Friday, June 08, 2007

Why is Twitter so successful?

My name is Joe and I'm a certified Twitterholic. There, I admit it. As any of my TwitterPeeps will attest, Twitter can be very addictive. But why? What is it about this service that has made it so successful?

You're in Control - I think this is the most important reason Twitter works. Each user is completely in control of whose Tweets they see. If someone acts abusively, or you don't feel comfortable with them for any reason, you can drop them instantly, never to be seen again. Draconian? Maybe, but people really love it. At first, it was frustrating that I couldn't just reach out and start talking to someone. It almost felt like a bit of the old high school lunch table cliquishness. You know, where the "popular" kids sat together and the unpopular dared not approach? But I soon realized that you have to have something good to say before people will follow you. Which brings me to the next point about reputation.

Reputation is Everything. Twitter is very Web 2.0. Probably the most notable thing about Web 2.0 activity is that people really can't "push" their message or ideas to you. RSS really encapsulates it. Unless someone subscribes, you go unheard. The way you succeed is by doing good things, putting them out there and letting word of mouth propagate your works. Yes, it takes time, but the rewards are greater and more solid, because you get respect, loyalty and friendship the old-fashioned way: you earn them!

Simplicity - There isn't a ton of gratuitous (at least to most people) functionality. You see how it works immediately, and if you know someone who's on it already, you start with their friends, and get others by reference.

Informal, conversational - Twitter is not for writing deathless prose. It's a way to make and expand a circle of friends and feel close to them. Critics attack it as narcissistic, but they miss the point completely. It's not about telling no one in particular about what you're doing, it's telling your friends what you're doing. Perhaps these critics just watch the public timeline. I could see how you'd get that idea from that experience. But I think almost all Twitter users just follow their own group, just like we keep in touch with other friends.

Not anonymous, not real-time - I gave up on chat rooms a long time back because it's all just inane blather. Anyone can get on them, and just spew rapid-fire to their heart's content. Twitter updates every few minutes, so you don't get that shoot from the hip, stream-of-consciousness drivel. For sure, Twitter's not great prose, but it's a step above chat.

Pictures - Although there's no requirement to be accurate, the avatar pics attached to each Tweet really do reinforce a feeling of closeness. And people have fun with them, too, like on Stripper Fridays.

Honesty, Good Manners - Because of the control aspect (see below) people are a lot more honest about who they are they and behave well. It's immediately obvious that Twitter is all about having friends and followers. If no one follows you, there's really not much point to being on Twitter because you'll never have anyone respond to you. I've rarely seen or heard of any abusive activity because word gets around fast, and bad actors get dropped instantly. So, it really rewards nice, friendly, funny people and weeds out weirdos. So groups of co-respondents tend to get better and better.

It can be very useful. I've seen many people ask for help or advice or ideas on Twitter and get nearly instant feedback. It's that small support group of friends and acquaintances that get you through your day.

Twitter is also just plain fun. It's like having that group of friends at work or school that you hang out and joke around with. Griping, teasing, flirting and other such social interactions are what make Twitter fun.

So, there are my reasons for why Twitter is such a hit. What are yours?


Blogger Ann said...

It was great to see Stripper Friday mentioned on your review of Twitter. :o)

I honestly can't put my finger on what makes Twitter work so well and connect so many diverse personalities and backgrounds. I think it's great to have such a wide diversity of friends on my Twitter list..some have migrated to my blog log and to my Yahoo Messenger list.

Twitter..bottom line is about people connecting--that's why it works.



P.S. I just want to know why you kept your clothes on for Stripper Friday?

Friday, June 08, 2007 1:19:00 PM  
Anonymous AndyCast Andy said...


Someone blogging from the inside. You've made excellent points and I concur whole heartedly. Twitter is personal..that's the appeal to me. I was a social misfit in high one got my sense of humour (Canadian spelling intentional) but on twitter, people are responding and actually get me. It's the high school experience I never had.

If they could just keep the servers humming and more'd be perfection!

Andy Bilodeau

Friday, June 08, 2007 1:32:00 PM  
Blogger TrueJerseyGirl said...

I love this review of twitter. I t captures all the reasons I love it but can never explain to the twitterhaters. Although I dont think Ive mentioned my participation in Stripper Friday to them...

Friday, June 08, 2007 2:23:00 PM  
Blogger Deborah said...

Great post, Joe. I'm using it to try and talk up Twitter in my social media class.

-Deb Block-Schwenk

Friday, June 08, 2007 5:12:00 PM  
Blogger missbhavens said...

I'm a complete tweetfreak, too. At first when someone explained twitter to me I thought it was THE stupidest idea I'd ever heard, now I'm a twitterabuser. It's illogical that it works and it's illogical that people follow it, and yet they do (and mean "we"! We do!).

I like it even more now that it's more stable (or at least, it seems more stable) and although I gave it a try I just don't like jaiku. it's too much. Twitter is nice and simple. it does one thing, and (usually) it does it well.


Friday, June 08, 2007 5:21:00 PM  
Blogger 1389 said...

I linked to this post here: Updated: Two MORE Takes on Twitter

"Connecticut blogger Joe C. answers the question, Why is Twitter So Successful? He also explains what Twitter is all about, and what to do to make friends and network successfully on Twitter. This article is a must-read for Twitter newbies!"

Monday, June 11, 2007 7:12:00 AM  
Blogger newmediajim said...

Joe, in a very smart, succinct fashion, you've really spelled out what makes it work for us. I'm sure Pownce, Jaiku and others work for THEM. Twitter is about community

Friday, July 06, 2007 3:27:00 PM  
Blogger Len said...

Great list, Joe. One other secret to Twitter, I think, is its name. Such a friendly, playful name that lends itself to all our favorite variations - Tweets, Twitterers, Twitterverse, etc. Jaiku-ers? Powncers? They just don't turn out to work as well. My only regret about the name is that Leo Laporte felt he had to leave Twitter because of confustion with his TWiT brand.

Sunday, July 22, 2007 7:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Marti said...

I love Twitter too! I Googled it to do some research and wound up here!

I see a bunch of folks I follow here in this comments section, wow, small world indeed. I will add you to my group, hope you'll follow back!

Great post - thanks for sharing!

Friday, August 10, 2007 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Francois Harris said...

Great post! I am also a twitter fan, and feel cooler than my friends who dont use it! Its definately setting the pace for things to come...

Friday, December 28, 2007 8:28:00 AM  
Blogger Rokchic said...

Looks like I'm a little late in joining the Twitter phenon! lol I see the last comment was 6 mths ago. But it's all good ;) I have just started using Twitter, signed up today - add me if ya want :)But thank you for the cool article - it has helped me somewhat! :)

Friday, May 30, 2008 10:49:00 PM  

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