What Is It About Keeping Score on Twitter? (Update)

While sane people debate the relative worth of twitter, with opinions ranging from it being today’s version of the leisure suit to it being the worldwide water cooler, some have made the gathering of followers their goal in life.  Names omitted to protect the foolish.  Sure, there are some who urge twitter as the newiest and cooliest business-getter tool around (for a fee), but the obsession with numbers of followers has little to do with the quality of followers.

So when I happened upon this nonsense when I checked out one of my new followers, I was flabbergasted.  Folks, this is just insane.  No one, but no one, will go to heaven for having the most followers on twitter.  No one.  There will be no prize.  There will be no honors bestowed upon you for being the most followed.  You still have to pay to get on the subway.  Sorry, but that’s how it goes.

There are twitterers who have tens of thousand of followers.  I’ve taken a look at some of them, expecting to find twits so deep, so brilliant, that it would alter my philosophical view of the world.  Nope.  Their twits were pretty much like anyone else’s.  Some were substantially worse.  Some sucked.

What I did notice was that the twitterers with big numbers of followers similarly followed huge numbers of others.  Now perhaps I’m just a bit slow, but I fail to understand how anyone can gain anything from following ten thousand twitterers.  No one has the time to read that many twits, and even the time to try would consume whatever time was available for having a life.  Anyone who follows that many people is kinda weird.

Unless, of course, they aren’t reading the twits at all, but merely following others so they will follow them in return.  That aspect of the phenomenon became clear as I kept getting the new follower messages, only to see that my new followers dropped me a day later.  A wise twitterer explained that people follow you to get you to follow them, then drop you (since you don’t get a message about it) afterward.  Then there are some people who I like and respect, but whose twits were too numerous or off-topic for my tastes.  When I unfollowed them, they unfollowed me.  Apparently, twitterers take unfollowing very personally.

As for the new and cool, that ship has clearly sailed.  While watching Rick Sanchez on CNN, he pushed his twitting hard throughout the broadcast.  Nothing can be more uncool than when Rick Sanchez becomes part of it.  Twitter was also pushed during President Obama’s speech to the joint session of Congress.  Remember when George Bush got an Ipod?  Same deal.  It was the end of its cool factor.

And as of yesterday, every lawyer marketing consultant on the face of the earth is now officially selling the secret magic way to collect followers on twitter.  You too can have a million followers!  But you still have to pay to ride the subway.

At this very moment, I have 330 followers.  A bunch are marketers, and if they think that they have a chance of getting business from me, they are going to be sorely disappointed.  About 20 marketers were cleared out a couple of weeks ago, but they keep coming back.  They are nothing if not persistent.  By the end of this post, I expect to have 20 fewer followers.  At least.

I don’t twit a lot, and little of what I twit about is worth reading.  I don’t anticipate that I’ll find many major white collar federal criminal defendants searching for counsel on twitter, although I expect some persistently perky marketer to disagree and inform me that if I only new the magic secrets, I could quadruple my number of followers overnight and become rich! rich! rich!  I wonder why these former lawyers who know the secret to becoming rich! rich! rich! no longer practice law and prefer instead to be grubby little marketers.  But I’m sure it’s because they are great humanitarians, bent on helping the huddled masses of undervalued lawyers.

The chances of my having tens of thousands of followers is slim.  I’m just going to have to live with the knowledge that I will never win the prize.  On the other hand, at least I won’t be caught wearing a polyester double-knit leisure suit.  I’m cool with that.

Update:  Walter Olson’s take gives rise to another gem, reciprocity fetishes, definitely worthy of a special update.  I am such a sucker for a great phrase, and I believe we’ve got a winner here!

15 comments on “What Is It About Keeping Score on Twitter? (Update)

  1. Charon QC

    I found myself talking to myself the other night and laughing maniacally.

    I knew then that I had finally flipped. I called my doctor and described my symptoms – in exactly 140 characters.

    I have been diagnosed with Twitilitis. There is no cure. It is not life threatening, but the doctor suggested that I may find myself shouting irrationally about law marketers and warned that Tourettes syndrome could occur, without warning, in Twitilitis sufferers who find articles on Twitter irritating.

    I am doomed.

  2. SHG

    I’m not surprised.  Geeklawyer informed me that you had contracted a particularly dreaded disease, though he suggested it was curable with a dose of penicillin.  Sorry to hear that you’re doomed.  We will miss you terribly.

  3. Eric Johnson

    Funny. My favorite ‘sorely disappointed’ marketer was the young NY broker who had me on his speed dial – persistence hall of fame. I think twitter evangelists like KO, though, may really think that once there is critical mass that twitter will somehow evolve in a somewhat more valuable direction. Some sort of good logarithmic progression. I think that twitter along with all the other info sharing devices coming along may be just pieces or factors in our own evolution (or perhaps devolution so to speak)that may only be placed in perspective or described in terms of ‘value’ in the distant future. Excuse me my CB radio is going off.

  4. Anne

    The other day (while on a treadmill) I saw a story (CNN?) about twittering during surgery!

    The reporter made it clear that it was an intern in the room, not the doctor performing the sugery, who was doing the twittering. (Whew, because I thought driving while texting was bad!)

  5. Larry Daniel

    “Scientists predict new evolutionary forms due to the impact of twitter on population genectics”

    It has long been known that Darwin’s theory of evolution is based on the gradual changes in populations. However, with the advent of social media, where even wildlife managers and naturalists can twitter while tending to animals in the wild, it is theorized that like mimcry, twittering will become a new defense mechanism.

    There are already predictions of new intermediate forms appearing such as the twitterpotamus, the allitwitter, and the remarkable twittybird.

    While the effect on humans is accelerating even faster, scientists believe that the evolution of humans will be impacted to an even greater degree with new human intermediate forms already beginning to appear in populations, such as the twitnit, the twitmonger and the neo-twitterman. Some say that a certain amount of regressiveness is expected with individuals such as Scott Greenfield, indentified as a twitter-resister. These rare individuals are not expected to have much impact on the twitter ecosystem in the long term as the overal population tends to evolve in a constant direction.

    This opens up an entirely new area for experts in twitterology to be called in cases of possible twittercides and in civil suits involving twitter defamation. New case law regarding twitter-torts and juris-twitter are expected to change the face of the legal profession as more people become involved in this activity.

    There is an increasing concern among social scientists and law enforcement about the rise of tribes that may morph into twit-gangs that could threated the social media culture. Extremist groups are already adopting this technology to further their causes and to recruit new members by attempting to gain millions of followers who will be subjected to their nefarious twitterganda.

    Ok, that was just for laughs. 😉

  6. Michael from Orlando

    Interesting. The table half-way down the twitter page you referenced looks exactly like every multi-tier marketing program (better known as a pyramid scheme). Works great maybe for the first to sign up, but the pyramid has to ultimately collapse. Yet another example of internet information marketing.

  7. Rush Nigut

    You forgot to add that not only can you become rich! rich! rich! but you can do it in only three hours a day. Well, make that four hours because you need to spend at least one hour a day on Twitter.

    I’ll admit that I used to think you overreacted a bit toward the legal marketers on Twitter. But I am in your corner these days. It has become ridiculous.

    Helping real clients with real problems requires more than a business system or marketing program. It is particularly troublesome when I see marketers brag about the high fees their lawyer clients have charged, without regard to whether the lawyer’s fee is a sensible value to the lawyer’s client. Your post is spot on.

  8. SHG

    Thanks Rush.  Just too many voices pushing the zeal to succeed and forgetting all about the zeal to be a good lawyer who serves his clients well.  David Giacalone (f/k/a Ret. ) has been fighting the fight against gouging clients in the name of success for a long time, mostly as a lone voice in the woods.  I’m just trying to remind young lawyers what it means to be a lawyer.

  9. Doug Cornelius

    Scott –

    To elaborate on our short bursts on Twitter. I do not think Tweets are resulting in less blog comments. I did not have a dropoff on my old blog when Twitter took off. I actually noticed there were more comments as posts got more publicity through twitter.

    I think if someone is only going to put a few characters in a tweet, they probably were not going to leave a blog comment anyhow.

    I think we also need to look at the barriers in place that deter blog comments: captchas, delayed publishing, small comment boxes. Twitter is easy. Too many blogs make comments hard. There are lessons to be learned from Twitter’s simplicity.

    Twitter is a toy. Maybe it will change for the better when it adopts a revenue model. Unlikely. It most likely will die off when they screw up the revenue model.

  10. SHG

    I had the opposite experience (which is why personal analogies don’t tend to be worth much), going from about 50 comments a day to about 20, and somedays less.  At the same time, there were comments on twitter, and not comments like the RT you showed me but hard comments, just too short to be worthy of my thought.

    The problem is that twitter is the perfect format for people whose thoughts can be adequately captured in 140 characters.  It is easy, simple and (apologies to Mencken) utterly vapid.  You can’t have a conversation on twitter, but at best offer a quip here and there.  It’s the antithesis of real communication, lacking the ability to convey much of anything of substance.  That’s fine, given what it is, but that it’s replaced comments as if it was a substitute is a shame.  There’s no discussion involved.  Just some cutie twits and then out of there.

    As for barriers to comments, that all depends on the nature of the blawg and the comments it receives.  Since I’m me (and hence not you), I don’t know how comments are on your blawg.  I get some crazy ones, and some indulgent ones, and lots of self-promoting ones.  While the substance is important, and 100 spam comments a day require some barriers.  That’s how it goes around here.

    But thanks for saying it here rather than twiting it.  It would have taken you 25 twits to cover your thoughts, and you would have lost all your followers in the process. And I know how important followers are, though I still don’t know why.

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