To Twitter or Not to Twitter: The Only Top Ten List You’ll Need

I’ve been twiddling with Twitter for a number of months. Only now I’m ready to get into it with both feet. If you’ve been following me on Twitter at cgreen23 or at trustedadvisors, please make the switch over to my new twitter account, CharlesHGreen.

Now: why should you care?

If you’re not a user, Twitter probably looks narcissistic to you. Why in the world should you want to read what thousands of other people are eating for breakfast? Answer: you shouldn’t, and you don’t have to. Nor does anyone else want to hear that stuff from you either.

The good news is, you can listen, or not, to anyone you want. And you can talk, but others will decide to listen to you, or not. It’s a (very) free market of ideas.

Twitter does a bad job of explaining itself in its invitation for users to state what’s going on. The real power of Twitter as I’ve come to see it is a new form of search, a new vehicle for relationship development, and a new form of promotion. And the last is least.  Or, if you prefer, twitter is the new email.  Or chatroom.  Or texting.  Or social network.  It’s a bit of all that.

Here are my top reasons to Twitter  (in ascending order of importance):

Charlie Green’s Top 10 Reasons to Twitter

10. To find out what all the buzz is about and who’s following Michelle Obama’s twitter account

 9.  To promote your name

 8.  To tap into current events well before the blogs pick it up

 7.  To do an incredibly fast, pointed, search that returns 1 paragraph answers

 6.  To find out perspectives about an issue–don’t forget to try Twitter Search

 5.  To aggregate information that people who like you would be interested in

 4.  To establish your own brand by coming up with a distinctive profile of information you offer up

 3.  To provide your followers with high quality information of use to them

 2.  To find 5-6 thought leaders you admire, and easily follow what they say, and what their followers say

 1.  To make new acquaintances who help you learn, grow, and do business with.

But don’t just listen to me. Here are some other, more experienced, Twitterers on the subject. If you want to decide whether and how to get into this, here’s a pretty good list to help you:

Top Ten List of Others’ Top Ten Reasons to Twitter

  1. Brian Critchfield’s Why Should I Use Twitter?
  2. Chris Brogan (from two years ago) on 5 Ways to Use Twitter for Good
  3. Business Week’s How Companies Use Twitter to Bolster Their Brands
  4. Guy Kawasasaki’s How to Use Twitter as a Twool
  5. Darren Rouse’s 9 Benefits of Twitter for Bloggers
  6. Lee Lefever’s Twittering for 1 Year – a Retrospective
  7. David Lee King’s Why Use Twitter?
  8. Sharon Sarmiento’s The Top 5 Ways Smart People Use Twitter
  9. Chris Brogan again (because he’s the King of Tweet, that’s why) on 50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business
  10. Wikipedia on Twitter

And you won’t believe how much faster (most of) this might have been on Twitter.

Oh, and that twitter address again is CharlesHGreen.

14 replies
  1. Michael Benidt
    Michael Benidt says:

    Excellent post, Charles. I would like to add that we certainly look to you, of all people, for perspective, not just promotion. We see a lot of Twitter promotion – a sort of cheerleader approach to technology that doesn’t even mention the downsides and the issues. You are one of the few thinkers left on the planet – someone who can help us question what is going on around us. While we are fans of yours, in this post we wanted more.

    Both Sheryl and I use Twitter, but we’re concerned for at least ten reasons – but will mention two.

    One reason not to use Twitter is Nicolas Carr’s excellent and disturbing Atlantic magazine cover article calledIs Google Making Us Stoopid?” What the Internet is doing to our brains.” Here’s just a sample:

    Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading…

    Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

    And, another of my top ten reasons is what, amazingly enough, Thomas Friedman wrote about in the New York Times, Foreign Affairs; Cyber Serfdom – all the way back in January of 2001. The phrase is “continuous partial attention”:

    My favorite, though, was that we now live in an age of what a Microsoft researcher, Linda Stone, called continuous partial attention. I love that phrase. It means that while you are answering your e-mail and talking to your kid, your cell phone rings and you have a conversation. You are now involved in a continuous flow of interactions in which you can only partially concentrate on each.

    ”If being fulfilled is about committing yourself to someone else, or some experience, that requires a level of sustained attention,” said Ms. Stone. And that is what we are losing the skills for, because we are constantly scanning the world for opportunities and we are constantly in fear of missing something better. That has become incredibly spiritually depleting.

    …. The assumption now is that you’re always in. Out is over. Now you are always in. And when you are always in you are always on. And when you are always on, what are you most like? A computer server.

    What about your readers? Are they comfortable with Twitter? Are they comfortable with “continuous partial attention?” How do they see the future – and what is technology and the Internet doing to them? Would love to have them weigh in on these issues.

  2. peter vajda
    peter vajda says:

    Interesting post, Charles.

    Some thoughts.

    Twitter – perhaps just another way to separate even more from our self…

    Twitter – yes, make acquaintances, but relationships, as some suggest? Hmmm.

    And to a deeper issues as touched on  by Michael, above:

    Being raised in a “media age”, many folks have become addicted for hyped and immediate stimulation…resulting in a brain that is under-developed and one in which hyperactivity (moving from stimulus to stimulus…blackberry, to pager, to facebook, to TV, to TWITTER , to email, back to blackberry, and back to TWITTER etc., even more incessantly, impulsively and addictively…)… making focused attention for many somewhat impossible (even when they set their intention to attend and focus)…where their inability to reflect and think more deeply, or attend and focus,  is challenged and for some not something they can do in a sustained way. 

    For these folks, their brains have been conditioned to need "change" almost every minute or so to sustain focus; concentration and attention are often very challenging and sometimes often well-nigh impossible. These folks are addicted (ask them to do without such devices for a week (much less an hour or so) and the honest ones will admit they can’t. They’re addicted. Their addiction makes them inattentive and less able to focus and how does that support "relationships", and truly integrating knowledge and information into long-term memory, etc?

    Since they have conditioned themselves and been conditioned for more and more stimulation, their low brain areas require this consistent stimulation and their cerebral cortex (the thinking part, the "executive" funtion of the brain) is underutilized. They are one walking "hyper -text messaging (reactive) unit” as opposed to truly “thinking” and "responding" individuals. 

    Another even more unconscious, perhaps,  side of this, is folks’ unconscious need to “belong” and the degree to which they feel like a “nobody” if they are not "socially" engaged in one of these online efforts such as Twitter.  This is also an addiction as many of these folks are not comfortable in their own skins, in their own silence – so they always need to be engaged (so sitting quietly and focusing is almost not an option), however superficially to maintain their addictive and often unconscious need to belong so need to "check in" incsssantly to see if anything’s new or changed so they don’t feel out of the (unconscious need to belong) loop. Twitter just exacerbates the problem

    The bottom line is how many folks are engaged in such “activity” (doing for the sake of doing, to keep busy as they are uncomfortable in their own company and their addictive thirst for stimulus and needing to be seen and wanted) and “action” (true and real purpose-driven work or action that has some higher purpose and deeper meaning). For these folks, it’s more often the former, and seldom the latter. 

    Interesting that with the addition of more and more devices to spur "social" networking, self-reports of loneliness and depression are on the rise. Not to mention eye problems, headaches, eye strain and neck and shoulder issues. 

  3. Charlie (Green)
    Charlie (Green) says:

    What a great readership this blog has.  So many people who know how to tell me I’m full of it and still make me smile while hearing it!

    Seriously, thanks Peter and Michael.  I guess I did come off as a promoter, and you’re right, that’s probably not good.  I guess it was more newbie enthusiasm, as I’m still only a few months into usage of it.

    You both point out serious issues, and I agree with you on much of it.  I don’t have counter-answers.  Twitter is another carrier of the ADD flu, maybe even the poster child for it (along with texting).

    On the other hand, it’s not as faux as it looks.  Read Chris Strauss’s blog from 1-to-1`, where she describes several solid business relationships that came from this stuff.  One quote: " I never would have met Jim, Lauren, or Ginger without Twitter and a "3 a.m. something needs doing" night."  (This blogpost was also a pick in last month’s Carnival of Trust, and it was Beth Robinson who did the picking.  Tho in fairness she’s on Twitter).

    I talked to a lawyer last night who told me he’s sold about $50K in seminar business through Twitter, and that Twitter is now his single largest business development channel.  

    Time will tell, and you guys will help keep us all honest.  Thanks for great thoughts.



  4. Shaula
    Shaula says:

    I’ve expressed elsewhere to Charlie that while I’m not a Twitter fan, one of the aspects that interests me is how the medium is well-suited  to conveying timely or ephemeral information.

    Coincidentally, I stumbled across this tidbit today: The Church of England is offering to tweet us all with our daily Lenten penances.

    (Thought you might get a kick out of that one, Charlie.)

  5. Avril Shelton
    Avril Shelton says:

    It took me a while to catch on to the twitter craze. I really like it now that I’ve chosen some very informative people and companies to follow. What I find interesting, yet a little off-putting, is that random people can choose to follow my twitter, and I wonder what the dynamics are behind their choices.


  6. Ian Welsh
    Ian Welsh says:

    I tend to use twitter mainly to send out alerts about posts, I must admit.    I agree with Michael on the downsides of it (which also apply to being hooked into feed alerts or even just leaving the TV on all the time while you do other things.) Add it to having hundreds of emails coming plus phone calls, and you definitely have "continously divided attention".  I find my creativity goes down, not up, when I’m too plugged in (and at various points it has been my job to be very plugged in.)


    That doesn’t mean twitter isn’t useful, but imo, the best use is to hit it once a day to catch up on what either your friends are up to (if you’re using it for social reasons) or to see if three are news/articles that your contacts think are important.  In the same way I don’t reccomend checking email all that regularly, unless it’s your job to do so.  Do it between tasks or activities – not during them.  Very few things can’t wait: this is something those of us who grew up without cell phones and the internet should understand.  If it’s not your job to be right on top of breaking news, then doing so is almost certainly detrimental to your effectiveness, and probably to your happiness.

  7. Shaula
    Shaula says:

    Charlie, this article is such a departure from what you wrote about Twitter in 2007–and that’s interesting.

    When you’ve had enough hands-on time with Twitter to see how it measures up to your various expectations, I hope you’ll do a third article that explains how you got from your first set of ideas to where you are now, and what your conclusions are about Twitter as an experienced user.

  8. Michael Benidt
    Michael Benidt says:

    Fabulous comment, Shaula,

    I also would like to see Charles write that article. I did notice that Scot Herrick commented on that 2007 article and said he was a Twitter "hater." He now Tweets regularly as @scotherrick – so I sent him a Tweet asking him to comment. Great job of investigative reporting, Shaula. However, our ideas about Twitter change daily, so we’re willing to cut Charles and Scot a big break.

  9. Shaula
    Shaula says:

    Thank you, Michael!

    I’m a great proponent of learning and growing and changing.  In other words, I’m not really giving Charlie a hard time, and I’m genuinely interested in his answer.  I hope that Scot Herrick considers coming back and joning this conversation as well; I’m interested in what effected his converstion, too, and what his thoughts are at this point.

  10. Charlie (Green)
    Charlie (Green) says:

    Ha ha, well let’s review the bidding here.

    I picked up today’s comments on blackberry email around midafternoon, en route to errands in the car.  I resolved to comment when I got home, when there were two more. 

    My reaction was, hoo boy, I wonder how badly I’ve contradicted myself!  Then I went back to that earlier post and remembered, oh yeah, I remembered writing that!

    Scott Herrick can speak for himself, and I hope he does, but here’s my observation of the moment (and I’m still pretty inexperienced).

    I’ve discovered that Twitter is time-shiftable at both ends.  That is, I don’t have to listen to in real-time, any more than I have to read email or blogposts in real time. And I don’t have to post in the moment either; I can store them up and auto-send them for later.

    What that lets me do is select a bunch of people I think I might be interested in following, and then–when I’m ready–I turn it on and scroll through the headlines.  The headlines are just that: 140-letter haikus or summaries or teasers by people I’ve pre-selected, and that contains URLs.  Fabulous way to scan good stuff.

    Some of that I want to share with others who follow me.  Combined with a great RSS-feeder, I come up with 4-5 items that I think I want to offer–items that I believe will be of interest to my readership and on which I have a point of view, but perhaps not so much as to write a whole blogpost about.  Those I enter in tweet form and schedule at various points between 9 and 5 the next day.

    In other words, my current twitter infatuation is based on the ability to use it as a sort of mini-blog.   Though I have heard from other people (Michael B. being one) who have learned ot use it in yet other ways.

    I think my perspective of a year ago was pretty common, and is in fact supportedby Twitter itself–namely the invitation to say "what’s going on" at the moment.  I had no clue at the time that you could timeshift the content at both ends, and it turns out that changes everything.

    It also changes the premise of my original premise, and Ian and Michael’s original comments above: if Twitter actually doesn’t demand "continuous partial attention," in Nicholas Carr’s excellent terms (thanks Michael!), then it isn’t another stoopid-causing phenomenon.  Well, not necessarily.

    I do have a Twitter app on my blackberry, and I do occasionally use it, but I’m probably more guilty of abuse of texting.

    So–what do I think?  I think the abuse of attention is real, Twitter is probably a contributor, technology evolves, our experiencs of technology evolve, and the whole thing is pretty fascinating.  And I’m meeting more cool people. 

    And I have some of the best commenters around.  Tweet that!




  11. Bernie
    Bernie says:

    Twitter has to be the most fatuous name every applied to a technology. It’s real value as a tool is in identifying the technology twits.

  12. Shaula
    Shaula says:

    Two more links for your Twitter repertoire, Charlie:

    Rands in Repose has a good article on The Art of the Tweet which includes a key insite I thought you’d like: "In Twitter, you follow people, not content."

    And Twimailer is a free service you may find helpful.  (Rather than try to explain, I’ll just point you at the short video on their site which explains what they do.)

  13. Shaula
    Shaula says:

    Charlie, this made me laugh hard enough that I had to send it to you.



    I’d say it catches the "outsider" view of Twitter rather well.


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