Who Wants to Hire Top Twitter Users?

Yesterday, during a live WebmasterRadioFM show where I was chatting with host, Jim Hedger, the topic of fame and personal safety came up. He asked if I’d ever feared for my life or safety due to my long-time presence on the Web. I said “yes”.

Jim noted that people sometimes suddenly “turn on you”. We discussed how easy it is to be a “Troll” and drop vicious, ill-tempered comments throughout social networking sites and blogs. Having been online and involved with online marketing since 1995, I’ve been threatened via email several times. Because of Google maps, I try to not disclose exactly where I live.

Email harassment is a criminal offense. It’s reportable. I’ve needed to engage in police protection for myself. However, what seems to be less taken seriously are comments left in blogs and social networking sites. These outlets seem to be protected under Freedom of Speech laws. While some socially oriented sites claim that verbal abuse, spam, and the like are against their terms and conditions, I’ve found that reporting abusers is not always taken seriously.

So what this boils down, for myself, is a bad feeling that nobody is protected from vindictive people with an agenda. We’re all subjected to anyone’s whims.

Enter The Twitter Famous

The SEO industry is notorious for containing some of the most verbal, opinionated people on the Internet. It goes with the marketing territory. But, I sometimes wonder at toys such as TwitterCounter. It’s designed to rank your status in the Twitter-World. If you are in the top 100 Twitter users, you can promote this fact and bring more fame and attention to yourself. Another goal is to be one of the top 10,000 Twitter users. I’m not, and greatly relieved.

If I’m on Twitter THAT much, I must not be working.  I don’t want my clients and business partners seeing me rank as a top Twitter user.

The question I have for Twitter Fame Junkies is, why do you want to promote your number of Tweets and “followers”? What does your popularity in Twitter mean? For someone like President Elect Obama, who is the “most popular user”, it means he has a nicely paid staff working for him. It’s not like Obama is tweeting.

Who Hires High Twitter Users?

Twitter is sometimes referred to as “mini-blogging”. That’s ridiculous. A coherent discussion limited to 140 characters as in-depth as a conversion with a drunk person. In broadcast writing, we’re taught to get the message across in very few words. It takes skill and talent. Twitter is IM on steroids. It’s fun and when you have friends you like to hang out with online, it’s a blast. But, it is also where many people come as they are. Naked, sick, drunk, serious, raving mad, or bored. It’s not where everyone wants to promote themselves or their business, though many do and when there’s a business case for it, you can usually tell.

Because of tools that measure one’s popularity in social software and sites, I’m becoming confused about their purpose. Are these outlets for business networking or casual chatting? If they are for meeting up and reaching out to friends, who cares about being popular? Personally, I’m uncomfortable with being measured and compared. It places a so-called value on me that I don’t want to have.

Mixing Business and Fun

I’ll admit to not having this all thought out to any conclusion. On the one hand, there are some very serious problems that come with being well known. Jim Hedger and I were both pondering in amazement at the behavior we’ve seen online recently during the Webcology Usability and SEO Radio Show on January 8, 2009 at WebmasterRadioFM.

And then, there are persons entering the Internet Marketing industry who fall under the spell of people who sound like they know what they’re talking about, but who have no experience at all. Credible business people will post their email address. Persons with expertise can prove it.

There are risks to being popular online. I take these risks. However, I also have a lawyer, scary watchdog on the premises, an entire town of locals who know me, and other protective devices in place. I was forced into this because there are sick people who use the Internet as a weapon and feel it’s entirely in their rights to do so.

And I’m left wondering…who wants to support or hire persons who have so much time on their hands that all they can think to do is create controversy and stir up conspiracy theories? Why help anyone who takes a victim stance rather than those who kick ass and work like hell for their clients, community or employer?

Which is valuable, popularity or expertise?  Complaining or moving on to something productive and worthy?  Tearing down or building up and forward?  Getting in the last word or shutting the hell up before all your last bits of integrity have ceased to exist?

What criteria matter to you? Do you check credentials and work history for the people you align yourself with?

What will sustain us throughout this next year? Hard work or working to tear down people and companies?

Finally, to those who dream of fame and thrive on attention…

Have fun with that.

9 thoughts on “Who Wants to Hire Top Twitter Users?”

  1. Well, if you take Twitter in complete isolation, then of course, why hire someoen who’s only Twittering?

    But mostly, people, who have plenty of things to share via Twitter, have lots of interesting work, a large social network and they use Twitter to share the tidbits with others. You can call it “online word of mouth”, if you don’t like “micro-blogging”. Such people might be Robert Scoble, Guy Kawasaki, Muhammad Saleem (who is extremely interested in social media btw), etc.

    But in those cases, the metrics are different: not the time spent on Twitter, but *interesting* facts and links shared about the industry, the world, etc. Something that people can use.

    This is radically different from someone with 10k updates about brushing their teeth, though might as well rank high in some tools.

    As usual, it depends on the details.

  2. Kim, I’m sorry, but I take offense in your post. As someone who loves Twittercounter (and not just because it’s a Dutch project and I myself wrote the API for it), loves Twitter and IS in that top 10,000, I think you’ve got it all wrong.

    You know what Twitter is for me? Asking for beta testers for a new WordPress, and getting 20 people direct message me within 5 minutes. It’s replaced about half of my RSS feeds. In the last month, it’s the second biggest traffic driver to my blog, second only after Google.

    It’s asking a short but hard question, and getting 50 good answers, more than I would get if I put that question in a blog post. It’s made getting speakers for the conferences I’m involved in here in Holland a whole lot easier, because now, I can just @reply them.

    So, it’s business for me. And that you think that I’m not working because I’m a top 10,000 Twitter user says more about you than it says about me, I think.

  3. Oooooh…you’re going to take a battering from a good chunk of the Twitterati, those social media evangelists who treat social; media like a religion rather than a tool. I agree that people put way, way too much emphasis on Twitter follower numbers, just as people put way, way too much emphasis on PageRank (as I wrote about at http://www.seo-writer.com/blog/2008/02/08/link-exchanges-its-not-the-size-of-the-pr-but-how-you-use-it/ ). People like to brag. It’s that simple. But is that good for business? I tend to agree with you on the whole wasting time at Twitter thing – been there, done that, still there doing that – but I am also finding a business case that is just developing for being active there, for having access to a network of people who I can help and who can help me. And when you work from home like me, it’s also the office water cooler.

    You call Twitter an IM on steroids, but that really depends on how you use it. There are many uses for Twitter, and I have called it an RSS feed on steroids. The 150+ people I follow have tipped me off to at least 500 different websites. If I followed 150 RSS feeds, I would get tipped off about only 150. Twitter saves me hours I don’t have to search the web for things I should keep up on (call it “professional development”?).

    So, in what has clearly become a rambling comment, I agree 100% with your disdain for the popularity contest, but I temper that with recognizing the value of having a robust participation in such services as Twitter. You can find me @amabaie. :-)

  4. I certainly agree with the fact that if you’re sending in tweets every other minute you can’t be having a very productive work day. But there is something to be said for gaining a high popularity rating in a social media outlet when marketing is your field of expertise. At a minimum it demonstrates your capability to not only engage in social media but master it. That being said, having thousands of followers and tweets doesn’t necessarily mean you know what you’re talking about — it just means you never shut up about it :)

  5. If interested, this post was depshunn at Sphinn and there is discussion going on. I’ve added more of my reasoning there but absolutely have to attachment to being right. I could completely wrong and look forward to talking about this.

  6. @BarryWise, you seem to have understand my points and I think you said it better than I did.

    I also would like to remind everyone that I straddle two industries. Marketing is only one of them. Human behavior and computers is the other. If I don’t ask questions and probe, I would not feel I am doing my work well.

    I was not attacking Twitter. I had linked out to a tool that measures who the popular Twitterer’s are. I questioned its value to work. I never questioned its value to community. I did note a business case and business use for Twitter is exempt.

    I’m sorry to have offended but I know the SEO industry and yes, @David, I will take abuse for sharing my opinion.

    I wonder who in their right mind wants to be famous online. Nobody has responded to that part of the blog post. Just the Twitter parts.

  7. OK, Kim, let me respond to your who in their right mind would like to be famous comment.

    When I lived in Toronto, I was the spokesman for CAA Ontario, the local affiliate of AAA. I would be frequently on TV and in the papers, and in fact that was part of my job; a good chunk of my collective bosses (yes, many bosses at many layers within a not-for-profit federation) counted my coverage as a major performance indicator, so I worked the media like nobody in my position ever had before.

    People I knew were always saying, “Hey, I saw you on TV.” It was great. I never had to try to explain what I did for a living; people would just assume that what I did was the part they saw, and they would leave it at that.

    However, because all my media appearances were on behalf of CAA Ontario, people who did not know me paid little attention to who I was. In other words, right after doing a network TV appearance, I could walk down the streets of downtown Toronto, and if anybody took any notice of maybe having seen my face somewhere before, I was able to remain blissfully ignorant of the fact. The only people who really noticed what I was doing were the media themselves, who were stunned with how, for the first time ever, CAA Ontario was carrying this presence. This worked to my advantage, so I fostered it, but the downside was that they would send cameramen to meet me below my condo at all hours of the evening, assuming I would jump hopps to get coverage (and they were right).

    But I was definitely not famous with anyone else, and I realized at the time how lucky I was. I enjoyed my freedom of being able to walk down the street incognito disguised only as myself.

    Fame can be a useful tool for certain goals, but IMHO it comes at a great cost.

  8. In my own case, I work for a large publishing company and specialise in how embracing social media can tie into the work we already do with existing marketing techniques and SEO to make the complete marketing plan more effective.

    Part of that role is trying new social networks, and over time, I’ve become addicted to Twitter and somehow built up a fairly large following.

    But the reason I’m addicted to Twitter has nothing to do with numbers, and has everything to do with the fact it enables me to connect with really valuable and entertaining people in a way which is incredibly effective – I tend to use it as a starting point for questions rather than trawling through pages of Google results, for example, and to get feedback on ideas from the people that follow me who have related interests/specialities.

    A side effect is that it’s enabled me to learn some of the ways that a magazine, for example, can build it’s own follower numbers and engagement in a way which can be tracked for ROI, and therefore justify the resource and involvement – because brands which aren’t accessible on the communication channels readers etc use, will cease to be relevant…

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