Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
March 16, 2009 9:24 PM

"I'll Tweet That" Is The Ultimate Insult

UPDATE: It seems a lot of people are mis-interpreting the point of this Blog post. I was not talking about how great Twitter is to share information, pass it along and get content recognized (it is!). I was speaking, specifically, about those with Blogs, clout and community who now use Twitter to brush off people, while at the same time trying to make it sound like they are doing you a favor by exposing your content to their network. So, as always, the devil is in the details and I should have been more detailed about "who"? I was talking about below. I tried to correct it in the comments section, but decided to update it here. In any event, please do tweet, retweet and favorite any and all content that you love - I know I do... and it's one of the main reasons I love Twitter: the discovery of it all.

In the good ole' days (about six months ago), if someone found something you did interesting, they would Blog about it, talk about it, share it and explain it with everyone they knew. If they really loved what you were doing - on a consistent basis - they would add you to their Blogroll.

Now, the world has changed. Twitter has become the place to tell people when you like something. It's quick, fast and painless. And, that's the problem. Is it really a compliment when someone tweets about you, or is it the ultimate insult?

I Blogged about something brilliant and all I got was this lousy tweet.

Twitter is great, but some people forget that it is a very "live" environment. Meaning, if something is posted to Twitter but the people who are following you don't happen to be online at that, specific, time, odds are that piece of content will become nothing more than road kill on the information superhighway. Also, it's no skin off of anyone's back to tweet something that you (or anybody) has done.

It's almost a cop-out.

See, you should just be happy that anyone is mentioning anything about you at all at this point. Also, by tweeting about it, that person can legitimately claim that they are getting the "word out" without doing the real heavy lifting of writing a Blog post or dedicating more than five seconds to it.

So, what's the ultimate compliment?

It would seem like the value of a Blog post has increased which would make the value of a Blogroll link that much more impressive. If someone tweets about something you did, what they're really saying is, "this is ok. OK enough for me to put my name on it, but if I really loved it, I would Blog about it, record a video about you, etc..." A tweet does drive traffic, but it's nothing like a Blog post or a position on a Blogroll. Those are becoming increasingly harder to get and must be earned. That being said, if the content of the tweet has any real merit, people will retweet it which can - to a lesser degree - drive an immediate surge of traffic. My guess would be that the half-life of that is significantly less than the power of a formal (and permanent) Blog post.

In the end, when someone tweets about something you do, it could be the digital equivalent of calling you back and leaving a voice message when they know you're not going to be around to answer the phone.

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Mark Dykeman
    Mitch Joel

    Heh, I like the answering machine analogy at the end of your post. Never thought of it that way, but you've got a good point.

    Equally good is ye old Blogroll, which I'm sad to say is something that I neglect. I don't notice blogrolls much these days, especially long ones.

    Food for thought, as always. Thanks Mitch.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jim Long
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, thanks for making me stop and think. I wonder if the dynamics all of our conversations on the web will ebb and flow. Maybe we'll move away, at least a bit, from here-and-now microblogging and get back into more "full sized" blogging.

    Reply
  • Posted by Peter A. Mello
    Mitch Joel

    Hi Mitch;

    I'm a regular reader of your blog and devoted listener to your podcast. I've learned a lot here and there and usually find myself in near complete alignment with your views; but you've lost me on this one.

    Twitter is just one tool in the communication toolbox; no more, no less. Like all tools, it's effectiveness is defined by the context or circumstances and is best when used strategically.

    That "lousy tweet" for a great post might actually go out to thousands of "friends" and could be leveraged many fold by being retweeted just a handful of times. Several people, who might never have otherwise come upon this information because they don't read or, heaven forbid, know about your blog, might be intrigued enough to follow a link back to the original post. In the end Twitter has the potential to connect people and for me this is one of it's primary uses.

    Finally, we've all probably worked late into the night and left a voicemail when we know someone probably wouldn't be around to answer the phone. It wasn't done because the matter wasn't important. To the contrary, usually we leave the late night voicemail because we want the other party to know that it is/was important and we didn't want to delay longer in taking action or responding. The timing was right. The same concept can apply to the tweet. We might be chasing too many rabbits down too many holes in the course of the work day to write a worthy post, but we still want to share this info with our community while signaling to the author that we value their original post. I know I'm always really pleased when someone RT's one of my posts and suspect most bloggers are.

    In any case, thanks for always giving us something to think about and keep up the great stuff here and on the podcast. Thanks!

    Fair Winds,
    Peter A. Mello
    @petermello

    Reply
  • Posted by Etienne Chabot
    Mitch Joel

    I tend to agree with your analysis on the value of a Tweet vs a Blog post or Blogroll link. However, I think your analogy only applies to Blogs that are already popular and which already drive recurrent visitors. I just started blogging, and the odds that I will get my blog cited in a very popular blog post or put in a successful blogger's blogroll are low.

    That is why I really appreciate when an individual does the small effort of Re-Tweeting the link to one of my blog post. It immediately reflects on my traffic stats especially if that Twitterer is followed by a lot of people.

    I will continue to kindly accept that gratitude and will definitely interpret it as an insult.

    Reply
  • Posted by Richard Stewart
    Mitch Joel

    Hey Mitch,

    The timing of your post could not have been any better placed as I had only placed a twitter comment regarding the podcasts roughly 1 hour before...Fair call overall, however at this point in time I am not contributing to a blog of my own or very really to any others. (however I am planning to make a start very soon).

    Twitter is a still a good way for me personally to say to followers etc.. I like what this is about...

    Love what your doing by the way.

    R.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mike Gero
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch:

    As usual, thought provoking. I see the point, I like the analogy, yet I'm not sure I can completely agree.

    While the scenario you describe could certainly run through someone's mind, I think the choice to tweet or re-tweet about someone's blog post has to do more with timing and the dynamic usage paradigm of twitter vs blogging.

    Twitter users are tweeting 10's to 100's of times a day. Some bloggers blog daily, most less than that. If you come across a post worth repeating, but aren't about to work on your own post, or don't have anything relevant planned for the blog, tweeting is an easy way to get a message to your audience that you see value in something.

    I agree that tweets have a theoretically shorter "shelf-life" than a blog post, and if the blogger/tweeter REALLY sees value in your post, they can make a note to blog about it later.

    Still, I'll take the optimist's view and say that I'll take a tweet as a well-intended compliment any day.

    Reply
  • Posted by Dror Zaifman
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch very interesting post but you stated that "if something is posted to Twitter but the people who are following you don't happen to be online at that, specific, time, odds are that piece of content will become nothing more than road kill on the information superhighway."
    I disagree with you on this to some extent because if a Twitter account is linked to someone's Facebook, then all his/her friends will see it and it will be seen by more potential people then a blog if the blog is not that popular or has that much traffic should it be new.
    Second it does have a longer life span then just being live at that moment because again if people see it later on in the day as an update on their friend's Facebook then it's not just seen at the moment it was put up on Twitter but rather later on in the day possibly 12 hours later when it is no longer live.
    Mitch what do you think of these possibilities ?

    Reply
  • Posted by Nabilah Said
    Mitch Joel

    Cool post. Kinda like "If someone tweets about you but no one is around to read about it, did it really happen?"

    But I like what you say about it making bloggers write even better quality posts, I raise my glass to that!

    So does a tweet mean he's just not that into you? ;)

    Reply
  • Posted by Kevin Fertenbaugh
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, that has been what's made twitter difficult for me. I feel like I can't keep up since I'm not on for a good part of the day. I know you can scroll back, but as you said, you can easily miss something that could be potentially meaningful.

    I'm still sorting out how to effectively use social networking.

    Thank you for the thought provoking words.

    Reply
  • Posted by Connie Crosby
    Mitch Joel

    In my world, the real compliment is when someone who does not blog or tweet leaves a comment on my blog post. THEN I know I've done something great!

    That aside, what I like to do is blog about what the person or organization has done, and then send a tweet out about my blog post if I think it will be of particular use to my Twitter followers. That way it hits both audiences. (I have a lot more followers on Twitter than those who read my blogs).

    Cheers,
    Connie

    Reply
  • Posted by Simon Synett
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,

    I think you've got to take a couple of other things into account:

    1. The relationship the individual tweeter has with his followers. Because Twitter is in some ways a more intense and personal interaction, the power of a tweeted recommendation can sometimes be stronger.

    2. Subject matter counts. If I blog about Judaism from a traditional perspective, which I do, then I don't expect the majority of my readers to be as excited as I am by your insights into Social Media, and I'm unlikely to blog about these things. But I might tweet about these ideas because I would like to let my followers know that they are worth thinking and learning about.

    3. Many people are already displaying their twitter feed on their blog and Facebook and elsewhere too, which might be a very good solution for the above issue.

    Warmly,

    Simon Synett

    Reply
  • Posted by Amod Munga
    Mitch Joel

    Hi Mitch.

    As always, a great post...although I disagree.

    Currently, having someone tweet something you've done is tantamount to having that person call up all her friends and tell them about you.

    That means you have impressed her with the value you have to offer. And in that sense, it's not an insult (as long as the tweet sets you up directly/eventually as a source of vlaue).

    Twitter's permission system creates a sense of instant advocacy between followers and the followed; and that's a great way of gettting others to convert people around to your way of thinking.

    That said, I like Connie Crosby's approach. It's a little more comprehensive than simply tweeting. The tweet creates the hook, the blogpost reels them in for a longer interaction...

    Reply
  • Posted by Mitch Joel - Twist Image
    Mitch Joel

    All great points.

    A couple of additional thoughts:

    1. The half-life of Twitter is what it is because you can't really derive any long-term benefits via search (yet).

    2. Twitter is fast-paced and a lot of the gems do get "lost in the shuffle" versus having a permanent spot on someone's Blog (or other environment).

    3. I've seen/heard many of the more well-known people in these channels use Twitter as their "brush off" for others. Instead of really taking the time to discuss/promote, they can simply blast it out as a tweet.

    4. I love Twitter, and I agree that it is only one platform of many. It's also the one that many people are now paying attention to. It's also one that does drive people to this Blog via tweets and retweets.

    5. Twitter is still new and a moving target, so anything I say could have changed by the time you read this.

    6. Many people do use Twitter as their space to put everything that is less important to them, personally... including linking to others, etc...

    Reply
  • Posted by Nigel Dean
    Mitch Joel

    I understand what you are saying in this post and the idea that different actions carry more or less weight than others. No problem with that at all.

    However, to say that a Tweet is the 'ultimate insult' is rubbish. Surely to do nothing is worse, or to Tweet saying it's crap! Take a Tweet or a Re-Tweet as what it is, someone is saying to the people that follow them - This is good information, I think you should listen to this, This is a good guy. Maybe it is just one step on the relationship ladder; Tweet today, follow tomorrow, recommend next week, add you to their bloroll next month. All stages.

    Don't expect someone to fall in love with your work straight away. It takes time and effort. Don't take a Tweet as an insult!

    Reply
  • Nigel, I agree with your comment. And yes, the headline was to provoke some thinking and reaction.

    All tweets are not created equal. I guess my gripe is that many people who have a semblance of audience on Twitter feel that the easiest way to brush someone off if they don't want to really Blog or talk about them is to say, "I'll tweet that." And, as this platform matures, it's a very shallow way of blowing someone off.

    Reply
  • Posted by @jasoneano
    Mitch Joel

    Doesn't the age of the RT not reveal the true quality of content that is produced?

    In a information overloaded system where everyone sees themselves as an author of public importance, I find the creation of the RT system to be a valuable edition to how the online community can understand where information of true value lies.

    Reply
  • Posted by CJ Guest
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks for bring this up Joel, it's a very good point. I, too, am guilty of the tweet-instead-of-comment habit. I took a look at my Backtype account to find out that, although I have been "commenting" in many other ways (FB, FF, Tw) I haven't been commenting on others' posts in a while. I appreciate the observation!

    Reply
  • Posted by Dave
    Mitch Joel

    I understand that Twitter is only part of a communications platform for a business and it is free to use, but I think the effectiveness might take a dip as more and more people join and start following large groups of people. As you pointed out Mitch a lot of the "gems" get lost in the shuffle. Well, for companies that don't have something great to offer their message will definately get lost.

    I wonder how many people on Twitter will be engaged throughout the day on the platform and how many will be "Facebook" checkers where they view all the updates 2 or 3 times throughout the day.

    Reply
  • Posted by Rolando Peralta
    Mitch Joel

    great article!! please, don't feel offended, but I really want to tweet this! (LOL), but I promise to blog about it in my next post.

    Reply
  • Posted by Tom
    Mitch Joel

    In the words of Beyonce, "If you linked it then you shoulda done a blog on it."

    Reply
  • Posted by Adam Singer
    Mitch Joel

    I would take a Digg or a Stumble over a Tweet any day :)

    Reply
  • Posted by Doug Haslam
    Mitch Joel

    I think a glance at your post threatens to leave the impression that Re-Tweets have no value. However, I do agree with the ephemeral nature of the Twee. It is what it is, and the effort it takes to comment or even write your own blog post in response says a lot more.

    Tweet as insult? I don't think so, not the way i usually experience it anyway. It still takes effort to hit that re-tweet button.

    By the way-- I saved this is del.cio.us, which automatically pushes to Friendfeed, and from there pushes out to Twitter and Facebook. Got ya covered.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    I don't think they should be compared. Like apples and oranges. Similar but very different. Tweets and blogs have their own place.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mark Goren
    Mitch Joel

    Good on Nigel and Doug H. for pointing out two important, but overlooked, points in this discussion.

    1. To paraphrase Nigel: With the sea of voices out here in the 'sphere, just be thankful that anybody finds anything you (that's a general "you", not a Mitch "you") write to be worth repeating on any network. Not everyone blogs, and certainly not everyone blogs with the same time and effort you put into it, Mitch.

    So to call it an "insult", no matter how much you're trying to provoke conversation, is an insult to those who have tweeted your content.

    2. Doug alludes to how his different networks are connected, allowing this social-bookmarked post to travel across the web far and wide. Essentially, any time someone Tweets your stuff, they're planting seeds on your behalf, extending your web presence, adding to your credibility and potentially helping you sell more books or add a new client.

    Insult? C’mon, Mitch, really?

    Reply
  • It would be best (and most beneficial to the conversation) if everyone read the full comments first, before jumping in.

    This post was not about people who find content worthy of spreading. This post was about those with Blogs, clout and community who now use Twitter to brush off people, while at the same time trying to make it sound like they are doing you a favor by exposing your content to their network.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ian Shepherd
    Mitch Joel

    It would be better is the original post was clearer... I think it would be worth an edit !

    Reply
  • Posted by Julia
    Mitch Joel

    I don't agree. As an Ed Tech I get oodles of useful information that I need to filter and push to people I think might be able to use it, be intrigued by it, etc.-in a timely manner while performing my other duties. I found that to not miss the boat, twitter allowed me to do the scan--pass on what I thought was useful and keep looking for more. If I really think something is valuable--and it's persistent in terms of web presence--I have tweeted about it several times. Remember that all the tweets are searchable www.search.twitter.com.

    Reply
  • Posted by Danny Brown
    Mitch Joel

    I think the main thing I disagree with here, Mitch, is that a blogroll offers better traffic than a tweet.

    True, blogrolls are at the discretion of the blogger and you choose who you feel offers value.

    Yet no-one will see that recommendation on the blogroll if they don't know where to find the actual blog - a tweet can point you in the right way.

    Having said that, the tweet needs to be seen first, so pretty even scores there. ;-)

    Personally, I see Twitter as the teaser to the main news that is the blog - both complement each other perfectly.

    Reply
  • Here's another comment I added over on Dave Fleet's Blog:

    How would the PR/Media Relations professionals feel if most of their Blogger outreach came back as, “the person did a Tweet about us". I believe in the power of Twitter - just look at my Blog and my presence there - but media relations professionals are having a hard time convincing their clients about the value of a Blog post when compared to “ink"… what if all of the people you were now reaching out to simply threw you one mercy-tweet just to get you off their case?

    It’s something to consider. It’s a trend I have been noticing. It was the point of my Blog post that started this.

    Reply
  • Posted by Linnet Woods
    Mitch Joel

    Sorry I don't have time to read all the responses to what you said and I hope that, if this is a repetition of something said already, that it will serve to endorse it...

    From where I'm sitting (I am genuinely surprised when it turns out someone has read one of my blogs and I'm not interested in trying to become a blogging celebrity) I think comments are the measure of someone's value to the reading public.

    Whenever one visits a blog the decision is made whether to endorse it by adding a comment (regardless of whether agreeing with or arguing against the post) or not. Making the effort to respond demonstrates interest in the writer.

    One may also, of course, go back to Twitter and mention the blog or retweet the author's mention of it.

    In the future, I think the amount of response a blogger can generate will be the ultimate yardstick of his/her importance to the Bloggiverse and the most important bloggers will end up having to attach a poll to the end of every post to allow those who wish to simply agree or disagree in general to add their weight, leaving those with specifics to state to make the comments.

    Reply
  • Posted by Linda Bustos
    Mitch Joel

    Oh I confess! I've used the "I won't blog it but hey, I'll tweet that for ya" before. But I don't consider it a brush off, I only Tweet things I think my followers would find valuable as each Tweeted link reflects on me and my signal/noise quotient :) And some things just DON'T warrant a full blog post!

    If I want to brush off a pitch I tell them straight up "your pitch is not relevant to what I do" I don't say "kthxbai" but sometimes I think it.

    Reply
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