A recent Sunday Mail article listing South Australia’s most prolific tweeters has stirred up a lot of discussion.
I was briefly quoted in the article, and in this post today I’d like to make some observations about the fall out.
The article set out to “reveal our 100 most active tweeters”. Most active was measured according to the number of tweets that have been sent from the account. The article then commented on the demographic profile of the most prolific tweeters: most being female and young. Twenty eight males were on the list. The Sunday Mail then attempted to explore why the list has a greater female representation.
Criticism of the article
I’ve seen tweets and blogs criticising the article for:
- Basing an article on number of tweets rather than, say, influence measures or the number of followers
- Listing people who have only recently joined Twitter
- Listing people who, in the opinion of the complainers, tweet ‘spam’
- Focusing on ‘quantity’ rather than ‘quality’, whatever that means
What a lot of snobs we are.
So what if the list entrants tweet a lot? So what if they joined Twitter just six or 12 months ago? So what if they tweet about transport, Justin Bieber, their homework, their breakfast, what they’re watching on TV. So what if they don’t have as many followers as you? So what if they score low on a social media influence tool?
They can tweet about what they like. Social media is there to be used and enjoyed as we see fit. Who are we to determine what type of tweets are valid and what constitutes spam? Who are we to say what ‘quality’ is?
We were all beginners on Twitter once. We’ve all shared vacuous tweets (and always will), we’ve all had people unfollow us for varying reasons.
I’ve seen some local Twitter users and bloggers disseminate absolute rubbish. I’ve seen them pontificate about subjects I couldn’t give a hoot about, sharing opinions I disagree with, bombing hashtags without regard to that hashtag community, whining about their illnesses and their employers and their ex lovers. But it’s their right. And if they’re enjoying social media, if it’s helping them fill a need in their lives, more power to them.
We don’t know why some individuals are extremely prolific on Twitter. We don’t know their personal circumstances. What if they’re housebound? What if they’re an international student struggling to find friends in Adelaide? What if they’re finally stumbled onto a sensational tool like Twitter, which enables them to share their thoughts with their followers and feel like they have some connections for the first time in their lives?
We don’t know why some tweeted their way onto the most prolific list, but I sincerely hope they’re having a good time and that the fallout from the news article hasn’t deflated them.
The list interested me …
… and some people won’t admit, but the list interested them too. I wasn’t aware of who tweeted the most in South Australia. Were you?
I had never heard of the top three. That’s interesting to me.
I had never heard of a lot of people on the list. Sometimes I think I operate in my own little Twitter vacuum and need to get out more, especially when I often interact with groups like the @socadl community. There’s a danger that you can tend to think you know the local ‘Twitter crowd’ when in fact there are many more out there enjoying the platform – apparently using it voraciously – who you didn’t even know existed.
As for the veracity of basing an article on numbers, we analyse by numbers all the time. Yes, you’re the Devil if you focus on stark numbers in social media land. But we crunch the numbers in newspaper and online articles all the time – because it generates discussion. Who has the leading number of possessions in the AFL right now? How many outstanding questions is the Government yet to answer on the Questions With Notice list in Parliament? How many trains were late this month? How many call outs did the SES attend during the last storm?
Who tweets the most in SA? It’s entirely valid to take a look.
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I don’t turn to mainstream press for social media analysis. I don’t expect the Sunday Mail or The Advertiser or West Australian or Sydney Morning Herald to trawl through influence tools to try to ascertain Who Wins Twitter. I read Mashable and TNW and RWW and countless other blogs. I follow links shared by others, and I ask and answer questions in social media communities.
You know what? It’s the same in a lot of other industries and we should get over it. Do you think lawyers, doctors, teachers, vets, scientists turn to mainstream daily papers for insights into their craft? Of course not. They have their own journals, blogs, online communities and papers that they trust. And they’re similarly frustrated when a mainstream newspaper can only take a slice, a peek, at their craft.
In any case, if influence tools were used for the Sunday Mail article, we all know there’d be an incredible fuss about that. “Why was that influence tool used?” “ That influence tool fails to measure this this and this.” “How can that person be more influential than that person?” and of course “What does influence really mean, anyway?”
Where the article did fall down
The headline. The Sunday Mail headline let it down and set everyone a flurry.
“They’re tops when it comes to Twits”.
One: the use of the term Twits is derogatory and overdone by the media. We know it’s to help non-tweeters laugh at us. We’re Twits. It’s now time to point fingers and laugh at us.
Two: the use of the term ‘tops’ may have given quick readers the impression it was a piece that looked at the quality of a Twitter account, or the number of followers. But on reading the first few paragraphs, the list is quickly put into context.
Just carry on tweeting people, and do please try to enjoy.