Commentary

Don't Get Too Excited About Twitter's Integration With iOS 5, You Geek

As I do nearly every weekday, I spent about 45 minutes this morning trolling my favorite sites to get a bead on what’s going on in both the big world, and the smaller social media one. As usual, the most useful site to help me determine what is really on the minds of the social media-erati was a Twitter byproduct called Tweeted Times. In case you’ve never heard of it, it’s an aggregator that assembles a personal newspaper of what the people I follow are tweeting about.

Today, the top news of the day was about Twitter’s integration into Apple’s now available iOS 5. Which is understandable, if social media is your business. But I also think it’s an indication of our industry’s tendency to get excited about things that ultimately don’t matter  (And, yes, I include myself in the group of social media people who often get excited about things that don’t matter!)

Yes, this integration is big news, of a sort. But how much will the average user care? In case you can’t tell, I’m going to argue it’s not all that much.

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Heresy, you say? Not really. Here’s why. The great thing about Twitter -- which is that it’s a hugely public platform -- is also why it’s not for everybody. And it never will be. If anything, the world seems to be moving toward more selective sharing, although that shouldn’t be misconstrued to mean less sharing. Facebook, spurred by what was the original key differentiator of Google+, now makes it easier for users to be more selective about who they share status updates with. In an interview yesterday, Google+ VP/product Bradley Horowitz told AllThingsD that the amount of Google+’s traffic that consists of more private sharing is “trending slightly up.” (An earlier figure had said that private sharing accounted for two-thirds of the fledgling social net’s traffic.)

Feel free to insert a joke here about how two-thirds of nothing is still nothing, but I think the point is made: people now have the tools to be more selective about sharing, and they are starting to use them.

Now, let’s turn around and look at some Twitter stats. It turns out that an awful lot of people who are on Twitter don’t participate in Twitter. They just watch. Twitter stats are not the easiest thing to come by, but, according to statistics compiled last week by Social Talent, some 40% of Twitter’s 100 million active users don’t tweet at all. Presumably, they just follow Lady Gaga and call it a day. Or a month. Why? Because Twitter’s definition of an active user is someone who logs in just once a month. (In fact, half of all tweets come from just 20,000 accounts, which is a stat I’ll drill into some other time.)

So, can we expect those 40 million Twitter users to get excited about enhanced ways to use Twitter to share on iOS 5? No, because they don’t use Twitter to share in the first place. While for some this integration will be an incentive to use Twitter to share, most people will keep sharing where they always have: in the more controlled environment of Facebook -- or maybe even Google+. If these so-called active users wanted to share pictures with the entire world, instead of their 200 Facebook friends, they would have already started doing it.

I’m sure that in this column I come off as a Twitter-hater. I’m not. For me -- and many of you -- Twitter is an invaluable resource, a virtual water cooler, and a place to share content. The idea for today’s column wouldn’t have surfaced without it., I’m on it every single day.

But let’s get real. It’s too public a platform to be for everyone, and all the great integration in the world won’t turn it into one.

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