As a journalist, if that term still exists, at this point Twitter is more than a necessity. Every organization, from news to NGOs to the biggest brands in the world leverage the platform with the hopes of being heard. It’s great, flawed, but great.
There are a lot of things Twitter can’t do. It can’t make you a sandwich, obviously, but it also can’t verify your information. You don’t have to be a journalist to verify where something is coming from, but even seasoned professionals can’t make it work perfectly (admittedly nothing in this business is perfect but this is particularly fraught with concern). Andy Carvin has essentially crafted a name for himself with unverified information. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but again, not perfect. As I said, the flaw of the verification process goes beyond Twitter.
Where microblogging is truly stymied though is in the details. The details of the story. What 140 characters can’t do, is get someone to read beyond the headline.
In 2011, Twitter was the most talked about social media platform of them all. Organic or just good PR it doesn’t matter, the eyes are there. Where it falls short is keeping those eyes focused.
When Twitter redesigned itself a few weeks ago, like any change, it was met with a combination of love and hatred. But what few talked about (or have at least barely continued to talk about), is Twitter’s first attempt at crafting itself as a truly useful news-gathering site: the #Discover button. In an attempt to display the story-telling capacity of the platform, Twitter started giving us more. But again, it’s not enough to get many reading deeper, and even stories planted in searches yeild stories displayed in no more interesting a fashion than a tweet.
So Twitter’s next step, needs to be huge. It needs to be a step into personalization, taking the people you follow and crafting a news product truly tailored to your interests. Until then, the story stops at 140.
These days our heads are spinning with social media sites. Want to keep it short? We’ve got Twitter for that. Sticking just to photos? Instagram it. Lot of tiny thumbnails? Pinterest it is. Need a job? If you’re not on LinkedIn you might as well call your career over. Want to organize a party? Facebook’s where your friends are at.
I will semi-preface this with an admission that I can’t completely avoid it, or stop posting to it. But I have to also say it’s lost my interest even though I’ve been rooting for it. The point is, even 6 months after its launch, I can’t figure out what the point is. Hangouts, probably the most unique feature, are great, but if we all wanted to chat with random people, Chatroulette would still be popular (and yes I know there are far less dudes jerking off on G+, but they are still essentially strangers). At the end of the day, to me at least, Facebook’s “Subscribe” feature has pretty much officially taken out the novelty of circles (most people really only care about sharing with two types of people: 1) their friends 2) the world), and accomplishes much of the same tasks. Plus, everyone’s already there.
But what’s really gotten to me to be honest, is the attitude (and everyone on G+ will probably say, “Good! We don’t want you anyway!” because of this). The platform is largely empty (I’ve seen enough blank profiles to make my head spin), yet still people insist the conversation is better and more engaging. Last time I checked, good, well crafted conversation has a variety of opinions, not just points the same people want to reiterate.
There are unfortunately, a few lessons Google never learned from Facebook as well. Perhaps the biggest point, is that believe it or not, geography matters when it comes to social networking. Facebook, and even Twitter to a large extent, was built on real-world connections that had people in close proximity (colleges). While Facebook doesn’t completely adhere to that today, it still encourages to connect based on schools, towns, jobs, cities, etc. It’s simply telling us to take our real worlds online, and maybe branch out a bit. Google Plus, while it hoped to focus on interests, hasn’t done enough to create meaningful bonds. It’s sort of said, “Hey! You like tech? So do these people! Who cares if you don’t actually know each other at all. Talk!” That just doesn’t work.
I hope Google Plus succeeds, I really do. It’s innovative, intuitive and really a lot of fun. But until it can give a good reason for it’s existence (beyond boost search rankings), I think I’ve got a few better places to post this… like Tumblr :).