As I write this sentence, I have another browser window open. It's a window that I constantly leave open, a constant standby that I check all too frequently. It's a safety net for boredom foremost, but it's equally as much a way to feel involved. As the title of this article may give away, the social networking site Twitter is running in this window.
The Internet is an interesting place, as I'm sure you don't need to be told. Many members of the current generation of consumers spend inordinate amounts of time on this vast extension of technology, generally looking for entertainment in some form. I don't know exactly how time is apportioned on the Internet, and I'm not really interested in knowing. I'm more interested in understanding the results that are achieved on the Internet by some, or vice versa. A keen example of this lies in Twitter, an ever-growing home for intelligent bloggers.
More than any other site, the nature of Twitter confuses me (not a difficult task, to be fair). Over the last year, Twitter has been growing at a rapid rate, and for good reason. It's a site that allows real-time discussion with users of your choice (those that you have chosen to "follow") and the promotion of ideas and content. It's a great idea, and naturally, countless millions of people love it. I love it.
But the mystery of Twitter doesn't lie in its purpose, it lies in how people are affected by that purpose. A natural goal for Twitter users is to accrue more followers as time goes on, their voice expanding to encompass the Internet ears of many. Websites like Klout.com have attempted to track the measure of one's Twitter voice, but any method is imperfect. Everyone wants to be heard in real life, and that is only exemplified on Twitter. Personally, gaining or losing a follower, especially one whom I respect, can feel like an important highlight of my day.
I don't want to come across as saying the central goal of a Twitter user is to gain popularity and attention. Discussion and commentary are the focus of "tweeting", but the feeling that is taken away from tweeting often lies in personal validation or a lack thereof. In this validation, Twitter success may possibly lie. When someone spends a large portion of their day doing an activity, it is human nature for them to hinge their success on whether they receive feedback.
We all want to be doing well. We all want to be met with interest. On Twitter, the apathy of others can feel like the sharpest retort to your opinion. An argument or a complete disagreement with your commentary is always more preferable than complete disregard.
For me, the most difficult concept to understand about Twitter is what leads to success, but a clear blueprint does seem to exist, if you have a certain skill set. It isn't easy to reach for every "tweeter", but it does exist. Some of the known archetypes that exist for gaining Twitter followers include*:
*Note: If someone is categorized as a certain type of tweeter, that does not mean they (or their tweets) are exclusively limited to that category. The chosen category simply represents them best.
- The Joker. This person follows a specific subject (or many subjects at a time), and consistently delivers jokes that are both clever and consistently appeal to a targeted audience. A good example of this is @netw3rk, an NBA-focused joke-maker.
- The Respected, Intelligent Blogger. This person is an expert on a particular subject, so when they choose to tweet in the form of analysis, discussion is immediately formed and retweets abide. A good example of this could be @RobMahoney, a blogger for (but not limited to) the terrific Dallas Mavericks blog The Two Man Game, and the New York Times' Off the Dribble blog. Another good example of this archetype can be found with @freedarko (Bethlehem Shoals), who can be found on a myriad of respected sites and the late, great Free Darko. Some bloggers of this type, such as @HPBasketball (Matt Moore), are often the hotbed and center of discussion and argument.
- The High-Volume, Well-Networked Tweeter. This distinction lies with many, but none exemplify it as well as CHKE's own (sort-of) @NickFlynt. This type of tweeter generally dispenses commentary, jokes, and analysis at unbelievable rates, creating constant involvement in discussion.
Though those are just a few, limited examples of successful Twitter accounts (generally in the NBA blogosphere), I am well aware of how equally limited my analysis of Twitter success is. On the surface, it seems to simply draw its measure of success from follower count, but it does not. To me, as I have previously stated, Twitter success is drawn from feedback. Being involved in the discussion can manifest itself in several ways on Twitter, usually through retweets, mentions, and content support. If you can find a way to be prevalent in one or more of these areas, you're probably generating copious feedback in your sphere of tweeting.
As it goes with many of my attempts at analysis, this could probably be perceived as an ironic joke. By comparative Twitter standards, I have failed to achieve success, at least to a high level. I do not have a mass of followers eager to retweet my thoughts on Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
But maybe a large following or response on Twitter isn't how Twitter success should be categorized. Maybe it's about the quality of relationships formed and the interactions that exist between you and those you frequently have discussions with, and not the quantity of people interested in your every thought. Maybe Twitter success is different for every person, and entirely based on your inherent personality. Maybe I'm beginning too many sentences with "Maybe".
It's impossible for me to say what Twitter success truly is. I may have experienced it in some form, or I may have not experienced it (Probably not). There is no definitive marker of what Twitter should be for each individual person. It's an outlet for current thoughts in their purest, reactionary form. It's a place where many wish to be validated, and validation, at least in an occasional moment, will usually respond back.
At its heart, I believe Twitter success lies in garnering response, discussion, and enjoyment from similar-minded tweeters, whom you respect and like. People as a whole (myself included), often wish for their effort to be reciprocated. However, maybe you would define a valuable experience on Twitter in a different fashion. That's the beauty of individuality and differing or agreeing opinions.
That's the beauty of Twitter.