Much atwitter about nothing

Twitter is the Keanu Reeves of the internet.

I imagine a big budget film in 1994. It has big guns, big names, the perfect script, and Oscar written all over it. Spielberg already has the project and he’s trying to decide who would be the best leading man. Then, the executive producer walks in the room.

“We think we should use Keanu,” the producer says.

“Keanu?” Spielberg laughs. “Johnny Utah?”

“There’s something there. We’re not sure what. But you should use him. Everybody wants him now. Have you heard about this movie Speed they’re doing?”

Spielberg, against his better judgment, casts Reeves as his leading man. It ends up looking like what would happen if Matthew McConaughey played Hamlet. Spielberg goes on vacation and wonders if he shouldn’t remake Jaws.

Annnnnnd, scene.

If you haven’t heard of Twitter, this conversation will mean nothing to you. You’re probably trying to figure out how to text message through your rotary dial phone and get on that dot com thing. If you have heard of Twitter, you know it’s the world’s most popular social networking tool. It’s a real time conversation via computer or phone text message among you and whoever chooses to pay attention to your thoughts. Sound neat? It is. It is also, if you listen to some very smart people, profoundly stupid.

As Twitter grows and grows, it spawns thousands of new users, books, and a new breed of “social media expert.” To a lot of people, this is more than a little annoying. Among the people who are at least mildly annoyed with Twitter…

  • Advertising and branding people who can’t figure out if it’s important

    People who make their money by staying on top of the latest trends and exploiting them for fun and profit are having a tough time coming to grips with Twitter.

    “How can we make money with it?” they ask

    “How can I sell it?” they complain with hands twisting in frustration.

    “Does it really do anything?” they cry.

  • Hipsters who have to hate anything a lot of people like

    It’s always annoying for people on the cutting edge to have to share their space with the masses. The great thing about being on the edge of anything is that you get to the cool stuff before everybody else. Once everybody else shows up to listen to your band, eat at your restaurant, and drink your beer, it’s not nearly as cool. “If Wil Wheaton was doing it, that’s cool, but now Ashton and Demi are Twittering. It’s played, man. Let’s go sit in a coffee shop and talk about what we’re going to like and then hate next.”

  • Companies that feel like they have to use it but don’t know why

    Let’s be honest, most big corporations that interact with the public are still trying to figure out how to best utilize a website. Watching them trying to figure out Twitter is the equivalent of the ol’ saying about the monkey and the football. Most of the them don’t know the difference between a @reply (now a Mention, if we’re being technical) and a Retweet. I know this because I know some very smart people who are desperately trying to get up to speed and are desperately confused about how Twitter works. I’d name some examples, but I’d be afraid of further confusing the issue.

  • People who don’t know what a Twitter is and are afraid to put one in their pants

    There is, to be sure, Twitter overload on television. CNN’s Rick Sanchez sounds like a masturbating flasher on most days. “Look at my Twitter. Look at my Twitter. Look at it. Look at it!” It’s scary for people who just want to know how to pronounce Darfur and whether it’s going to give them the cancer.

  • My favorite criticisms are those who use Twitter to talk bad about Twitter. These are my favorites because they all come from people for whom I have a deep respect, admiration, and occasional envy.

  • “I had a stimulating 2 hr. conversation w/ a ‘social media expert’ & web/SEO guru. He called Twitter useless & a waste of time.”
  • I’ve decided to become a Twitter Life Coach. I think it’s really gonna help a lot of people. 140 characters at a time.
  • why can’t i order cocktails with twitter? another monetization opportunity missed.
  • 75% of marketers have budgeted less than $100,000 for social media efforts over the next year per Forrester. But keep up the hype machine!
  • i’m back on tilt. just saw article entitled: 6 reasons why Twitter is the future of search. how do people like this even feed themselves?
  • My alarm clock is a radio and I woke up this morning listening to someone talk about twitter Haiku’s… How perfectly horrifying

    I find it particularly interesting that so many folks are talking about Twitter and that so many exceptionally smart people are expressing such vitriol about it. As far as I’m concerned, you’re better off wringing your hands about Keanu Reeves.

    As I wrote a few days back:

    The key to appreciating Twitter is to accept that it is just a thing. It’s not a revolution. It’s not the second coming of Edward R. Murrow. It’s not even all that brilliant. It’s just a cool little tool that can be great in the right hands. It’s easy to be disappointed by something you hold up as important. So, don’t hold Twitter up. Use it or don’t use it, as long as you don’t expect the second coming to be preceded by a “@believers I’m on my way.”

    .

    That is a long was of saying, Keanu Reeves can be useful and make you some money (see, Matrix, et al). It’s also a way of saying that most of the time, Reeves is just Johnny Utah–fun to watch, but nothing in the form of high art.

    Twitter is the same thing. In the right hands, it’s going to be a moneymaker and a good one. For most people though, it’s marshmallow fluff that is a lot of fun, but generally useless. I live in the latter category. I use Twitter and, honestly, I feel comfortable holding myself out as as much of an “expert” as anybody else. That said, it’s not going to make me any money. I use Twitter the same as I use the blog. It’s a way to communicate. If you’re in the business of communication, you should know Twitter. If you don’t, you’re behind.

    But, if you expect Keanu Reeves to be the next Paul Newman just because a bunch of people enjoy his movies, you’re barking up the wrong doofus.

  • Brad Willis

    Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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    11 Responses

    1. Pauly says:

      Interesting things of note…

      1. I was named after Paul Newman.

      2. “Utah! Get me two!”

    2. Erika says:

      As you feel about twitter, I feel about blogs. I just don’t get it, but eveyone seems to be doing it. I have not acquiesced, and remain the in the coffee shops engaged in interpersonal conversation with an actual person, which, i fear, is soon to become a lost art. As you all will communicate in 140-character bursts with faceless, nick-named entities, I will be at the coffee shop, sipping over-priced, sugar and fat laden caffienated beverages and talking to people with names given to them by their parents and laughing – loudly. Come see me.

      And I LOVE Keanu. I never noticed he wasn’t acting.

    3. coderkevin says:

      I still haven’t figured out if twitter is for mundane life journaling (e.g. “Going to bed now” and “Eating pizza at my favorite spot”) or if it should be used for more philosophical purposes. I’d like to see a survey on why people twitter and why they enjoy reading other peoples twitters?

    4. I love this post! Twitter, while useful on many fronts, is filled with so much hype across marketing industries, it’s like the movie Speed…. what a let down. 🙂 Great stuff!

      Maria Reyes-McDavis
      Social Marketing with Impact

    5. iggy says:

      well hell, since a few of the above quotes are mine, allow me to restate, as i told pauly, “Twitter is useless & a waste of time.”

      but it sure beats those uber posts.

    6. Jim The Knife says:

      I told him weeks ago that Twitter was a giant waste of time.
      Ditto for Facebook.
      Kids like it for quick hit fun…… I miss the point..

    7. Aaron says:

      So first you talk about a drug you don’t use, and now we get a post about a drug you do you use. Is this some weird 12 step program, or are you working your way to Easter by talking about the 7 deadly sins? You have hit the modern equivalent of gluttony; I want to hear about the wrath, envy, sloth, and lust in the next couple of posts.

    8. April says:

      Yet another shining example of why I love you. I’m sending this to my entire office.

    9. Da Goddess says:

      I. hate. Twitter. I don’t see the need for every business to suddenly need to tweet over their latest bowel movement or merger.

      Paul Newman it ain’t. Damn right.

      By the way, you can follow my latest ramble by checking out my non-twitterpated website. That’s about as current as I get.

    10. MagsMac says:

      Use it or don’t use it, as long as you don’t expect the second coming to be preceded by a “@believers I’m on my way.”

      Love it!

    1. April 11, 2009

      […] Much ATwitter About Nothing […]

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