Dimensions of Social Communication
Part 1 - Twitter Communication Matrix
Some people are likely to be offended, others amused. I am just interested in stripping everything down to the essentials. So I can understand the underlying dynamics. So I can build useful tools to connect with people in a non-broadcast, non-advertising-driven, non-page-view-driven kind of way. You know, communicating with rather than talking down to. Having a conversation where the other person doesn't have a megaphone.
One thing that becomes clear when you use Twitter for a while is that the some people use Twitter ONLY as a distribution mechanism for the RSS feed of their blogs. Aside from the fact that this is a complete waste of a huge opportunity to connect with people in a different way, it degrades your brand because right next to your avatar is URL after URL of impersonal information. It's no different than a TV ad, a radio ad or a magazine ad, and not being rich in media - it's not even eye candy.
You are embedding your now-impersonalized brand slap bang in the middle of possibly the most personal, raw and global conversation going on right now all around your messages. But I doubt you even stop to think how others see this. When you post URL, after URL, after URL, all pointing to your blog you, and I hate to say this, are indistinguishable, from a clueless spammer. No different from the brands that get criticized on blogs of social marketers, for being one way communicators, for disrespecting your audience, for not being on "The Cluetrain".
It's easy to fall off "The Cluetrain" on the narrow 140 character tightrope of Twitter.
Twitter has multiple dimensions and at the very least has 4 quadrants of distinct communication behavior. Only one small part of only one of these quadrants gets used in this "Twitter as Feed sink" mode. Yes this behavior may help get x page views more rapidly to the blog/site than ever before but you are missing out on the next wave of social communication that is breaking out all around you and you are standing in the midst of it without connecting to it.
Like listening to radio commercials on your earphones while standing in the middle of a live performance of "Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis in your local coffee house.
Disconnected, insulated, self-referential and in the end failing to expand and adapt.
And grow. And thrive. And may be even survive.
I once saw a drawing that has stayed with me and is applicable here and at every stage where a new more powerful and flexible technology comes along. It demonstrated how the users of the older technology continue to use the new one only in the modality that they are used to i.e. a degenerate mode of the older technology.
The drawing I saw was about the maritime use of the steam engine. It showed a huge rowing boat with a steam engine at one end connected to a set of oars with a complicated assembly of rods, shafts, linkages and pulleys so that the energy of the steam rowed the oars instead of human beings doing the rowing. Usable and clearly understandable but only in a backward-looking rear-view-mirror kind of way.
Clearly, the inventor of this gizmo did not, and possibly could not, immediately think of the steam turbine on a ship. The inventor was possibly an owner of a fleet of "oar driven boats" and was possibly looking for incremental benefit when in fact massive order of magnitude larger benefits were latent in the new technology and waiting to be had. But more importanty qualitatively different, richer and as yet unimaginable ones.
But for that the old modalities had to be given up. And in my opinion the old tired, dead-modality-walking at work on Twitter is the page-view-driven mindset. Drive traffic to my site, ramp up the page views, SEO, SEM, CPM, CPA, blah, blah, blah. Yawn. Mega-Yawn. Never been there, never want to do that.
I'd like to put into perspective the other modes of communication at work on Twitter and to simplify it I have reduced it to a 2 x 2 matrix. There's a lot more energy latent in the Twitter connection matrix than is available in one quadrant of it - the so called "MicroBlogging" quadrant which is where the page-view-driven oars-by-steam people live.
On one axis is the public-private dichotomy and on the other axis the individual/group dichotomy.
Old school blogging is a small part of the top right quadrant - public/1-many ( also includes other modes like Usenet, mailing lists, forums ...). There is a huge part of Twitter that lives in the other three quadrants and the current focus on tools to enable legacy modes of 1-many communication (Usenet-like, Forum-like, Blogging-like) is sucking the oxygen out of the room.
If you are looking for areas fertile for innovative thinking about socially filtered communication may I draw your attention to the elephant in the room and point out that the head of the elephant is not the only part. The other 3 quadrants are being missed by the blind men describing Twitter as MicroBlogging.
To be continued ...