A Twittervention! What If There Was No Twitter?

by on 02/23/2010 • 57 Comments | Social Media

I love Twitter. And, obviously, lots of other people love Twitter, too.

There was a coincidental Twitter love fest yesterday when both Scott Stratten and DJ Waldow wrote posts about how Twitter has enriched their lives and how it’s caused all this great “stuff” to happen to them. I get it. I feel lucky to have Twitter, too. Twitter has been a great tool for extending my professional reach and it’s introduced me to some of my favorite friends in Troy. But one day Twitter is going to die. And then what are we going to do?

I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but we can’t deny the inevitable. What goes up must comes down. It’s like the circle of life and all that jazz. As golden as Twitter is today, one day that will fade and we’ll have to move on to something else. But if Twitter died today, would you be prepared? Could you focus on some of the other stuff you’ve got cooking or is Twitter all you’ve got in your basket?

I guess the question is: How else are you building and promoting your brand?

This weekend, Danny Sullivan put out a tweet that I think struck a chord with a lot of people.

Me too! I talk to small business owners every day who have a Facebook and Twitter account but that don’t have a Web site. I read tweets from people about how they’ve stopped blogging because now they have Twitter and it’s ‘so much easier’ to talk to people. Hell, I’m guilty of the same. I’d probably have my own personal blog (or book) off the ground if I really wrote about the things happening to me instead of just throwing them up on Twitter.

As great as Twitter is, I think it’s important to remember two things.

Twitter is just the medium

In Scott’s post he lists off all the things he wouldn’t have today had it not been for Twitter. Things like:

  • A Wiley book deal
  • Speaking opportunities
  • A free trip to Disney with his (adorable) son
  • A great support system

But I don’t believe him. I think he would have these things without Twitter. Because Scott would have been working to create his relationships through other channels – whether that be his blog, another Web site, a new community, etc. Scott hasn’t accomplished what he has because of Twitter, he accomplished it through Twitter. Twitter is the medium. The medium can always be replaced, which is why we shouldn’t tie ourselves to just one.

I think that’s an important lesson (and one maybe newspapers could learn). The same people who think social media will save their lives or that creating a blog will find them that audience they always wanted – it’s not the medium that’s important. It’s what you’re using the medium to put out. It’s like saying that Heather Armstrong found an audience because she had a blog. Or that the snowboard made Shaun White successful. Being an excellent writer made Heather Armstrong stand out. Being a great athlete made Shaun stand out. The blog and the snowboard were just the mediums they used to accomplish great things.

You need to plant more seeds

As I’ve mentioned, I love Twitter. I think Twitter is an amazing tool for small businesses owners. But it’s only one tool. And any time you put all your eggs in one basket you’re setting yourself up for a serious crash. Be on Twitter, but don’t stop there. Extend your reach and brand as far as it can go.

What does that mean?

  • It means you don’t stop blogging because you’re on Twitter.
  • It means you don’t let your Web site fall apart because you have a Facebook fan page.
  • It means you don’t drag your feet creating an email newsletter because you have a LinkedIn Group.
  • It means you don’t do ALL of your networking on Twitter just because ‘it’s there’ and ‘it’s easy’.
  • It means you don’t stop building your own platforms just because you’re leasing someone else’s.

Building your business means creating as many satellite communities as you can and putting effort into creating stuff that you can own. You own your Web site. You own that newsletter. You own your blog posts. You own the community that you build on your Web site. You don’t own Twitter. You have no say in what happens to it or the direction that it goes in.

You’ll get no argument from me that Twitter rocks, but you need to ask yourself if you’re creating enough of “your” stuff on top of that. If Twitter disappeared tomorrow, would you still be able to leverage the audience ? Are you finding ways to take people off Twitter and direct them to the material that you do own? Because if the answer is no, then you’re not using Twitter. You’re just playing with it and setting yourself up to start from scratch once Twitter friendsters itself out.

Share this post

About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter

57 thoughts on “A Twittervention! What If There Was No Twitter?

  1. So I come here to argue, to protect my beloved Twitter, and all I ended up doing was nodding my head in agreement.

    It’s actually one of the main reasons I started the blog, so I could control my platform. I thought that exact thing of “what if Twitter vanished?”

    One of two things will happen eventually, Twitter will vanish, or you will vanish from it, but I hope that’s a long time from now.

    My post holds true, as you said, that if you give to a network, it will pay back. It’s not unique to Twitter at all.

    Very well said Lisa. Thank-you

    • Your post yesterday really struck me because I SO BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU SAID! I look at what Twitter has done for me and it’s amazing. It’s opened doors, introduced me to great industry folks, and helped me make friends in a new city. But at the same time…it’s almost scary the power we’ve given it. And it’s scarier still for small businesses who become too reliant on something that can go away.

      I hope Twitter doesn’t go anywhere for a long time, but if it does, it’s important to have your own stuff out there, too.

      Thanks for your post yesterday. It made me think on a lot of different levels.

    • We all do, Hulbert. We all do. :)

      The truth is no one knows what will happen to Twitter. When they issued the new ReTweet feature and there was all that backlash that people hate it…it just shows that they can do whatever they want with Twitter, regardless of what users prefer. And they may change it in the future to make it unlike what it is right now. Your business shouldn’t be dependent on someone else’s product.

  2. This post gives us something to think about. Something will replace Twitter eventually. Your post also emphasizes that no matter the medium, no one can be successful through social media without having something to say.

  3. I have a tough time fathoming the “post twitter” concept you’re floating here. To me Twitter, or some similar successor of the same medium is here to stay. I don’t see how something is going to usurp the instant feedback Twitter offers to people. Twitter has already made huge inroads in conventional media like television and radio in a very short amount of time. To me Twitter was the next evolution of text messaging. Texting hasn’t gone away to many. For me I don’t text anymore, I twitter and DM people now.

    I agree with the rest of the sentiment of the post though.

  4. Amen.

    I am amazed that so many companies are steering people to their Twitter and Facebook accounts in print and TV ads, and there is no reference to a site for them.

    My sites are my real meals, and these Twitters and Facebooks are supplements.

  5. Lisa –

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but I love you. I’m in love with my wife, aka, the K-Dawg, but I love you. This post was brilliant – truly brilliant. I did the exact same thing as my “love-fest mate” Scott. I wanted to disagree with this post. I wanted to hate it (ha ha – not really hate, but…). However, I also nodded my head. You are 100% correct. 100%.

    I actually closed my post out with this paragraph:

    “So yeah, clearly life would go on without Twitter. I mean, it did go on before Twitter, right? Much like we all lived before phones or cars or email or Facebook or the Internet. So, life would continue just fine.”

    I also still believe – very strongly – that nothing replaces the face-to-face. Nothing. It’s strange. Today is my birthday. I’ve been literally bombarded by “Happy Birthday’s”: Facebook, Twitter, Email, Phone, IM, Text, DM. Pretty much everything but fax and face-to-face. If all of Social Media goes away, would I still have friends? Gosh. I hope. Would I still have business opportunities? Again, I better!

    I think that those who really get the most juice out of Twitter tend to be people who have strong personalities already. People like Scott and Amber and Chris Brogan and Jay Baer and CC Chapman, etc etc who are just kick ass, super smart people. You are right. The “tool” (aka, Twitter) gives them another platform. Much like you, they all also have super-strong blogs (homebase) and just do great work.

    I could talk/write about this forever.

    Suffice to say, I love you … for writing this.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

    P.S. I’m not sure my blog post articulated all of these thoughts above. I didn’t think to hard when I wrote it. I just wrote from the heart. Crap. That sounds cheesy.

    • Okay, I was really scared when you opened with “Don’t take this the wrong way…” In fact, I almost started crying right there. I’m glad I kept reading through my fingers.

      I really think all three of us agree. I’m totally with you guys on the love fest. I LOVE TWITTER! I love the people I’ve met on Twitter. I love the platform and talking to people and making connections. It all feels so good! And it feels even better when you take what you’re doing on Twitter and move it off. But you know that. And Scott knows that. I was just making sure everyone else knew that, too.

      And I very much agree that the people who are “the best” at Twitter are the ones who rock at creating relationships to begin with. It just heightens what’s already in you. Twitter is essentially like good alcohol. It’s lubricates the conversation and helps you get louder. :)

      Thanks for commenting. And for loving me. And definitely HAPPY BIRTHDAY! :)

      • Pretty sure the next step for us is a face-to-face meeting, right?

        Let’s do this…

        DJ Waldow
        Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
        @djwaldow

  6. Lisa

    I agree that Scott or anyone else would have what they have without Twitter. Twitter is a tool that we try and make our own with our platforms but if it were not Twitter, it would be something else. Yes, a tool like Twitter does expose us to a greater audience which does helps gain awareness of who we are and what we have going on, making friends we might not otherwise would have and keeping in contact with them regularly however if it died tomorrow how would we reach these people? We would scramble but would find ways (or least the most resourceful ones would) maybe better ways to bring people to the pages we own.

    Your analogies are always so thought provoking and true. I love Twitter but I also know that even the greatest shows go dark someday.

    @SuzanneVara

  7. I’m constantly reminding myself that Twitter is not only just a medium, it’s also just a tool. It’s the means to a whole lot of different ends. I too love Twitter and finding the opportunity to connect using it, oh the free trip to Hawaii I won. But as the tools change, I think our takeaway should be what we learned about how to connect with people as people. Both as individuals and on behalf of brands. Hopefully whatever is next will simply improve the way we do that.

  8. I think that Facebook could replace Twitter in a heartbeat and would probably fill the inevitable void that would appear if Twitter died.

    With three possible exceptions:

    1. The proliferation of apps that give Twitter’s simple platform power and flexibility (but maybe it wouldn’t be hard to handle that).

    2. The limits on followers/friends (although that can be circumvented with Facebook pages).

    3. Search: Facebook is the walled garden. Tweets can be found via various types of searching, but Facebook, she’s-a locked solid unless you’re really sneaky (or so I believe I’ve heard).

    Just my $0.02. There are still a ton of people who don’t see the value of Twitter updates, but they’ll play around in Facebook, leaving status updates and electronic trails, until their fingers go numb. I think that’s something important to consider.

    P.S. OK, I really do like (even love) Twitter. But I don’t think it will be huge crisis when it fails. I really can’t see Facebook failing.

  9. Back to your main point, however: I do agree that businesses shouldn’t be putting all of their eggs in the shiny new baskets while neglecting the “boring” fundamentals under their own control.

  10. LOVE this post! 100% agree that too many companies focus on Twitter, Facebook and other sites, when they don’t even have the basics done for their own website. It’s important to be where you’re audience is, but as things stand now/in most cases, you still have to drive them back to your main site to purchase.

    There’s no reason a company’s website can’t be as interactive/fun/etc as its presence on Twitter or Facebook. And like you mentioned, when a company has it’s own community it’s very powerful–in terms of monetizing, getting ideas and really tracking everything to see what’s working and not working.

  11. Lisa, like most of the other comments, I agree 100% with the thesis (theses?) of your post. However, to play Devil’s Advocate for a second:

    “I talk to small business owners every day who have a Facebook and Twitter account but that don’t have a Web site. ”

    Depending on their level of a) engagement b) web savviness and c) budget, in that order, I think a Facebook page is a perfectly appropriate “first website” for a business. It allows you to be indexed, have conversations with your customers, and have something to point your Local listings to. I am ALL for businesses having a website of their own, and especially a domain of their own, but some just don’t know where to start, or don’t have time to figure it out. Twitter and FB both have exceptionally low barriers to entry.

    However, I do see a number of small businesses getting involved in Social Media for all the wrong reasons–as you stated in your piece–because they think it’s COOL or because their competitors are doing it, or what have you. In 99% of cases, Twitter and Facebook cannot be your ONLY means of marketing your business.

  12. I’m thinking in writing a blog post about this idea, and I agree with you Lisa, after twitter, we will just move on to the next big thing. What that is? I have some theories

  13. This is a smart post.

    Definitely heed the call of not putting all your eggs in one basket. I’ll admit I’m an early adopter and try just about every new “thing” that comes along on the Internet. Mostly a personal curiosity, but also ‘research’ for what I do for a living.

    So how do we know what’s going to replace Twitter? We don’t.
    Did we know that Twitter was going to do what its done? No.
    Same question for Facebook: we had not a clue.

    The reality is we’ll never know what the ‘next big thing is.’ What’s going to replace Twitter? Don’t know but I’ll bet a 9 year old out there is going to create it.

    What I do know the key to the ‘game’ is staying engaged and experimenting with new technologies as they develop.

    One needs to stay relevant if one wants to thrive. Oh, and don’t forget about your eggs in that basket.

  14. The timing of this post really hits home for me. I just recently launched my own site because I was feeling the repercussions of not having a “web identity” and Twitter wasn’t going to fit the bill. Even when I am considering following someone new on Twitter I always click through to their website from their profile to learn more about them (that’s how I originally found this blog). I think someone must not have much to say if it can all be said with only a Twitter account.

    Greg

  15. The biggest part of this argument that people like to mention is “but if Twitter wasn’t here…” Well if Twitter didn’t exist, there would be so many other opportunities for us to grasp. Other ways that we’d look to grow relationships, gain business, learn, consume, etc. We live in the now and is easy for us to say that we wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for X, but rewind a bit and think – would I be spending those extra hours in the day doing nothing, or would I kick ass with the mediums/means that are in front of me?

    Glad you shed some light on this topic, Lisa.

  16. Great post. Twitter is a market. It’s one avenue we can use to market ourselves. Diversification is key. You hear financial experts say to put all your money in one basket and as you’ve so clearly stated, the same is true about marketing.

  17. It freaked me out, but you’re so right!!!
    This comment was amazing; “It’s lubricates the conversation and helps you get louder.” Well done Lisa, but we still have Twitter, so I’m going to tweet this :)

  18. This is a good post but I think some folks are missing the point a little point. Twitter is a platform that enables a certain new kind of communication that we all now feel is part of our lives. It enriches us both personally and professionally. Dreaming of what was there in the past is quite meaningless. The world is moving far too fast for us to stop and look back at what was. Let us embrace the new wholeheartedly and then create an even better future for all of us. Take a look at my creation TipTop and then tell me who is producing the magic that you see on that site. It is not Twitter, it is you, the user/contributor. Got it? Or, am I also missing the point?

  19. How Can I Push You From Lurker To Participant?

    I think you pushed me, simply by asking. I can’t remember anyone ever asking me to participate in their blog, not simply lurk. So today I’ll participate a little.

    Today’s blog was valuable. Twitter is a tool to an end. We just need to decide what our “end” will be. I have a very bright friend with tons of business experience who’s studying social media a bit too much. Every time I mention building a website or blogging he rolls his eyes as if I’m the one who doesn’t “get” the Internet. He may have all the followers in the world on social media but if he’s not pushing that traffic to a durable website and/or blog, how will he build relationships, establish credibility, make sales?

    So yes, 1 more lurker is a participant, today.

    Another reason some people lurk and don’t participate is because its crowded. I sometimes look at blogs with many commentators and wonder if my voice will be lost in the crowd or will my comments add anything unique to the conversation.

    Thanks Lisa, I enjoy your work and your writing.

    • Richard

      I really like your point about your voice being lost in the crowd or your comments not adding anything unique to the conversation. I feel that way (often) – this from a guy who comments quite a bit. So…at least you are not alone (ha ha).

      Depending on who the author of the blog is or the readership – the comments are often read, digested, and sometimes commented back. Not everything is comment-back-worthy, right?

      Happy to have you as a participant.

      DJ Waldow
      @djwaldow

  20. Probably my favorite post this month. You are so right, it makes me tear up a little. Twitter is a TOOL. It will be supplanted eventually. A tools-centric approach (and most especially a single tool-centric approach) to social media is insane.

    It’s the marketing equivalent of those crazy diets where you eat only papayas for a month or whatever. You know it’s insane, but it seems to be working, so you go for it.

    Ye have been forewarned about putting all your eggs in the Twitter basket.

  21. What if twitter vanished?….it would be replaced by a platform with a bulletproof business model. It is very likely that twitter’s “replacement” is practically ready for prime time somewhere out there…

    And you may, or may not, have to pay to transition from twitter to NuTwitter.

  22. Great article and I shared it through out my community. :) I agree that you have to plant more seeds. I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with smart companies that think that Twitter might be the way to go or this is their only social media channel. These same companies always state later that they did not get any traction. Love the article and all the comments. Great job.
    @ubiquity

  23. Love this article, Lisa (I call these meaningful posts articles since they carry as much if not more weight than the traditional notion of “article”).

    I totally get what you’re saying on every level. That we all LOVE Twitter and use it effectively, but that we’d create our opportunities in other ways if we didn’t have this medium. And, that, like all things in life, this too will fade, though probably not in the shadow of Google’s Buzz :-)

    It’s quite unsettling to think that the time and effort we’ve spent investing in the thousands of postings on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn could vanish. I’m exploring setting up a few pages on my personal blog to import all of my feeds from these social media platforms. Pages don’t necessarily have to be public but would serve as a repository. Your thoughts on this?

    Keep up amazing work, Lisa!!

  24. I’ve come at this from a different direction. I’ve been on the Internet in some form or another since 1995, and my “personal/brand” web site has evolved in many ways. At one point (a few weeks ago), I had a Posterous blog, a Blogger blog, *three* self-hosted WordPress blogs, a LinkedIn profile, a Facebook profile, a Gist account, Google Voice, Wave, Mail, Buzz, Docs, Calendar, Upcoming, MeetUp, Delicious, Stumble, Digg, Reddit, Disqus, IntenseDebate, ……. And you know what? I don’t even have a remote clue what other “private beta gizmos” I’ve signed up for. A couple of weeks ago I shouted, “ENOUGH ALREADY!”

    My point is that you can have your eggs in too many baskets, and I did. I deleted the Posterous and Blogger blogs. I merged all the WordPress blogs into one. I’ve deleted everything I could possibly delete from Google – Calendar is actually the only thing I use.

    I stay on Facebook only for two reasons – there are people I know that are *only* there, and I get event announcements there that I don’t get anywhere else. I don’t know why I stay on LinkedIn. I used to watch it regularly, but it’s mostly an “alumni organization” for me these days. I supposed I could migrate my LinkedIn profile to my blog, but that seems like a lot of work and I very much like the LinkedIn concept, even though I’m not really using it as a platform. I’m not using Gist, so I might just as well delete that account.

    But I’m staying on Twitter. It’s a point of focus for me both personally and professionally. Twitter and my blog are my real home on the Internet now – Twitter and my blog are my only two baskets for all practical purposes now. And I’ve invested a fair amount of time learning the Twitter API. I’m going to the Chirp Developers’ Conference, and – well – I’ll stop tweeting when they pry my cold dead fingers off the keyboard! ;-)

  25. Thank you for throwing this perspective out there. I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of Twitter, Facebook, etc., as I’ve been building the social media strategy for the Jolkona Foundation (http://www.jolkona.org). As Jay mentioned, Twitter is a tool that you can use to implement your plans and reach your goals–whether for personal or business.

  26. Lisa –

    Here’s a reason why I love this online stuff – Twitter, blogs, whatever. I went ice climbing yesterday for the first time ever. I was with a group of 11 dudes in Salt Lake City. As we were heading out to climb a wall of ice (wild, huh?), one of the guys says to me…is your blog called “Social Butterfly Guy” or something? Turns out, he is an avid fan of this blog (yours), read this post and was redirected back to mine. 3 hours later, I was belaying for him (his life, my hands).

    Small world, right?

    I’m not sure if this ties *entirely* to this post above, but I thought I’d share.

    We need to meet!

    DJ Waldow
    @djwaldow

  27. Scott Stratten’s great post on Twitter power led me to yours, Lisa. What good thinking, I couldn’t agree more. Yours is one of my favorite voices in the small biz-o-sphere, and this post reminded me why. Thanks much!

  28. Lisa, do you realize you have neglected your own site so much that the link no longer works? :)

    Mediums do come and go, and there is no substitute for the very uncommon, common sense marketing.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  29. I personally don’t use twitter, I’m not a huge fan of it really, but I do use LiveJournal, and it’s really fun.
    It helps me make lots of new friends and find out a lot of news info.
    It may not be the most well known site around like twitter, myspace, facebook, etc. but it does the job, I guess you could say.
    But even so I’ve got to agree with all you’ve said more or less.

  30. Great post, and the part that particularly struck a chord with me was the point you made when you said: “you need to ask yourself if you’re creating enough of “your” stuff on top of that”. I find it is very easy to get so busy with the different social mediums, that they become an excuse for my not getting any actual work done!

  31. Great Post, and some things that I do very much try and do myself.

    At this point, I do operate a blog, It was long before I even heard of Twitter that i saw the value in controlling your main creative output. When you are limited to the length of a single creative expression at some point it will become to small. While in 140 characters you can gain a quick insight. In a decent blog post you can actually learn something of value.

    I also think I approached Twitter/ Facebook a little differently, more as a means to direct people to my site/blog, rather then the other way round. It is kind of like when i had to make a hard point to a friend who was asking should the major partner logo go at the top with her logo, to get the benefit of the other companies previous exposure. In reality though who do you want to help build a reputation, your business/website/blog or that of a company who already is much better placed then you.

    Really makes you think sometimes when you think about just how you are actually promoting somethings.

  32. wow, this was ever encouraging. we just recently jumped on the twitter bandwagon and it seems so many organizations/people have been there for years and have built there whole existence from it. We were starting to feel a little overwhelmed with how behind we were. So it’s good to be reminded that twitter is not ‘the answer’ but a tool and to not just spend our time focusing on tweets. thank you!

  33. Lisa, I love your insights!
    I have followed your posts on and off for a while – sorry it’s taken me so long to say ‘thank you’ for all your conventional wisdom, talent and energy. Thanks!
    I know I am late on the matter, but I just jumped into Twitter and quickly found why there is so much love . . . thanks again.

    @va4mom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Comments links could be nofollow free.