This week President Obama will deliver his annual State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. A speech in which he will highlight his accomplishments from the past year and outline his legislative agenda for the upcoming one. And in this re-election year, it’s a speech that will no doubt spark a fresh round of partisan politics, debate, and in all probability scorn, with no real consensus being reached as to the actual state of the union.
That’s all I’ll say on the matter.
And so friends, family, distinguished readers and fellow bloggers, today I’d like to discuss instead a far less polarizing topic: The state of my union with Twitter. For it was exactly one year ago this week that I begrudgingly entered the Twitterverse.
I’d like to start by congratulating myself on this feat. I make no secret of the fact that, for several years, I held the entire concept of Twitter in the utmost contempt.
How self-indulgent, I thought. How complete narcissistic! In other words: The perfect outlet for celebrities.
But beyond the ability to tap into the mystique of Lady Gaga, the comedic brilliance of Jimmy Fallon, the trainwreck appeal of Charlie Sheen, or even the vapid je ne sais quoi of Kim Kardashian, what was the draw? What could Twitter possibly offer the masses, the peons, the nobodies… like me?
Indeed, I asked myself, why would anyone want to follow a steady stream of my thoughts and opinions? And if for some strange reason they did, would a restraining order be necessary? I didn’t want to find out.
But then someone told me, “If you have a blog, you need to be on Twitter.”
I had a blog. Had had a blog for six months, in fact. Only nobody was reading it; I was blogging into the abyss. But I didn’t want to admit the truth – that Twitter could help.
The debate was contentious; I fought fiercely for my beliefs. But I was finally forced to acknowledge that robust blogging demands a Twitter presence. It’s what helps set us apart in the blogosphere.
So, I joined Twitter.
Hashtags and @Mentions, I knew not. Followers? I had none. Still, I forged ahead.
For several weeks, nothing changed. Instead, it seemed I was both blogging and tweeting into the abyss.
But then something wonderful happened: I started gaining followers – among them fellow bloggers, editors, publications, and brands. And people began to comment on my posts. People I didn’t know! I knew not why or how or from whence they all came, but I think it had something to do with meeting Liz Jostes.
As I gained knowledge and confidence, I dabbled in lists and searches and Tweetdeck and Hootsuite. But ultimately I found them all too cumbersome to manage. And so I just use bare-bones Twitter. For me, a simple Twitter is a functional Twitter.
But this is not just about me. It’s about the people. The people and Twitter. And so with that in mind, I’d like to now discuss Klout.
For those not in the know, Klout purports to numerically measure one’s influence online through different social media channels (but primarily Twitter). Allegedly, the higher your Klout score, the more influential you become. Which sounds positively genius until you begin to note Klout’s rather capricious methods of measurement.
For one thing, Klout will reward you for engaging with others who have good Klout, but will lay the virtual smackdown to you for dallying with those whose scores are less than impressive. You best remember that before you tweet with those losers.
Klout also assigns its users topics in which it believes they are influential based on what they talk about online – even if only once. The topics themselves seem as arbitrary as the process by which they’re assigned, ranging from the impressive, such as ‘writing’ and ‘social media’, to the completely inane, such as ‘Justin Bieber’ and ‘glasses’. (Whether drinking or eye wear, we’ll never know.)
And then to top it all off, Klout oh-so-objectively allows its users to award points, known as +K, to others within their own areas of influence. I once gave someone +K in ‘vagina’. Just because it was there. And I could. Teehee.
It is for these reasons that Klout reminds me very much of high school.
I hated high school.
So, I deleted my Klout account – and found it truly liberating. For now I can and do use Twitter on my own terms.
And if you find Klout as absurd as I do, then I urge you to follow suit. In fact, I support doing away with Klout altogether, along with its equally goofy-named counterpart, Kred. For the benefit of humanity, I believe this is not only the right thing to do, but the necessary thing to do. Indeed, let us do it for the people.
Shallow measurements of one’s online
popularity reputation aside, I’ve come to truly appreciate and find value in Twitter. Used correctly, it’s an invaluable tool – the key phrase there being “used correctly.” Because while it may be all about you on Facebook, on Twitter it’s all about everyone else (and a little bit about you).
(Incidentally, tip number 5 ½, according to MediaBistro.com, is, “Be concise, leaving enough space for followers to add retweets and comments.”)
Through Twitter, I have made editorial contacts and landed writing gigs. I’ve tweeted brands with both praise and criticism for their products (and received responses to both). From my fellow bloggers, I have shared the funny, the poignant, and the profound – and had my content shared in return. I’ve learned that wherever your interests or pursuits may lie, there are people worldwide who share them. And I’ve made friends.
And so it happens that one year, 4,034 tweets (and counting!), and a modest 713 followers (and counting?) after joining Twitter, I have a definitive answer to what it offers the masses, the peons, the nobodies like me: It offers the opportunity to connect with each other in our shared interests. And to be heard.
Twitter does big things. And together, we can do big things with Twitter.
And so I can now say with confidence that my future in blogging is hopeful, my journey goes forward, and the state of my union with Twitter is strong.
Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the Twitters.
Editor’s Note: Parts of this post were adapted from the 2011 State of the Union address.
How is the state of YOUR union with Twitter?