Is Anyone Listening To You On Twitter?

Later today in my area we’re having a tweetup at a local hotel. This is different than the norm in that the hotel is helping to sponsor the event, whereas normally someone decides where to meet and we just show up there.

by Jonathan Powell

The link above will take you to the post I wrote about the upcoming event. I had it show up yesterday early afternoon, since it’s not my event, and of course it gave me something to write about. I waited a couple of hours to see if it would take, then I asked some people specifically if they were going.

To my surprise, every person I asked about it said they didn’t know anything about the event. When I asked if they’d seen the link to the post I wrote about it, they said no and that they each get so many messages that it’s hard to keep up. This also surprised me since it had only been out a couple of hours; what’s going on here.

First I stated that particular thing about my post. Then I mentioned that the news had been on Twitter for at least 3 weeks or so, and that it’s surprising they hadn’t seen it from anyone else. They countered saying maybe they didn’t follow the same people I do, but I knew that to be a crock. Even one of the top social media people from Syracuse University had retweeted the event; I know few people locally that I follow that don’t follow her.

It got me thinking about a lament I’ve written on not being well known where you live. I’ve been attributing a lot of it to the general lack of interest it seems I get from local people via Twitter and how I’d love to be seen more prominently locally, which Twitter is something that affords us the opportunity to do. However, some of the people who were helping to promote this thing are big on social media locally, yet it seems that even their tweets were missed whenever someone was talking about the pending tweetup.

I’ve talked about some people who have high Twitter numbers and wondered whether those numbers really meant anything or not. Of course I tend to think they don’t because I visit many of these people when supposedly they’re starting to follow me and I don’t see many of them engaging with anyone else. I’m always thinking “who wants to continually read links and the like from all these people they don’t know”?

I think the answer is “no one”. When all is said and done, Twitter can be a great medium for reaching out to the masses, but the masses have to be paying attention at the time one puts something out there. For instance, when I wrote my post about how Finish Line treated me as a customer and an affiliate, I really expected it was something that local Twitter folks would jump on to a degree; after all, we have a couple of those stores locally, kind of prominent. It got maybe two local people who said anything, and mostly people who weren’t from here reposting it. I was thinking it was just my voice at the time that people were ignoring, but it seems to be prevalent for almost everyone’s voice.

In an odd way, that kind of points out one of the major failings of social media. Yes, statistics prove that companies that start to employ some social media aspects grow in the number of prospects they can reach, but social media can’t seal the deal, and it can’t help if no one is listening. Even with 50,000 people following, if no one is specifically looking out for you then your message is falling on mainly deaf ears. That’s disconcerting to say the least.

How do we cut through some of the Twitter blather to be seen and heard there? What makes the few people that may or may not have figured it out seen and heard and responded to? I think that’s the next great study; I wonder if I’ll be trying to do it… nah!

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34 thoughts on “Is Anyone Listening To You On Twitter?”

  1. Unless you mention @ariherzog in your tweet, it does not matter if I follow you because I won’t see your tweet. I don’t stare at the stream of other Twitter users non-stop. I dip in and out. Some days I don’t look at all. Other days I look every few hours. But if you don’t mention me, I am less likely to see it.

    Ditto on Facebook. Because I follow so many people and pages, unless I’m mentioned in the update, it’s less likely I’ll see it.

    Take that for what it’s worth.

    1. You kind of make the point, Ari. Social media isn’t really your thing; I’ve tried to make it mine. But every once in awhile I’m presented with something that reminds me that there are still many limits to it all.

      1. No, Mitch, you misunderstand me. Social media is very much my thing; I teach social media marketing courses and consult with organizations on SM strategy development.

        My point, which I’ll write again, is everyone uses Twitter differently. So just because someone follows you don’t mean that person will see your tweet. And just because 50 people know about it, doesn’t mean the 51st person will know. I routinely learn about events at the 11th hour despite “following” everyone else going. It’s all about when I dip in to the stream and if anyone tells me specifically.

      2. Thanks for clarifying that Ari. See, I use TweetDeck, and I have different columns separated out for people I want to make sure I see in some fashion. So I’m more apt to see a post by people I know better than other people since I tell the program to keep the last 300 overall posts. For the rest of the stream, I might miss their stuff, and I’m okay with that. But people don’t have to write me directly; for instance, I never miss anything the people who live in my area that I know post unless I’m going to be away for more than a day, and that’s only happened once.

      3. I’ve used Tweetdeck/Seesmic in the past, but the prior ~18 months is strictly unless if I’m mobile. Because I’m using, it’s hard to focus on people the way you can in such third-party tools. I tried lists for about two years but that’s too time consuming to check.

      4. True, using the website is impossible to keep up with anyone. And your time must really be tight; I do well with the folks I’m specific about.

  2. I understand the feeling. I think that Twitter occupies a different priority level for each user and it is important for us to recognize the tendencies of our audience frame our tweets accordingly.
    I tend to schedule what I feel are “important” Tweets to appear multiple times throughout the day and sometimes even over a period of days. If I am seeking the attention of particular Tweeps I will “call them out” on a one to one basis.
    I like to say that Facebook is like being invited into someones livingroom whereas Twitter is like booking an auditorium and offering FREE ADMISSION if this is the case we need to mail out front row tickets with a beautiful engraved invitation to those we want in attendance. We have to make the information relevant by framing it on a personal level to those we want to reach.
    Are people listening? Yes…when they want to…to what they want to and that’s the good AND the bad of Social Media.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jason, and you’re absolutely right in it being the good and bad of social media. The only automated tweets I have apply to when I pre-schedule my blog posts, and that’s it. But I will manually post again later on, as well as some old posts here and there from all my blogs. Overall it shows that social media has its place, but to date it’s not the best way to reach everyone, even locally, and that’s too bad.

      And it was great meeting you this evening; more good times coming!

  3. This just goes to show that twitter is more of a noise place then something to interact with. People just throw links at it and retweets in hope that someone might see their links.

    I think that on twitter is not exactly the amount of followers you have, but the amount of followers which follow just a few people you have.

    Twitter was great at first, when you actually saw almost all the tweets now with all this automation, there’s just bots reading other bots talking, almost no social whatsoever.

    1. Alex, I still believe overall that Twitter is what people decide to make it. Many folks I talk to don’t segregate their Twitter contacts in any form, so they miss a lot and if they don’t care, that’s on them. I often forget that not everyone cares like I do in making sure they see what they want to see and interact with those folks in the same fashion.

  4. Mitch,

    I used to be on Twitter morning, noon and night. Then I had someone tell me they hated it when I cluttered up their site because I was “tweeting away.” But the thing of it is, I wasn’t doing a lot of self-promotion. I was re-tweeting and offering, what I thought, was great value for my fellow boomers.

    Just like everything else in life, I think Twitter has become very “cliquish” with people promoting only certain people.

    We do it in BDN every Tuesday. I do believe BDN’s Twitter Tuesday works because we are collectively re-tweeting each other. Other than that, I think it’s very easy to get lost there.

    My latest blog post: What is a Media Trainer?

    1. First thing, Bev. To get CommentLuv to work properly you have to type in the full URL, which includes the “http://www” part.

      Second, we both see some people who are just pounding away at a lot of RT’s and links and the like, and they don’t talk to anyone. At least you talked to people on a regular basis, so I had no problem with what you were doing. You might be right in saying Twitter can become cliquish, but then we just make sure we have our own cliques as well. 😉

  5. I don’t know why people think they can remove the “social” from Social Media but too often that is the case. If you aren’t friendly, don’t engage anyone one on one and expect that you can “tend” your Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc in 15 minutes every Monday-Friday you are wasting your time.
    All Social Media is exactly that…SOCIAL. It requires the same patience that every relationship requires. It demands a commitment of genuine caring regarding the posts of those you follow if you want people to genuinely care about what is you have to say. If you are hung up on the analytics, caught up in the numbers, you are bound to be disappointed.
    However, if you revel in the connections, enjoy the wit and wisdom of those you come to respect and admire and look forward to engaging with the real and genuine amongst your Tweeps it is a rich environment.
    If Twitter and facebook are unsatisfying try looking at your motivations for using these mediums…then try looking in the mirror. Twitter ain’t broke…it will return only what you put into it. It is not some magic traffic generator nor is it a marketing dodge. It’s the opportunity to engage with folks whom you might not otherwise encounter. To learn and to share with others what you have to offer. It’s not worse today than it was in the beginning…there are just a whole lot of “experts” offering some tragically bad advice on how people should behave here.

    1. Great stuff, Jason. Actually, a site like LinkedIn could be handled in 15 minute bites because it’s really not as social as it should be. Many people use Twitter as an automatic advertising medium, which I hate, and as you can see we’ve talked tonight on Twitter. Facebook, well, to me anyway, really isn’t as social as people try to make it, but it’ll do until the real thing comes along. lol

  6. Rarely those that have high number of followers have more than 20% that read what is going on. When I see more than 2000 followers, this means that it is really huge company or followers are fake or a lot of requests are sent, without nobody reading the posts from this account.

    1. Carl, my figure is a little higher than that; it has to be since I have more than 2,000 followers. lol Actually, I don’t really pay that much attention to how many followers or how many someone is following except in extreme instances. I pay attention to whether that person is interacting with anyone; to me, that’s more crucial.

  7. I only use Twitterific on my iPad to check Twitter and that’s maybe once every two days or so. I just find it to be an almost overwhelming collection of crap (like quotes), self promotion or half of a conversation you can’t understand. I mostly use it to follow celebrities. I actually find their posts the most interesting. I think Facebook is so much better, personal and organized.

    1. Jessica, it’s funny because I find Facebook kind of boring overall. That plus Twitter is so much more real time for me. However, the same thing kind of applies to Facebook in that I learned that the news function doesn’t work as properly as it should. And if I included you in a recent message you saw what I mean.

  8. Maybe we should separate self promotion from social media altogether, and start using sites like, as a social media site for business promotion.

    1. Hi Lyle, and welcome to the discussion. For whatever reason I don’t trust Fiverr; to me, people who will do anything for money always bothers me, and some of the projects these people undertake aren’t necessarily ethical. However, your concept of business promotion for social media sites gets me thinking of LinkedIn, which I believe is its purpose although many people are missing how they can use it to their advantage.

  9. Hi Mitch,

    I’m not a social media savant. But I believe I get Twitter. I don’t agree with Jason’s definition of social in his second comment. I’ve gone into great detail about how I believe that “social” = “behavior” not “barbecue”. Better people than I have made this case, including Twitter co-founder, Evan Williams. He said that “People are obsessed with social but it’s not really “social”. It’s making better decisions because of decisions of other people. It’s algorithms based on other people to help direct your attention another way.”

    Ana Hoffman, over at, cites a statistic about the retention rate of new Twitter accounts (I tried to find the post so that I quote her, if I do, I add it later.) Her strategey, as a result of her research was to try to convert twitterers into blog subscribers while the gittin’ is good.

    Ultimately, however, Twitter serves different purposes. Where we get into trouble is when we try to use a tool for a purpose at which it is either no longer effective or never was intended to perform.

    In the case of listening, I think it’s simply no longer effective. People’s “Tweeting” behaviors have changed and, if we’re going to continue to exploit the medium, we must tailor our purposes accordingly.



    1. Good stuff, Mitch, and I think that trying to figure out those mediums to reach people are important for someone like me, who works with others figuring out how to use social media to their best advantage, as well as the personal me, who wants to make sure that when there’s something fun going on in the local community that as many people as possible see it and will potentially participate.

      I’ve actually been experimenting with the puppy cam, and it’s amazing how many people are seeing it because of my efforts. Too bad I haven’t done that same type of thing on my own behalf.

  10. Mitch Allen – Thanks for your thoughts I have a quick couple questions if you don’t mind.

    A search of your blog for social and barbecue didn’t return a result. Can you elaborate on that?

    What specifically about my definition of social do you disagree with?

    I look forward to continuing this interesting discussion.

    Mitch_M – You cannot seriously wonder why Puppy Cam generates more interest than the announcement of a Tweetup! It’s puppies man! On camera! That’s a softball. Not to mention you can execute the desired action in your bathrobe and slippers…not so much with the Tweetup. Apples & Oranges but it does confirm one of my theories of social media…right message…to the right people…at the right time.

    1. Hi Jason, nice to meet you! I’ve blathered in comments using various comparisons to distinguish social as in “sociable” from social as in “measuring behavior”. On my blog, the post “Keep your Ize on the Prize” laments my personal failure to make money with my blog.

      Technically, I just answered both questions. Interestingly, your first comment compared Twitter to being in an auditorium. Even with front row invitations, your select few will not feel as special as they would in your living room. In addition, from a social as in “sociable” perspective, wouldn’t it be considered rude for the front row to be chattering away during the main event? Not that would be able to hear each other… 🙂

      I can sometime carry an analogy too far, so feel free to dismiss the auditorium play :). Instead, what do you think of Evan Williams’ quote? Ultimately, I’m using him to back up my assertions.



      1. Mitch..(Mitch A that is)

        As far as Evan Williams statement regarding “social” in the interview he was speaking about the problem of “scaling” and was then asked about whether or not he thought computers would be thinking for us and he shared that yes there’d be a point at which the massive amount of information “generated” by the crowd (through sociable means) would require algorithims in the machines to narrow or select the most relevant information for us due to sheer volume. His argument wasn’t against “social interaction” in Twitter nor about “being sociable” on the platform it was that “social” as a medium for topical exploration and the resulting personal connections wasn’t going to solve the discovery dilemma of who and what to follow, where and when.

        Evan is addressing the very problem leading to the statement you referred to from Ana Hoffman. People set-up Twitter accounts and then abandon them. Why? Likely as a direct result of the seeming futility of discovering their place in the medium. If you don’t arrive at Twitter with a solid pre-established set of Tweeps to engage with you end up reading the tweets of people you aren’t invested in. How many times do you hear..”Facebook I’m on that for family and friends but Twitter…I just ‘get it’?” Evan’s “social” comment is in direct response to what the scaling does to a medium like blogs and micro blogs when there are so many conversations going on that you can’t cut through to the ones that matter to you. Twitter is getting better with the refinement of contextual search result launched last month. (Those crazy algorithms are helping out!)

        This is why I have simplified with the livingroom / auditorium analogy. It speaks to the expectation differences between “friends” on Facebook and “followers” on Twitter in a very general way. In other words if your Mom and best friend aren’t reading your blog already is posting anything beyond “new blog post is up” on Facebook really going to help convince them to become avid readers? On Twitter there’s a discovery element and more “personal distance” to be bridged and so your Tweet about your new blog post is more a sandwich board out front of a theater offering free admission to passers by… it better draw the crowd in by being interesting if you want someone to come in, sit down, and stay. Particularly if the block is filled with other theaters! This isn’t taking in to account the “show” itself or that is to say the blog. That’s a whole different discussion of social media. If the front row is having a discussion while the show is going on you need a rewrite of the play! ;?)

        My comments regarding decorum or how we should behave on Twitter are references to what actions we should take as consumers of the platform. How should WE behave toward others Tweets? Here is where the “Social” as I define it becomes essential! Be sociable! Want comments on your blog leave comments for others. Want EXCELLENT comments instead of the usual sycophantic “Great post! Love your blog!” droll..then leave GREAT thought provoking posts. Want to get RT’s then RT other peoples content (CAVEAT – your reputation is at stake so I’d stick with the best quality content exclusively!) but I’d argue that having an agenda in every action is like being desperate for a date. There are no guarantees that anyone will reciprocate but the odds are in your favor based on some pretty solid research( The Principle of reciprocity is key to effective social media strategies) People can smell desperation and they flee from it. If you relax into Twitter with broad goals rather than a set of desired instant result that will define “success” it is an extremely effective medium. Depending on what those broad goals are. Immediate, as in dollars in my bank today and everyday thereafter, profit…well I’m dubious that it’s effective for that goal.

        This is precisely why traditional marketing paradigms will never apply to this platform. People simply will not be manipulated into action in this forum. Individuals hold the keys to the kingdom. It’s not radio where if I want to get to the rest of the broadcast or to the next 30 minutes of music I MUST endure the spots. Nor is it Television where in order to know what happened to my favorite character I will have endure the commercials. It’s not even a blog where I am interested in the content so I’ll keep closing the pop-ups! On the Twitter format if it looks or smells remotely like a self serving promotion and it doesn’t immediately tickle my fancy I can simply ignore it…quickly..and even take a certain satisfaction in doing so knowing that I am withholding that desired @ or RT the marketer was going for.

        I find SM to be fascinating and I love watching it grow. I take a tip from Gary Vaynerchuk who points out that the internet is just a teenager…it isn’t grown-up yet. We are shaping it, defining it. How awesome and exciting to be here at the beginning…

      2. this “”Facebook I’m on that for family and friends but Twitter…I just ‘get it’?””

        is supposed to read

        “”Facebook I’m on that for family and friends but Twitter…I just ‘don’t get it’?”


      3. Excellent response and counterpoints, Jason. I applaud your stance and am learning to see the meaning and not just the words.

        Having said that, I want to point out the Evan Williams said, “…It’s making better decisions because of decisions of other people.”

        You just wrote “How should WE behave toward others Tweets? Here is where the “Social” as I define it becomes essential!”

        You two are saying the same thing. What I fear most people DON’T get, is that their own behavior impacts their chances of having a meaningful experience with Twitter. Just the fact that you can make assertions about specific behaviors proves that the “social” aspect is being misapplied by some Twitterers:

        “Desperate for a date”

        “Reciprocity is key”

        These are behavioral quirks. That they exist enables OTHER Twitterers to modify THEIR behavior, accordingly.

        I’m trying not to be circular, so I’ll stop. I hope I’ve made as much sense in this reply as you just did 🙂



      4. You make perfect sense and yes you’re absolutely correct. It’s why I rail on and on about how people are misusing the opportunity inherent in SM. I tag a lot of tweet #youredoingitwrong to make them searchable and I blog about the mistakes and awkward attempts frequently.
        The problem lies in the idea of SM as a marketing tool. It is not a results marketing tool as we have seen in the past. It is rather the opportunity to engage customers and potential customers in a dialog with an eye to improving what we do and making it ever more desirable. Like a GIGANTIC focus group that you don’t have to pay!
        Of course it’s more involved than that.
        Thanks for the stimulating conversation! I’ve added your blog to my GReader and look forward to hearing more from you.

      5. No not at all..Facebook, Twitter, I blog for about 15 sites primarily on Dj’ing and Weddings (business and planning) I have an ancient MySpace account but that area has been “dead man walking” for years. Get me on any social network by looking for jhatchdj (@jhatchdj on Twitter)

    2. Jason, I’m nor surprised by the reaction. What I’m saying, though, is that I’ve pushed the link many more times than I’ve ever pushed a link from my own blogs or websites. I’ve been more comfortable pushing something that’s not marketing and, even more so, not me.

      1. I see. I feel that profoundly. I am engaged in a fundraising effort that focuses on me “doing” things and I am told I need to promote much more than I do but I am reluctant (that’s a HUGE understatement) to talk about myself in this context.

      2. I think we all are, Jason, which is why I found it important years ago to read the book Brag. Especially because we work for ourselves, we have to be ready to break out and talk about ourselves while making sure not to come across as, well, bragging and being conceited.

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