Are You a Guru, a Sherpa, or a Ninja? Just a few years ago that question would have made no sense, or seemed abstract and a little crazy at best. Nowadays, thanks to all the “rock star geeks”* and “Brogrammers“** out there, if you’re involved in things Webby you have to be one or the other. Or the other. Especially if you’re in the SEO or social networking biz. Every social network has been relentlessly scrutinized for evidence of some kind of ROI, and every half-baked “expert” has crawled from the woodwork to offer their (plagiarized, spun, recycled) take on the subject. The people who use Twitter use it for a variety of reasons: News, engagement, information and, allegedly, commerce. This last one remains a puzzle to hardcore Twitter users. Aside from the promoted tweets, i.e. tweets paid for by companies to appear in the timelines of tweeps who aren’t following them, there is nothing of a commercial nature yet on Twitter. Moreover, the Twitter Owsla***, for want of a better word, have urged Tweeters to mark any and all promoted tweets as spam. This isn’t working out too well for the good people at Twitter, and definitely not at all for the companies who are paying for the promoted tweets. Then again, at least Average Joe isn’t being asked to pay for posts that only his friends will see as seen on another network that we’ll call “Facesuck”.
The burning question is, “Has anyone ever become rich purely as a result of tweeting?” Someone who wasn’t already prominent and/or wealthy before they created their account probably won’t become wealthy as a result of tweeting a lot of commercial rubbish, or – heaven forbid – real human thoughts about life, the universe and everything. If you can find one such person I’d love to meet them. I suspect they’re as real as ectoplasm. It took a while for my Twitter addiction to evolve from a once-in-a-blue-moon visit, to a daily habit, to full on obsession. Like most addictions. It started about a year ago when I began tweeting in earnest. My twitter account was in my own name and I made no attempt to hide my identity. In the past year I’ve tweeted around 14,000 times. That’s not funny, especially if you’re my wife. Unfortunately, I can’t link to my Twitter from this article, as much of what I tweet isn’t exactly G rated. That’s because I’m more of an Ecky Thumper than a guru, sherpa or ninja. After one year and 14k tweets, I have just 900 followers. In my own defence, I would have to add that I’ve never actually tried or even wanted to increase the number of followers I have. I just let it happen (and obviously liked it when my following grew). Now, everyone I follow is real and relevant to me, and everyone who follows me is the same. I have no spambots or incongruous #TeamFollowBack b.s. going on. My account therefore, is the social networking equivalent of pure iron, as opposed to being the social networking equivalent of a big dumb rock that contains some iron ore, i.e., larger and better followed accounts that allow spammers and robots to connect with them. It’s all about quality. At least that’s what I tell myself when I see accounts that tweet pure crap and “Favorite” or “Retweet” everyone else’s tweets, resulting in them having ten times the following I have.
This presents an issue for Twitter, though, and one they need to solve soon if they want to be taken seriously by marketers. The network is split between pure iron accounts like mine, vacuous ass-kisser accounts, and the Twitter superstar accounts that all other tweeps aspire to. The higher quality sections of the Twitterverse are beginning to resemble those indie music blogs that were registered the day after the internet was invented; thousands of articulate, unique posts about every obscure band under the sun. A blogroll to die for. Graphics retrieved from the amazing technicolor catalog of psychedelia through the ages. Google PageRank 7. Impeccably coded and highly-trafficked, but not a commercial in sight. During my time as a time-waster (SEO), I’ve stumbled on a lot of these blogs. They refuse to sell ad space, they won’t sell links, and they won’t – absolutely %$#@#%& will not – allow guest posting! Oh hell, no. That content is too precious to soil with some cack-handed keyterm stuffed piece of Panda excrement. Everyone admires this resistance to the garish animated affiliate banners that blight otherwise beautiful websites, but there’s a point where you start to realize there’s a shelf life for being an angel. At some point a network or a blog has to grow up. At least that’s what my wife tells me when she catches me trying to X-out of Twitter and pretend I’m working on my “screenplay” late at night.
Here’s the problem; the people who really make Twitter the thigh-slappin’ den of iniquity it is aren’t even remotely interested in commercials. There are tweeters who have never stood before any kind of audience rattling off quips that would give Louis CK a run for his money. There are fake accounts, parody accounts and just wacko accounts, that all share the commitment to quality despite knowing Twitter is not just a waste of time, but is being recorded in its entirety by the Library of Congress. Many of these accounts are maintained by writers who should probably be working for NBC or HBO, assuming they’re not already. Some tweeps have tens to hundreds of thousands of followers. These are the Twitter Owsla. Tottering islands of influence that act as rivets, holding all of Twitter together like the linked arms of concerned women preventing delivery of nuclear warheads to airforce bases back in the 70s, only in this case what’s being delivered are sponsored tweets. Twitter users are very often oddballs; an anti-Facebook, anti-social social network, where drunks, potheads, lonely women and men, frustrated wannabe journalists and bloggers and, best of all, the straight-up comedians, form a cohesive whole that seems to be based on not being commercialized. Promoted tweets won’t work. Next stop sidebar ads? It better be.
* Very few, if any rock star geeks actually exist, not counting members of English prog rock bands from the early-70s.
** Brogrammers are a myth. That is the end of this conversation.
*** The Owsla were the larger, healthier, more intelligent rabbits that policed rabbit warrens in Richard Adams’ Watership Down.