The trouble with Twitter

11 Feb

It should be about conversations (or 'two-way symmetrical' dialogue in textbook speak). But there's something asymmetrical about how Twitter is so often used.

Perhaps the problem is with the concept of 'following'. By following a celebrity, or a publication or a brand, I'm signing up for an asymmetrical relationship with little prospect of it becoming an equal conversation (symmetry).

Students and other novices often struggle to find the right balance. Are their tweets suitable for the public domain, or would they be better on a more private social network? How to develop from a personal comment on my activity towards a contribution to a public discussion?

Here are two useful posts from US academics aimed at PR students:

Via PROpenMic

4 Responses to “The trouble with Twitter”

  1. Karen Russell 11/02/2010 at 2:02 pm #

    Thanks for the link, Richard, but more importantly for bringing up this issue of following. I can’t believe it when students say they “feel closer” (or some variation) to a celebrity because they’re following them on Twitter.
    I understand about parasocial relationships, but I think PR students should understand them, too. In the vast majority of cases, you’re not getting a sneak peek into a celeb’s life, you’re just reading what they choose to promote about themselves in another venue. And they certainly aren’t getting anything back from you, no matter how many times you @ reply them!

  2. Michael White 11/02/2010 at 3:02 pm #

    I certainly feel close to Stephen Fry because I am one of the few (compared to his following!) that he is following back.
    For some reason I have completely understood Twitter in many ways. It is arguably far closer to the relationships that people have in the real world. I think it is the asymmetrical nature of Twitter which has made the network a success. The mere fact that I don’t need to connect with my followers on a mutual basis eradicated those who I don’t find interesting or are simply desperate mass following companies.
    I sometimes try to work out why so many people are following my account. I have to admit that I have broken all of the ‘rules’ by Karen Russell. I like to be honest (to a degree) on Twitter. You commented on my transparency which at some point may need to change. I find my favourite accounts to follow aren’t always the corporate ones, the celebrities but instead those who share their personality with me in their updates.
    What you have raised Richard is very interesting. Certainly a valid question. One of my concerns over Twitter is the larger your following, the more noise you receive. I have now broken past the 2000 following limit. Now I am mostly dependant upon lists to organise my feed.

  3. Donna 11/02/2010 at 4:35 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing the links to my story and Karen’s with your readers.

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