I don't think it's nearly as useful as some people do, or has anywhere near the number of business and marketing applications some people do, but it's fun. Kind of like slow-motion IM with lots of people. (One issue with trying to use it for anything with dollars attached to it, though, is that their infrastructure appears to be melting down; I've experienced all kinds of issues, including the irritating "feature" that un-following people doesn't stop their tweets from showing up, and I've been hearing about all kinds of site performance issues from others. Execution matters!)
For those of you who have not used it: by default, when someone "follows" you (so your tweets will show up in their personal stream of tweets from others), you get an email. This is useful; when someone you know finds you and follows you, you know it, and then you can follow them (or not, if you don't want to). It's a good feature.
Right up until someone figured out: hey, what a great way to tell people we're on Twitter! I've gotten a couple of these from people clearly trolling for lots of followers. But I think I got my first corporate Twitter spam this week:
Todayshow (Todayshow) is now following your updates on Twitter.
Check out Todayshow's profile here:
You may follow Todayshow as well by clicking on the "follow" button.
And yes, it's the big time network TV program, the Today Show. Now, I'd rather tear my eyes out than even watch the Today Show; I'm not a big TV watcher, and this sort of chattery news as entertainment mostly leaves me feeling despair for the human race. So why, I wonder, did the Today Show decide that my updates about what my dog is doing or some glitchy tech issue I think one of my fellow Twitterees might help me with or just my mood as I sip my first morning coffee were so interesting that the Today Show staff needs to read them?
Nothing, of course; nobody at the Today Show is actually "following" me. What they've done is take a feature designed to facilitate social networking and used it to force a message about their marketing efforts into my inbox.
In other words... spam. Matt Lauer, you are a bad, bad man!
I'm sure some people who got these things were fans and are happy to get Today tweets. That's not the point; I'm sure some of those people getting email about V1agra and C1alis want to buy it, too. (They must, or the emails would stop, right?) That doesn't stop it from being spam.
And this, folks, is how a cool social networking tool turns to crap. Email marketing held the promise of highly personalized, relevant communications with customers, and lazy marketers turned into the same old interruption marketing - and consumers started tuning it out.
Twitter stops being fun when it leads to this stuff. I will probably turn off the email notification feature, which is a shame, because many of those emails have told me that someone I know is on Twitter and I've started following them. So to get rid of the annoyance, I have to make Twitter less useful.
The tragedy of the commons, marketing-style - sponsored by the Today Show.