A few weeks ago I signed up to Twitter, something I'd instinctively resisted until I was advised that it was a sure-fire way to get sales for the products in my online stores. Opening an account was very quick and straightforward compared to my experience of other social networking sites but what followed was anything but 'straightforward'!
First there were the unfamiliar terminology and concepts - again! - such as 'retweet', 'lists' and 'trending' (what are we doing to our language!) and odd little conventions like the use of @ and #, FF and RT. Add to that the speed of light with which everything happens, so that the 'tweets' I might have wanted to actually explore disappeared before my eyes as floods of new ones came pouring into my homepage, I felt confused and, before long, quite overwhelmed. But those are practicalities which I can adjust to, just as I've had to with facebook and blogging.
So which is it - a Search Engine or a Social Networking Site? Is it possible for it to be either - or both! - according to what its users want from it? And more importantly, can it really help me with my Zazzle sales and if so, how can I make it work for me?
Seth Godin, the US entrepreneur behind Squidoo Lenses, doesn't seem any more enthusiastic about Twitter as a marketing tool than he is about it as a social networking opportunity.
The other drawback, that some may see as a benefit, I suppose, is that, by default, the 'tweets' are available for others to read. The reams of, to me, meaningless @soandso tweets that pour into my homepage are one of the things that makes the whole Twitter experience somewhat irritating and at times, bewildering, to me.
So why not just use email to build relationships? It's free, quick and easy - not as quick as a 'tweet' of course, but at least in an email, you get the chance to express yourself naturally and genuinely and in a way appropriate to the recipient!
But then again, is it really necessary to 'build a relationship' with a potential customer in order to 'convert' or otherwise persuade that person to buy what we're trying to sell them? If you are selling cars or computers or any sort of major purchase, especially if after-sales service is part of the deal, I would say 'yes, it probably is'. It's always encouraging to sense that we can trust the person who is selling us an expensive item. One of the assistants in the office supplies shop that I frequent regularly, is very persistent in trying to sell me expensive equipment, such as printers, without even finding out first what my specific needs are. So I don't trust him and it's unlikely I'd buy any of the things he suggests that I need! But greeting cards? Or T-shirts, or mousepads - I don't think so! For the most part the only thing I know about the people who have bought my greeting cards and other products through my online stores, is where they come from, information supplied by the online stores. A couple of friends have bought my greeting cards to give me a start but on the whole, I wouldn't want to mix friendship with business. I'm pretty sure that in most cases, I'd lose friends that way, without gaining any sales!
So if Twitter isn't really about building relationships, and if some kinds of sales don't necessitate much of a relationship between buyer and seller, maybe its usefulness lies mostly in the fact that Google picks up the tweets and makes them widely available?. Maybe that's why some Twitterers are simply tweeting their 'products' en masse, not caring whether their followers even bother to click on the links to them, as long as they get them 'out there' as fodder for the search engines? In that case it makes sense to acquire as huge a 'following' as possible but that has nothing to do with 'relationships', social or otherwise!
Having mercilessly picked Twitter to pieces, I should just add that I have found an upside! For me it's been a good source of interesting articles and blogs, mostly, but not entirely, on the subject of Search Engine Optimisation. If only they were easier to find amidst the stream of irrelevant other stuff'!
I'm wondering as I write this, is there a collective noun for 'tweets' to replace the expressions, 'flood of tweets', or 'stream of tweets' that I've used? A 'barrage of tweets' or a 'spate of tweets' come to mind but my best suggestion would probably be, 'a babble of tweets', from the 15th Century meaning, 'to repeat oneself incoherently, speak foolishly' - maybe you can come up with something even more appropriate!
Or maybe I should 'tweet' that question to the Twitterworld? It's probably no less interesting than tweeting about the weather and my progress on cleaning my house!
'Twittering' chicadees courtesy of Country Mouse Studio's Greeting Card Universe Store. Click on the images to see the greeting cards in greater detail and from there you can browse Carole's many other lovely wildlife paintings as greeting cards.