Still trying to figure out Twitter’s worth

I’ve been on Twitter for a while now but I often question its worth and value (is that redundant?) I had lunch with two friends this week, neither of them on Twitter. Though I knew I would communicate with both of them more if they were on Twitter, I didn’t even try to sell them on the idea.

Neither of them is at the computer for hours a day like I am. For them, I think Facebook is a better communication tool. Twitter is great for current conversation, but each bit of conversation (or tweet) is pretty fleeting and quickly “falls off the page,” buried by other tweets you’ve received.

I use Twitter more for daily conversation and Facebook for more lasting memories. For example, I like to banter during a sporting event. Twitter is a great medium for that. It just seems to be a medium meant to be monitored more frequently.

But you don’t always know if the tweets you put out there will lead to a conversation, or even if anyone is reading them. It’s been most effective during Missouri football or men’s basketball road games, when several of us will tweet while watching the game on t.v. But sometimes I feel like I’m tweeting into the abyss. It’s a really odd sort of communication.

I felt that way this weekend as I watched and tweeted about two NCAA sports tournaments: Missouri in softball and the men’s lacrosse tournament.

Friday night I was tweeting softball thinking some out of town alums might like to get the updates. I was right. That night one replied that he appreciated the tweets, another said, “Thanks for the updates! Some of us work Friday nights and can’t keep up with the gamecast. #mizzou” I felt an odd sort of satisfaction and justification for my tweets.

Saturday softball and lacrosse were happening at the same time. I tweeted softball under my name—uberscholar—and lacrosse under MizzouLaxFans. My goal was to spare my followers from lacrosse, a game most of them couldn’t care less about. It was an interesting challenge, but I didn’t get any feedback.

Today, another day of softball and lacrosse, I ended up tweeting both sports under my name. The second game—underdog Stony Brook against top-ranked Virginia—was a close game and my tweets went beyond straight reporting, they carried a bit of emotion with them, too. About half way through the day I got some nice feedback:

twitter responsed

I did receive some positive responses to my sports tweets this weekend.

Because of the feedback I now knew I had at least an audience of one, and an appreciative audience. The rest of my tweets were a little more frequent and I left my emotion in. At the end of the day several of my tweets were retweeted (that’s a blog entry in and of itself.) So at the end of the weekend, what have I learned?
• That my sports tweets have value, even if only to a few people.
• That maybe for every one that responds there are many more reading and enjoying but not responding.
• That I have absolutely no idea if Twitter really has any value in a context like this. It’s a lot of work for just a few responses.
• That maybe it’s not about getting any response at all. (But if that were true, why bother? I mean, wouldn’t that be a lot like just talking to yourself??)

Given that I have never been one to talk to myself…
• Ok, so I tweet because I’m hopeful that someone will “respond” even if they don’t respond directly to me.

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6 responses to “Still trying to figure out Twitter’s worth

  1. powerbaseball

    Since I lack an internet capable phone, Twitter is superior to Facebook in the fact that I can get the messages to my phone in the form of texts without any sort of application. That way, in the instance of softball, I can be on the go and still receive updates.

    – Eric

  2. I think if one person finds value in your tweets and receives information that they wouldn’t be able to get otherwise…then it’s worth it.

  3. I appreciated your lacrosse tweets yesterday. In fact, it was a great reminder that there was more on TV than just b-movie re-runs. I not only changed channels to try to find the game on ESPNU, but tweeted a followup:

    “Dear #mediacom: You suck. Even on a good day, $80/month is too much for unreliable Internet and a weak channel lineup.”

    I don’t get ESPNU. But I did pay attention to the rest of your tweets throughout the day.

  4. pseudoscholar

    Tony, I saw your post, now I understand the reason. I’ve been upset about my dish, but at least I do get a ton of ESPN channels.

  5. I wonder about the effectiveness of twitter as well. There have been some circumstances when I enjoyed it. One was during a town hall meeting of Claire McCaskill back when they were being done for health care. i was able to find a nice guy tweeting what he thought about the event and had a good conversation with him about it. I now follow him, even though I’ve never met him. It’s pretty great for having political discussions or thoughts.
    Another happened just the other day when they closed Providence. It was a block from my office but I couldn’t see the issue. Some J-student was there on the scene and showed the down power line.

    i also like following #como and see what’s going on in town. Though I think too many journalism students are using it and not enough non-student or non-journalism people (at least in #como).

  6. “Ok, so I tweet because I’m hopeful that someone will “respond” even if they don’t respond directly to me.”

    Aaaaand welcome to the entire reason why I’ve done any social media since my first post in my first online forum at age 15. The crude term is “feedback whore,” which I cheerfully acknowledge. There are probably psychological studies to be done on my generation and the response-reward system we (or at least, I) have set up in our minds: nothing is worth doing on the Internet if it doesn’t have the promise of getting a response, and everything done on the Internet is calculated to draw responses.

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