failed to consider that picking up a date while driving a car promoting tampons made the dating scene infinitely harder.
Today, when so many young people stay in touch via Tweets, selling excess Tweet time may impinge on having a social life, too. Only a twit sells his Tweets.