There are lots of misconceptions about Twitter, Facebook, and social networking in general. I tend to get involved in discussions with old (media) folks who always seem to look for reasons to make it easier to just ignore the whole thing. I don’t shy away from these discussions, of course, but sometimes the arguments these people use start to sound repetitive. Here are a few misconceptions I regularly hear:
On Twitter everybody talks about what they had for lunch or how they are taking a shit
This is one of the most persistent misconceptions you hear from people who haven’t actually looked at it. Maybe it’s our fault as journalists/bloggers when we first tried to explain what Twitter was (“Short messages about what you are doing”) that got this rumor into the world. Twitter shows you a perfect sample of what keeps people occupied all over the world. Although some of those issues are trivial there is also enough room for deep conversations, breaking news, and honest questions and remarks. Think about it; if all everyone tweeted about was food and shit it wouldn’t have grown to 300 million users, right?
Twitter doesn’t make money so it isn’t a viable business
The reason Twitter (and facebook) isn’t making a lot of money is simply because they haven’t been really focusing on that part of their business. And why should they? The real challenge is staying relevant. Making money off of 200 million members is easy. Staying relevant for 200 million members for a longer period of time is hard. Twitter is smart enough to focus on the second issue.
Linkedin is for business contacts and Facebook is for personal contacts
A lot of people think that all you need to keep up with the Interwebs is to do the absolute minimum that is required. When you are in business that means having a business social network presence: a Linkedin profile. That IS a good start but certainly not the end of it. These days I expect people to be on Facebook. If they are not that makes me slightly suspicious. Just as everybody has an email address pretty soon everybody will have a Facebook and Twitter account. It takes a few minutes to set-up so why not just do it today?
Participating in social networks takes a lot of time
I don’t take off time to tweet. I do it while waiting for someone, while watching TV, or when I need a short break during work. Twitter doesn’t take time just like breathing doesn’t take time. It just happens. But even if you do think it takes time please don’t tell me you are too busy. The average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day. How about you take 30 minutes out of that mind-numbing activity to interact with some inspiring people?
Sharing is for exhibitionists
“Why would you want to share everything with the world? Are you an exhibitionists or something?” Yes, heard that one a couple of times now. No, I don’t enjoy showing my genitals to other people. What I do enjoy is sharing my experiences and thoughts with other people. That is what defines us as humans; to be able to share our hopes, dreams and thoughts with each other. Social networks make that easier. Exhibitionism has nothing to do with it.
You can’t say anything meaningful in 140 characters
The 140 character limitation at Twitter is based on the 160 character limitations in the SMS protocol. That limit again is based on the average length of postcards. The team that decided on the GSM SMS format counted the texts on thousands of postcards and found out that they rarely exceeded 160 characters. Although 160 characters might seem short you would be surprised at how much emotion, wisdom and creativity you can express. Why not give it a try?
You can’t make money on Twitter
This is an argument I hear from publishers and old media people a lot. They try to sound knowledgable but all they do is just sound like they didn’t spend more than a second thinking about it. The simple answer is ‘Reach’. Publishing is all about reach. You have an audience and you have their attention. That means you can sell them ads. I have almost 15000 followers on Twitter and @TheNextWeb has more than 500,000. Although there is no direct way to charge these followers it does mean we have an audience of listeners. That is something you can turn into money and that is something every publisher should know about.
I’m too old for this shit
I guess you are. One foot in the grave really. Might as well kill yourself right here and now. Okay, not really. Social Networking is popular among young people and, wait for it, older folks. You might hope that this one passes you by if you just hold your breath long enough, but no such luck. My children have a lot more contact with my parents than I did with my grandparents. The reason: Twitter, email, Skype and social networking. Older, less mobile, people are using Skype to videochat with their children and grandchildren. You are not old! You are stubborn!
There is just too much information
It is true that there is a lot of information available online but that can’t be a bad thing. Would you consider blaming a library for having too many books? Would you feel incompetent for not being to able read every new book that comes out? Of course not. From a distance the internet, and social networks, look like a daunting collection of information bits without structure. Well, that is how I feel when I visit a city for the first time. But if you are interested, browse around a bit and keep an open mind, within hours you will start seeing patterns and structure. Don’t dismiss things just because they are unfamiliar.
It is just for geeks and nerds
I remember vividly the first time I heard someone, in public, talk about email. I turned my head to see who this person was, that knew about ‘email’. Recently I met someone who didn’t have an emailaddress. I was shocked. Social Networking is social. Your mother uses it, your kids use it and your employees use it. You can turn your back and ignore the conversation, or dive in a join.
Either way, the conversation has started and won’t ever die down. It is your choice to get involved, or not. You can come up with lots of little excuses to keep ignoring it but what exactly would that get you? Turn of that television, take a deep breath and dive in.