The Long Tail of Twitter


Ok Much has been written or much was written yesterday about Twitter. I’m not sure why yesterday, but for whatever reason, yesterday was that day, my post included. So I found myself embroiled both via blog responses and via Twitter, defending in some cases what I see as the best way for me to use Twitter.

Here’s a quick recap of what was written.

Guy Kawasaki’s post just flew totally in the face of my post, but he did mention some things that you should do regardless of your ultimate goal on how you’re going to use Twitter. But his post is more about being the Uber-Twitter user, and I just can’t do #4 Which is follow everyone who follows me- I’m sorry but I would like to get to know “some” of the people I’m following. I think Guy and I have a different perception of definition of what Twitter is or should be used for., Though I do admit, that I follow some of the social media whores-not sure why, but I do.

Alan Wolk has totally nailed his post which speaks to why he thinks Twitter is going to be cluttered with N00bs, more experts, and gaggles of clueless wannabe’s and everything in between. Which means my Twitter post makes even more sense!

Business week has written about how ubiquitous micro-blogging and Twitter have become, which means a vertical version only makes sense right? And then we have Information weeks article on Twitter tools to turbocharge your microblogging Wow, didn’t know I needed to turbo charge it! Here’s Computer World’s 5 ways to tap the power of the tweet which actually are pretty close to what you should do and not as self serving and indulgent as Guy Kawasaki’s directives. And then we have the Top 10 ways to attract followers on Twitter which is a total link bait link juice article.

If you really want to know all things Twitter, and don’t feel like waiting for the next piece of hyperbole then go to Laura Fitton’s site, she blogs about all things micro-blogging and she actually brings some sanity to it all- Though I can’t stop thinking about what a tweet is worth, knowing full well that that is where this is all heading. Transactional conversations are coming, trust me.

Ok so I’m going to sum up one of the best ways to get the most out of Twitter, do you know how search marketing experts and Chris Anderson talk about the Long Tail? Well why would you want to follow 5000 people who all tweet at once about 5000 different subjects and 5000 different links? When you could follow 1000, or 750 or 500 people, get to know who they are and what they’re all about, and develop a vertical relationship?

I’m going to quote Chris here and splice/blend his words and my thoughts to make my point about Twitter:

The long tail aspect of Twitter does exist, but the data tells us that there may really be no head or body when it comes to following thousands upon thousands of people without any focus or reason. When it comes to Twitter, everyone is hell bent on following as many people as possible, but the fact of the matter is, Twitter traffic has the potential to be long tail and the word “long” doesn’t do the length of the tail justice. The long tail of Twitter is vertical.

Thanks Chris.

14 thoughts on “The Long Tail of Twitter

  1. Disclaimer: Am not experienced with twitter. The way I see it, and I could be wrong, is to look at twitter in the context of an overall social media presence which means blogs, youtube, forums, social networks…last week I saw for the first time the concept of lifestream (showing one individual activities accross social media). Because what’s interesting as you said is the relationship which materializes one day on twitter, the next on a blog, and then youtube and so on…My plan is to follow people after I’ve been accustomed to their blog or other more substantial content they publish. With twitter, I get further into their head, knowing them, seeing how the cells are working 😉 – That should weed out the ‘spam’. Is there a word for twitter spam like we have splog?

  2. I firmly believe that twitter is different things to different people, and that should be okay. I am still determining exactly what it is for me, but I know what aspects of it I thoroughly enjoy. I recently felt guilty for not following nearly the number of people who were following me, but when I delved into some of their conversations I realized that I have the right to be picky. I need to look at my twitter stream and find things that are of value to me. I want to know that I will find links to interesting, provocative content and will be in the presence of real “thinkers.” We have to mold our social media experiences to suit us if we value our own time. There is nothing selfish about that.

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  4. Hi Marc.

    Thanks for the shout-out.

    I am in complete agreement with you about following large numbers of people on Twitter. I only follow people I actually know or people with whom I’ve built up an online relationship to the point where I may as well know them in real life. Why? Because I could care less what some random stranger ate for breakfast or what link they think is interesting.

    Even worse are those who fish for followers. As I posted on my own blog today, when I see these desperate tweets of “I only need 25 more followers to hit 1,000” all I can think is “wow, someone had a rough time of it in high school.” But seriously, as with most things, quality always is better than quantity.

    As Twitter evolves, the current “whores” will have less and less influence as their interests (generally tech and self-promotion) no longer jibe with the interests of most users.



  5. there is no “long tail” … there is bandwidth …

    the value of a tweet can be observed in a variety of different ways but mostly by the the value of *your* time …
    1) besides the obvious the tweet is limits to 140 ASCII characters (generally) – which carriers charge $800-1200/MB (SMS/Text messaging!)
    2) depending on how you tweet (the method of posting) there are further distinctions such as is the value worth “re-entering” the same information the same way (?)
    3) value which corresponds to re-entering such that a third person – (which could be broken down into those you pay attention to & those you don’t – say by responding to that “follower” by some measure) – could not tell the difference between the two “tweets”
    4) value according to re-entering the tweet such that the entry is not the same according to the same hypothetical third person
    5) not enough value to re-enter …
    6) value in “re-tweeting” a previously entered tweet (in lieu of entering yet again)

    we can then say that if there is any alleged tail, how often do you search tweets? archive them? scan for certain types of tweets (by person, term, some other context such as “hashtag”?)

    finally, the value is tied to a willingness to pay for the service itself … the community that is “twitter” like any network is a value based on the interactions of the members … as for the network or enterprise value, we may know that sooner rather than later if twitter is bought

    willingness to pay, especially if it concerns *your* time, matters more than marketing (unless they pay you for that time) – at least that is my 2 cents (and I’m not sure if it could be reduced to a size or readability to be a tweet!)

  6. @ecairn you’re post can be summed this way- you prefer the “long tail” relationships of twitter versus adding and following people just for the sake of doing it.

  7. @Angela I couldn’t agree more. If want wants to blindly jump into every aspect of social media, every sm offering, then they are going to waste a lot of time and energy. But if they focus on the quality of each and every interaction, then they will become an evangelist for the true value of social media.

    @Alan some people are treating Twitter like a sandbox and then there are the people that realize the value of Twitter and then there are the people that don’t know how to use it at all and who are creating the rules as they are going- your way is the most rewarding

  8. @Wes the long tail is in the community that you have assembled, the long tail for me is social media marketers and people associated with social media platforms, I can hashtag those types of conversations and events and know that the people associated with that are in my circle or sphere. I look at my time as valuable and yes, time is money but. I also value the tweets I send, read and receive. To that end the value of the tweet extends all the way to the sender. I’m not so sure I’m agreeing so much as I am aknowledging your point. Thanks for contributing to the discussion though, there is much to discuss.

  9. Hmm, I’m a believer in ubiquity in interfaces. Twitter is currently lacking the ability to have deep meaningful conversations. Its getting there though as more publishing APIs open enabling content to seemlessly appear in these channels.

    The problem with Twitter is you truly can’t engage in many conversations during the day unless your a SMORE and have nothing better to do with your time. So the need to create verticals or categorize tweets will become important. Of course, as these platforms evolve, Twitter, Pownce, Yammer, etc. we are setting ourselves up for another aggregation scenario like is starting to emerge around social networks.

    I think the cognitive capacity to keep up on Twitter is 10x worse than social networks.

    Just thoughts….

  10. @Zack, no doubt that twitter can be an incredible time suck. I’m glad you see the need for a vertical app for twitter. thanks for chiming in.

  11. Pingback: When it comes to social media, you have the right to be picky! « Online Community Strategist

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