Twitter is for listening

I'm pretty sure most people that use Twitter for their business in some capacity are using it the wrong way. I say this because it seems most people view Twitter as a way to tell the world about something that they know about - or something they're making, or doing, or selling, or whatever.

And to be sure, this is certainly one benefit of twitter. I make it a point to tweet a blog post I've written, mention something interesting I see, and post the occasional picture of my kids. But the ability to say something on twitter isn't why it's valuable.

Listening is where the real value is at with Twitter.

I had never even heard of Derek Sivers until Jason Fried mentioned his writing. I learned about a whole new way I could make websites by learning to use Perch, something that Ryan Singer tweeted about. I only knew that Andrew Dubber was going to be putting up an idea a day, every day for thirty days, because Derek Sivers linked to it. And because I learned of Andrew Dubber, I now know there is a double distilled whisky-type alcohol called Manx that you can get from the Isle of Man. (There's lots of other great stuff I've learned by hearing of Andrew Dubber too.)

Truly though, the times Twitter has been the most valuable are the moments when I've learned something from someone I respect, or when something I mentioned got noticed - but only as a direct response to something that I heard.

This is why I got so confused when I would see people that were following 3,000 or 4,000 people. How can you keep up with anything that anyone is saying?

These people of course are following others in the hopes that they'll be followed back. Their plan is to basically follow a bunch of people, hope they get followed back, not listen to well over 90% of these people, and lastly, hope that a good percentage of the people that they're ignoring will pay attention to them.

Good luck with that.

I was talking about this with a friend when I was informed that TweetDeck allows users to determine which of the people they follow that they're actually going to listen to. So now, whenever I see someone that's following thousands of people and also uses TweetDeck, I just figure that's exactly what they're doing. And I don't even notice how many followers they have, because all I see is the thousands of people they're ignoring.

Tell me, if you're asking people to pay attention to you, knowing full well that you're going to be ignoring them, why should I give you my attention? Haven't you just built a wall between us before I've even had a chance to listen to what you have to say? Aren't you just telling me that you're probably going to ignore me? How big of a fan of yours can I become if this is my perception?

I use my blog for speaking, but Twitter is for listening.