Is Twitter Becoming Less Useful?

by Dave on April 20, 2010

Is microblogging dead? I don’t think so, but I believe it’s becoming less valuable. You may say usefulness is in the eye of the beholder (user), but I’m having trouble getting the same value out of Twitter recently. In fact, today I started using my feed reader again to keep up with some of my favorite topics.

A little history

Throughout my consulting career, I’ve recognized that “staying smart” is essential to my success. Whether its news, the latest in technology or marketing strategy, my goal is to minimize my time and maximize my value.

I had a usual progression in online participation. I found a few blogs I liked, I kept them bookmarked, and visited them periodically. By the time I started blogging myself, the list of bookmarks had grown unmanageable. I set up and started using feed readers. At first it was Bloglines, then Google Reader (My Shared Items). It was easy – I kept subscribing to feeds until, of course, Google Reader became overwhelming and unmanageable – and I eventually couldn’t keep up. Then I discovered the utility of Twitter.

Social Media to the rescue.

I had been on Twitter for a while, and was following a small number of connections. I realized it was an information sourcing goldmine. I could follow news outlets and a handful of people who were paying attention to my favorite topics, and by scanning their Twitter streams, I could stay up to date. I had become a social networking lamprey. I’ll admit it, I’ve never been much of a microblogging conversationalist – I find the 140 characters too challenging to hold anything other than the simplest of conversations. So my use of twitter is primarily as an information sharing and gathering tool.

For a while it worked well. Just about the time my stream became too crowded, desktop and online readers became popular, allowing me to segment out my news and “smart people” streams and focus my attention on my high value targets. I continued to siphon information out of the Twitter stream.

But it stopped working

Today I fired my Google Reader back up, cleaned out old feeds and added a selected group of new feeds. What happened? I found that while there was still useful information in Twitter the value/time ratio was declining. I couldn’t always keep up with the stream, and when I did, it seemed the links weren’t as plentiful or as valuable. I’ll still use HootSuite (my favorite) for tracking streams and to watch people and companies of interest. But as for the “smart people” watching, I’m back to using my Google Reader to see what they have to say – long form.

I think there are two reasons Twitter is becoming less useful 1) The stream has become crowded and it’s harder and harder to find the buried “gems” and 2) I think people are sharing less or are sharing less of the gems, probably due in part to #1.

Are you finding your Twitter experience less valuable? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Last summer, after a year of blogging, I switched from a blog to my own URL (at the same time I switched to Blogger, but that’s a story for another time).

The blog, ClearingTitle was fairly successful, with a decent pagerank, so I left it up. I posted a note that I had moved, and left up my twitter stream. Lo and behold, through the miracle of search engines, months later it’s still bringing in traffic – and driving some of it to my other sites. In fact I’ve just added a where to find me post and updated my about me page – I might as well make the most of it.

If you are going to leave an older blog open make sure to do the following:

  • Manage your comments – make sure that you don’t become a spam magnet. Keep your spam filter on, and make sure comment moderation is turned on.
  • Leave a note on the blog about where to find you – don’t miss the opportunity to connect.
  • If you have similar content on new site, let any inbound links (like blogrolls and directories) know the new site address. The old blog is only around to catch search engine traffic.
  • Periodically check the statistics on the site. Keep it alive until visits taper off.

Enjoy the traffic!