Tweetile Dysfunction

Tweetile Dysfunction

I’d been feeling inadequate. In my wanderings through the twitterverse it had become clear to me that I just didn’t measure up.  Out there were tweeters far more potent than I am with big followings.

I had twitter envy. Tweeters with followings of 22,000 or more were making time with huge audiences of twitterotti. And all those tweetile enhancement posts just made me feel all the more self-conscious and insecure.

“Want to grow your following? We can help.” “Grow your following and extend your reach. It’s easy.” “Like to have a bigger following every morning when you get up? Let us show you the way.”

They say the first step in finding a solution is realizing that you have a problem. “My name is James. And I have a small following.”

Hey, tweetile dysfunction is nothing to laugh at. Your ability to tweet effectively defines who you are in the world of online media. Earlier this week I approached a major product manufacturer in the hopes that they might sponsor my blog. When the director of public relations asked, “So how big is your following?” I immediately changed the subject too embarrassed to answer. “It’s OK,” she said. “It happens to everyone.”

The size of your following ultimately determines whether or not people will take you seriously. Your following is crucial if you expect more people to view and pass along your messages. It was obvious to me that if I was going be an engaging and compelling producer of new media I had to invest in tweetile augmentation.
Later that same evening I met for cocktails with several faculty members of University of Wisconsin school of business. “The most effective tweeters are those that follow at least as many people as follow them,” said media relations director Melissa Anderson. “That way you grow your network with people who have interests similar to yours.”

So the next day I gave it a try. The Public Broadcasting System created a twitter feed for the new documentary film “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” by Ken Burns. I had reported on several events leading up to the mini-series’ release since January. To date I’ve posted three podcasts and two photostreams telling stories about the film and the people behind it. I figured the followers of the PBS National Parks tweets would be a good group to reach out to. So I clicked on all 698 tweeters on its list of followers.

Through the next 48 hours my following grew to 212 individuals. No kidding. That was up from 12 on Friday morning. And it’s still growing. But my excitement was fairly short lived as I quickly discovered that the bulk of my new followers were jerks like me trying to pump up their numbers by following anyone with a pulse. Suddenly my email in-basket was filled with direct messages from people trying to sell me something or invest in some harebrained get-rich-quick scheme. It didn’t take me long to realize that the size of my following was pretty much irrelevant.

If my network is peopled primarily by those more interested in themselves than the issues related to my work as journalist, I’m wasting my time. Like shallow men and women who define their value to the opposite sex with their physical attributes enhanced by medication or surgery, the superficial relationships I might establish by tweeting with random strangers would be meaningless, lacking in substance and lasting value.  I am far better off with a small dedicated following of tweeters. And those who boast large audiences in the tens of thousands should be suspect. Tweeters should be judged instead by the quality of their content and the consistency of their message.

The best tweeters follow and connect with thoughtful individuals who possess a sincere curiosity for the subjects they espouse. As for me I follow issues related to outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living. Those tweeters I follow and those who follow me should value these issues as well. It is this audience of true believers who will make worthwhile contributions to the ongoing discussion of these topics so crucial to the survival of our planet and the joyful pursuit of our lives as human beings.

For me at least to tweet otherwise would indeed be dysfunctional.