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I still don't get it. Nothing in this article makes sense to me, either. Not to denigrate the author - I'm sure what he posted makes a ton of sense, just not to me.

I made a twitter account shortly after it first started, made a few tweets, and then it languished and I think it's probably long deleted by now. Last year my wife made me another one because "you need it to promote your OSS stuff". Okay so I made a few tweets ... aaaaand it's been sitting dormant for months.

I just ... I dunno how to even describe it. Can't see the point, maybe? Can't build any enthusiasm to get involved? Find it about as interesting and engaging as cutting my toenails?

But it's been the same with facebook and ... I think it was instagram or one of those newer ones - the one with the icon that looks like a ghost. It's such a hassle to use them! HN is the only place I ever post anything, and even that's a few days of posting stuff and then weeks of nothing.

I mean, I do understand how it can be beneficial to work those social networks for your projects and passions and such, but yeeesh what a slog!




The thing with Twitter is you need a decent number of mutuals (i.e. they follow you and you follow them) to get a decent amount of high-quality interaction. On a new account with 0 followers, most people won't see you. Even if you reply to a popular tweet, most people will ignore your reply because of your low follower count.

I have two Twitter accounts: a pseudonymous one with a few hundred followers where I talk about my hobbies, and a professional one with a very low follower count where I talk about tech.

The first account is a lot of fun - I can post about something and 5-10 of my Twitter friends (people with shared interests who I only know via Twitter) will chat with me about it. The professional one is giving me the experience you're describing. A couple coworkers follow me and a few random people, but not enough of an audience for anyone to see my tweets. It feels like a waste of time.

I consider it a design flaw that Twitter makes it so hard to get your account off the ground. Sites like HN and Reddit allow you to jump in the conversation on a fresh account, but on Twitter you're just invisible. I got my first account up and running thanks to some real-life friends following me, and I can't imagine how to make my professional account stand out.


> The thing with Twitter is you need a decent number of mutuals (i.e. they follow you and you follow them) to get a decent amount of high-quality interaction.

I did that for an eletronics-related hobby of mine. Took a while, finally got it off the ground with some mutuals.

And then it felt... weird. Like I was compressing down my thoughts, for mostly performative purposes no less. I didn't like communicating with my peers that way instead of, say, per email or even chat (IRC, Discord, whatever). I felt I had to say "what was on my mind right now" instead of processing anything beforehand, but without the more direct conversational back and forth of chat.

Another problem I noticed: Almost every technical account with a minimum number of followers has this barrage of people that are doing quips, making dubious statements, or just asking simple or also dubious questions to almost every tweet, where even the questions seemed performative. Even the most kind and engaged originators seem to ignore them the overwhelming majority of the time, probably because it's too much to handle.

It was not for me. Unlike blogs, it did not add anything to my hobby.


Yup, getting it off the ground was the hard part!

My experience was exactly the same as what you've had with your professional account. LinkedIn just made more sense for professional stuff, so I stayed there.

In my case having a separate Twitter account for hobbies didn't make too much sense either since I didn't really have any, haha.

It wasn't until I figured out how to combine my personal and professional stuff that I really "got it". And even then, it's still quite a bit of work if you want to stay visible.


I honestly agree, I absolutely hate how twitter is used in the dev sphere too. There will be ample discussions about the future of a library only made on twitter never referenced elsewhere.

It's maddening. So maddening that I'm slowly becoming delusional about the web's future.


The problem might be - it sounds like you're using your twitter account for marketing, not interacting with people. Personal twitter accounts can actually be good places to do self marketing, but you need to put in the work to actually grow your network first, because you don't generally grow it from marketing itself.

Basically, first you need to follow a bunch of people that interest you, and interact with them in some manner. Do this enough and you will get followers back, and people will start interacting with you, and that will draw more people in, etc.


It's primarily about what you want out of it.

The first few times I tried using Twitter to promote my stuff and failed miserably. If you're there purely for promotion you won't get far, and it's definitely not the best channel for that purpose. (Especially if it feels like a slog to you).

If you're there to interact with like-minded people AND share something you're working on in the process, that's a different story. Still takes effort, though.


I guess that's the thing in the end. There isn't anything I can see in it that looks valuable. I just don't get the appeal, and so every post I make and every post I read feels like "why exactly am I doing this anyway?"

For awhile I figured it was about "breaking through" after a long slog, but that doesn't appear to be the case either. But I suppose it's the same with all of these post-your-random-thoughts platforms.


It's a resource to learn and follow smart and interesting people who know a lot about different subjects you're interested in (lists are good for this purpose). You tweeting is not necessary at all to get value out of twitter.

I've learned a ton about economics, geopolitics, history, Bitcoin, finance, health and nutrition and software development on Twitter (have lists for some of these, while much is just in my main feed).


The author himsel doesn't have any considerable following, the article is more like collection of thoughts and hypotheses. It's not that it's bad but IMHO shouldn't be considered authoritative.

There's this phrase "medium is the message" and I think it holds very well with Twitter. The message is outrage. The message is, be angry and be afraid and be insecure or no one cares.


If you're there to go viral then sure, outrage can work - just like it does anywhere else.

But I'd argue most people aren't there to go viral or cause a ruckus. And in that case you can have a great time on Twitter with a relatively small following.

(Not to say I would mind having more followers, of course - but it's not the goal)


I use it to follow people that share technical content about topics I'm interested in. If I see they use it to share political opinions or personal life stuff I just unfollow them


> "you need it to promote your OSS stuff"

I have found this to be the biggest myth of Twitter: it is nearly useless for content marketing.

A long time ago (so it's possible this isn't true any more) I did some analysis on a pretty large number of domains and found that Twitter had virtually no impact on traffic. There were brands that had a large twitter following, but in nearly every case I could find this was because a popular brand happened to have an audience that also was active on Twitter, not because Twitter activity helped to grow their brand.

I also had/have (much more recently) a Twitter account with > 5k follows, that was pretty active (i.e. I didn't just game Twitter to grow followers, something I have done in the past, which is a separate issue). I had a couple of Tweets with more than 1k likes, many with more than 500. First off, most really viral content is viral because it has nothing to do with your "brand", so that gets no traffic. However, even tweets that are relevant, linking to specific articles etc. only get a small blip in traffic and no visible long term improvement.

tl;dr in both my research and anecdotal experience Twitter is not a good marketing tool

Twitter can be good for communicating with your users/audience if they happen to already be there, but it won't grow your brand.

Twitter can be useful for meeting people. I have a small number of friends that I have met there.

But as a marketing tool it is a complete waste of time.


> I have found this to be the biggest myth of Twitter: it is nearly useless for content marketing.

I've found Twitter to be essential to my business. Perhaps you're looking at it too "directly", in terms of traffic analysis. What's important in my opinion is "worth of mouth" advertising. You have a circle of friends on Twitter, your friends recommend your product to their friends, and so on. If your Twitter content is interesting and valuable, you might even get members of the media to follow you. Or at least members of the media might be following one of your followers and happens to see your product that way.


I'm genuinely curious if you've measured this, and how you determined the impact of twitter on your business.

It's certainly possible that other people have different success with twitter.

In my case I was looking over thousands of websites traffic history primarily concerned with long term patterns of growth based on activity among different social channels, SEO, news aggregators etc. The vast majority of sites primarily saw permanent growth in traffic as a function of SEO success. One high ranking article can get you a increase in average traffic that can last as long as you're on top. The only sites that didn't benefit from SEO are buzzfeed-style sites that exist solely from a constant stream of traffic coming from new articles in news aggregators. But Twitter doesn't generate a substantial burst in traffic that reddit or other sites do. Plus if you're popular on reddit, you will be reposted to twitter without any effort.

I should add that when I discovered this I was unhappy about it, as I was currently spending a lot of time on Twitter promoting my own project. I really enjoyed twitter at the time, and it felt like I was succeeding. I wanted all my tweeting to be a valuable activity. After doing the numbers I periodically would just stop using twitter for months with zero impact on website traffic.


> I'm genuinely curious if you've measured this, and how you determined the impact of twitter on your business.

Well, Twitter is basically my only form of promotion. :-)

I've tried a number of forms of advertising, the results of which I can measure directly, but I've lost money every time, so I usually don't bother with that.

There are times when I can measure Twitter's impact directly. For example, I once had a very viral tweet that immediately resulted in a massive sales week. Admittedly, that's pretty rare though.


> I did some analysis on a pretty large number of domains and found that Twitter had virtually no impact on traffic. There were brands that had a large twitter following, but in nearly every case I could find this was because a popular brand happened to have an audience that also was active on Twitter, not because Twitter activity helped to grow their brand.

How did you perform this research?


Many years ago at a small private company that had access to thousands of Google analytics accounts ranging from recognizable name brands to people just trying to get started. You could actively watch small brands grow big over history and in all cases it was clear that twitter success (in terms of traffic from twitter and follower count) trailed brand development.

This was also not universally true of all social media. Facebook for example did precede growth in quite a few cases.

I also want to repeat the caveat that this was quite awhile back, so I wouldn't give it too much credence for today.

However my Twitter critique also grows out of several cycles of activity and inactivity over many years running a reasonably high traffic (for it's niche) blog and seeing these same observations. Twitter activity only caused minor bumps in traffic, and never correlated with a shift in the baseline readership.

Others here claim different experience, and it's quite possible they are correct. I have found personally that it's very easy to conflate the "feels good" of getting a lot of likes/follower/etc with the illusion that "this is working". Twitter is like a micro HN front page, only at least with HN you'll get a pretty ego inflating spike upon success (which is in practice is bad for marketing because it makes it easy to focus on the things that feel good over the things that work).

For better or worse the best source of consistent increases in traffic was (and from my experience still is) SEO. A high ranking post will have the highest probability of shifting your baseline traffic up.


Yeah, I wouldn't rely on it as a primary marketing channel in most cases, especially if I had to build it from the ground up.

Conflating "feels good" with "this is working" is right on point, too.

I'm sure it works better as a marketing channel for specific niches, though (just like Instagram works best for certain types of brands).

Other than that, it's just a good place for all kinds of organic engagement in general if that's where your audience is. Not necessarily marketing.


Twitter for me works nicely once I started to think of it as a sort of light/unstructured RSS replacement. I follow people who don't chat a lot and mostly post announcements. But also I follow people working in fairly niche topics.


Twitter is the only major social network that I actually 'get'.

Instagram is great, but it only works if you take good pictures. You have to be pretty, or a photographer. It's super great for that, but minimum effort needed per post is high, so engagement sort of has to be low.

Reddit is great, but it's not really 'social' so much as it's a generic-access to monopolized forums. It feels like a catalog of phpBB forums from the 2000's. It's great for general knowledge stuff (if you are like, 'fan of videogame series' or 'long-time active in trains' or such, Reddit's great). But it doesn't feel social, I don't know anyone from reddit, I've never met a person from Reddit.

Facebook is bad, and is also too "real" (pretend real, Zuck's definition of real). If your personal persona, professional persona, immediately-family persona, and extended-family persona are all exactly identical, then Facebook seems great for you. Personally, I hate it, everything I post gets sent to my parents and grandma, and like half of my company org chart, which means I can't write anything real on there, even though ostensibly they are all my "friends". (Am I going to unfriend my work friends or my extended family?). Sure, you can 'scope' your posts, but then people can eventually tell they're scoped poorly and complained. And the people who are on there, are predominantly people full of terrible political views that no sane person should ever hold -- I do not want to have to spend every waking moment telling folks, "yes, humans should have rights. People are not property." and so on.

Twitter is pretty good. It's techie enough that my parents and grandma can't "get it", and aren't tempted to make an account. It's techie enough that most of my professional contacts are on there, but there's a cultural assumption that (as a tiny account with few followers) I can be my authentic self and not get completely in trouble. (I can say something like, "attending a Pride parade" and have that sit next to "released a new version of my cool rubygem" and not get in trouble professionally over it, or have my parents yell at me -- both real things that would 100% happen if I posted that same blurb on Facebook). There's no assumption of Twitter implying friendship (I can follow people I've never met, who I'm not 'friends' with) but close relationships can still grow without having to label it (I can be 'mutuals' with someone, without trying to imply they are my friend).

If your net is too wide, you can set up a private "alt" account and lock it, so your closer friends/contacts can see stuff that might otherwise get you in trouble with the broader community -- and since it's a different account, there's no assumption every follower of the one should see all of the other too (it gets around the facebook/scoping problem that way)

Twitter gives you a really good pulse about what people want to care about publicly which is useful information (so much as you don't mistake it for what people actually care about, or for the sum total of all they're thinking).

Generally speaking, Twitter is the only major Social Network that still feels...well, social.


That's exactly how I feel about it! Couldn't have put it better myself.

Posting on Facebook, LinkedIn or even Instagram feels like making a statement. I can't just throw a random thought or a picture in there, it feels out of place.

On the other hand, Twitter is a lot more casual. It works perfectly for stuff you wouldn't think twice about. Thoughts, jokes, ideas, pictures. Doesn't matter.

And yes, it's perfect for socializing. Little difference between tweets and replies means you can easily spend most of your time not posting anything and just replying to other people's content and get value out of it.


While I find many things wrong with social media, I don't get the idea that for me to get value out of it, I need people to engage with my posts. Why? I'm more interested in seeing pictures and updates about people I care about -- or news/tech/politics on twitter. I don't feel a need for dopamine hits from engagement at all?


Others read what you post and you read what others post. What is there to get? I can understand not liking the format or similar concerns, but if you don’t get Twitter… did you not get irc also?


If I tell someone something in IRC (or any chatroom or forum) they will almost certainly see it an likely respond. On Twitter, it will likely be completely and utterly ignored if its at anyone with a remotely high follower count. Most people don't enjoy the feeling of being ignored.


Ugh... IRC was one of the most infuriating platforms to use. I was so happy when forums took off enough to replace it. Having to use IRC was one of the worst parts of working at canonical.


Ok, I'll let you in: you're either already famous, or you have a huge curated network of bidirectional followers from the early days. Then it works.


Which distills down to: either you’re famous or you’re famous.




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