The Ambient Conversations of Twitter

Last week I wrote about the diminishing return of relationships on Twitter. The gist being that what we call our network on Twitter is very loosely constructed and defined. This week, I want to focus on the ambient nature of most conversations in Twitter.

Here’s a quick short definition of ambient: “of or relating to the immediate surroundings”.

The New York Times referenced this “nature” on Twitter  by another name- “Ambient Awareness”, essentially saying that Twitter promotes — the feeling of incessant online contact…Yes and No. This feeling of connectedness via conversation does abound but it is almost one way for every one. You see here’s the thinking. I tweet, you read. Right? But, you only read if you are are currently staring at your screen right then. Sure you can peel back the time line to a certain extent-but the point is this:

There are conversations and then there is the rest of what is happening on Twitter.

The rest of what is happening is the self promotion or the marketing of one’s self or company. I know there’s more but talk to enough sage users of Twitter and that is what they will tell you. From a conversational standpoint, how many of those (conversations) are really happening? And to what depth and extent?

A lot of you are still big believers in the conversational benefits of what Twitter can do for a business and I am too for that matter, but the ability to rise above the noise takes a deft touch, a solid working knowledge of Twitter tools and applications, and an ability to understand how they are best utilized.

Without that foundation,  you’ll just swim in a sea of ambient awareness.

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8 Responses to “The Ambient Conversations of Twitter”


  1. 1 Adam Cohen September 27, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Great thoughts Marc, as always. Remember when it was early on and there was a debate about trying to keep up with streams on Twitter – that after you follow more than 20 people, you couldn’t keep up? Well I’m guessing the average number of followers is growing higher over time, and that it be comes more and more difficult to keep the meaningful connections in context. I for one would be much more disconnected if I didn’t have Tweetdeck groups (and now lists) to be able to keep track with the subset of meaningful folks to keep up with. The ambient nature of Twitter now makes it actually easier to unplug and plug back in when time allows, but it’s not intuitive off the bat.

  2. 2 Daria Steigman September 27, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    I think Adam may have hit on one of the biggest challenges when he says that “I’m guessing the average number of followers is growing higher over time, and that it be comes more and more difficult to keep the meaningful connections in context.”

    I have very consciously grown my Twitter network very slowly so that I can put a person (& personality) behind the avatars scrolling by. This has largely worked, though I’m adding more people these days that I maybe don’t talk to as much.

    While I agree with you that much of Twitter is about ambient conversations and awareness, I’m still not convinced that the conversations have disappeared. I just think as the cocktail party gets bigger, it’s harder to say hi to everyone in the room.

  3. 3 marc meyer September 27, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    @Adam I think that you hit on something. It’s not intuitive, like it used to be-or maybe that the intent is being muddled now by the noise- the ability to have convos is still there as Daria says, it’s just now buried.

  4. 4 marc meyer September 27, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    @Daria Maybe Twitter is like the Super Bowl now or a super bowl party…less intimate, and marketing driven, though if you’re really creative you can get your message heard….:)

  5. 5 Christian February 5, 2011 at 2:28 am

    You’ve got me wondering about how many conversations of mine have been lost in the crows, ambient or useless. Am I really being a benefit to others, or am I just getting lost in the crowd? A good question to ask myself routinely.

  6. 6 marc meyer February 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    @Christian I’m going to opt for the latter, it’s tough rising above the fray.


  1. 1 A Concessão e o terreno das sementes e dos frutos imberbes. ADIn – Ação Direta de Inconstitucionalidade? | Dudukamon's Blog Trackback on October 1, 2010 at 2:45 pm
  2. 2 The Technoverse Blog | Introspectr: Organizing Ambient Infomacy | Trackback on October 14, 2010 at 4:35 pm
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Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.

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