Twitter Is Pointless – Just Like Phones Are

As with many people, I started 2010 with many good intentions, one of which was to ensure that my first post of the new year wasn’t about Twitter, and was full of practical tips on how to make the best use of social media to build your brand.

Unfortunately, as with so many resolutions, mine hasn’t lasted very long, in my case due to some comments from Ricky Gervais, who, after just 6 tweets, anounced that he was quitting the service:

I just don’t get it I’m afraid. I’m sure it’s fun as a networking device for teenagers but there’s something a bit undignified about adults using it. Particularly celebrities who seem to be showing off by talking to each other in public.

If I want to tell a friend, famous or otherwise what I had to eat this morning, I’ll text them. And since I don’t need to make new virtual friends, it seemed a bit pointless to be honest.

Now I happen to agree with his point about celebrities, and feel that the way many have jumped on the Twitter-wagon, building their own profiles in the process, can be slightly nauseating. Especially when so many of them simply bring their broadcast mindset to a dialogue based tool.

But his suggestion that Twitter is simply somewhere for teenagers to share what they had for breakfast is so wide of the mark that it demands a response.

The idea that Twitter is simply a glorified version of Facebook’s updates, used for nothing other than posting inane tidbits from people’s lives, is not an uncommon one, and one that many share. But it also betrays a complete lack of understanding of what Twitter offers. As Gervais himself says, he just doesn’t get it.

Twitter vs. the telephone

Telephone image

In essence, Twitter is just a tool for communicating with others, nothing more, nothing less. But then again, so is a phone. Would people say “I’m not going to use a phone, if I want to talk to my mates, I’ll do it in person”? Of course they wouldn’t. Because a phone is only as interesting as the things it’s being used for.

Need to check whether a store has an item in stock? Use a phone. Need to connect with friends and relatives on the other side of the world? Use a phone. Now swap the word phone for Twitter and you start to see quite how wrong Gervais is.

For just as a phone is an endlessly versatile tool, one that made distance a thing of the past, and which is now driving the Internet into previously impenetrable areas, such as rural India & Sub-Saharan Africa. In the process of transforming businesses such as banking, Twitter is only limited by its users’ inventiveness.

It can be used to source information, crowdsource investigative journalism, raise money for charity, connect with like-minded peers and, yes, occasionally tell people what you had for breakfast. It’s proving to be a valuable tool for individuals, entrepreneurs, businesses, both small & large, politicians, charities and even historical buildings.

Of course this doesn’t mean that Twitter will be right for everyone or every brand. But writing it off as a waste of time is like throwing away your phone because you don’t like being cold-called and makes me wonder whether there’s more David Brent in Ricky Gervais than he might like to think.

YouTube Preview Image

Telephone image by Jimmy Brown on flickr

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Search & Social


About The Author: is the Head of Digital for Mindshare Ireland, as well as holding a global role for the media agency as Director, Emerging Media. At Mindshare he works with both local & multinational clients, helping them to integrate on & offline, and to utilise search, social, mobile & video in their broader marketing mix.

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  • NickLatus

    Take THAT David Brent!

  • ksjones

    I have never understood Twitter? Why do we have the need to view other peoples lives in the minutest detail? I couldn’t give a monkeys what Ricky Gervais had for his lunch, I’ve got better uses for my time – like sharing my views on here!

    I do however, understand why we have to use Twitter… to ignore such a free and unlimited source of web users would be just stupid. Its a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, and its annoying.

  • Mehmet Korukmez

    I think all the tools,including Facebook,Mobile Phones even complicated digital cameras can be usefull if they are used for right purpose.

    I totaly agree with Ciaran on updating/reading someone else’s life story who has no connection with me.

    We should stop/educate our teenager from being a celebrity generation,in the end they are futures..

  • henweb

    I’m a big fan of Gervais, being a fellow Reading lover, but it’s not really a surprise that he’s made such a controversial and ‘shocking’ comment – provoking conversationg, making statements to get people talking and being a bit of a dissenter on things are his stock in trade. He’s unlikely to have done much research in to it before hand, and is very likely to change his mind when he actually has a conversation about it with one of his ‘sleb chums – from the look of the first tweet he posted he was TOLD to join, which is never really a good place to start is it?

    I think it’s short-sighted of him to say this, but I don’t think anybody will take it too seriously – Twitter is so entrenched in the media these days, most people *should* know what it does, and if they still don’t get it at this point (“Oh, it’s just all about people saying when they went for a pee”) then frankly I’m not too fussed about having them on board anyway…

  • George Michie

    Ciaran, you’re the finest writer in the Social Media space, and I will be the first to admit that I don’t really get Twitter entirely. Certainly, it has value for crowd-sourcing news, and spread of diseases/flu. I can imagine data miners tracking/predicting economic trends based on the number of “new jobs” mentioned versus “laid offs”.

    But to me, it seems inherently built for “followers”, not leaders. People and businesses spend too much time worrying about what their competitors are doing at the expense of focusing on what they themselves can/should do. Twitter seems like a way to guarantee being a step behind, by following what others read, instead of finding what’s relevant to you and pursuing your own course. Room for both pursuing your own agenda and tracking what others do, certainly, but it seems that many folks spend too much time on the latter.

    Your point is right on, of course. It’s a powerful communication tool, and if some use it foolishly, that doesn’t take away from its potential.

  • Ciarán Norris

    henweb – you’re absolutely right that I’m simply falling for a classic Gervais hook, and taking too seriously one of his many throw-away comments. At least now that he’s been panned by pretty much everyone for his Globes performance, he might spend a bit more time polishing his act rather than mouthing off like a Mail reading dad.

    George – flattery will get you everywhere. That said, I have to disagree (if only slightly) with your comment. The fact that the most popular accounts are all Hollywood ‘celebs’, who tend to follow nobody who doesn’t live within 1km of them in Beverley Hills, backs up your point about followers & leaders.

    However, with regard to “witter seems like a way to guarantee being a step behind, by following what others read” Twitter is about a lot more than reading what people have said. Many of the companies using it with the most success are those using it to replace reactive call centre customer service with pro-active online versions – if that’s not a case of staying ahead, I don’t know what is.

    At the end of the day though, it’s never going to be right for everyone, and as you say, you don’t have to use it to see its potential.

  • George Michie

    Good point, Ciaran, much depends on who we’re talking about and for what purpose. Monitoring brand references for Customer Service makes tremendous sense. Me signing up to follow other search marketing people…haven’t figured out the value of that.


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