Rethinking The Value Of Twitter

Like a lot of people, I’m beginning to suffer from Twitter-fatigue and wondering whether I should just dump the whole thing. Oh, for the old days, when the biggest complaint about Twitter was that too many people were tweeting about what they ate for breakfast.  

Now it’s worse, with too many people tweeting about what they were THINKING at breakfast.

Twitter hasn’t really reached its full potential as an enhancer and promoter of television, either. There was a time when I thought TV and Twitter would become inextricably linked in a kind of call-and-response mechanism, with people actively engaged in Twitter conversations about what they were watching on TV.

That’s not to say that Twitter and television are unconnected.  It’s just that Twitter needs TV a lot more than TV needs Twitter.  During prime time, for example, I’d bet that at least half of all tweets concern something that’s on television, whether it’s a TV show, sporting event or news development.



Of course, a huge amount of Twitter activity consists of retweets of TV content, including late-night skits, sports highlights, snippets from news shows, or memes from reality shows.

Twitter’s got a couple of problems when it comes to establishing TV-related connections.  First, it’s not as popular as you’d think.  Every reporter is on Twitter and seems to think everyone else is, too. But less than a third of Americans have Twitter accounts and most of them are not very active.  

Then there’s the problem that so much of TV is time-shifted. You can’t be in community with other fans of a TV show if you’re watching it at a different time.

But the real problem with Twitter is that it’s so hard to find the tweets you want to see or to have your own tweets seen by the people you want to see them. For all of Twitter’s efforts to manage this, the newsfeed is still a gush of unrelated content that frequently has little to do with your interest at the moment.

Here’s an illustrative story:

Last Nov, 2, as Game Seven of the Cubs/Indians World Series reached its breathtaking climax, I posted on Facebook “Baseball is the greatest game,” and immediately got 20 “likes.” I was astonished that so many people were still watching the game at 11:00 p.m. and that so many had Facebook open at the same time.

I posted something similar on Twitter but the tweet went into a void. Did anyone see it? Who knows? If I want a warm and fuzzy feeling, I go to Facebook.

There are four main categories of Twitter users.  First, there are the actual newsmakers: the president, the pope, Katy Perry (100 million followers!) and other movie stars, politicians, basketball power forwards, etc. They have tens of millions of followers but hardly follow anyone back. For these folks, Twitter is a great way to get their message out unfiltered.  

A second major category are brands, including TV networks and specific programs, who use Twitter as a trendy form of marketing. Some networks are better at tweeting than others, but I’m not sure how much it really matters.

One traditional video promo on a prime-time show will have far more reach than any single tweet, no matter how well crafted. The exception to this – a big one – is when a show tweets out vital content. “Carpool Karaoke,” for example, has been seen by far more people on social media than on “The Late Late Show With James Cordon” itself.

A third category of important Twitter users are the wordsmiths – comedians who make jokes, reporters who tweet all day long about the news, and other professional kibitzers. Myself, I follow quite a few television critics. Theoretically, they could have an impact on what shows I will watch, but their Twitter accounts are so mired in politics that they’ve lost a lot of credibility.

The biggest category of Twitter users is the hoi polloi – the millions of users who have one or two hundred followers and tweet occasionally or rarely – and who are the ultimate target for the other three categories of tweeters.  

As a Twitter user firmly in this last category, I worry that I might be wasting a lot of my time.  I get a lot more of my new from NYT and WSJ news alerts than I do from Twitter; I’m annoyed by half the tweets I read; I don’t even know a third of the people who are following me; and among the followers I do know, only a handful seem to be reading my tweets.  And I’m just not learning very much about TV via Twitter.  

I don’t want to get rid of Twitter altogether, because it’s still a good way to kill time when I’m standing in a slow-moving line, but maybe I should emulate the advice of those closet-organizing gurus and stop following people who don’t give me joy.  

Time for a full Twitter audit before I ditch the whole thing.  








3 comments about "Rethinking The Value Of Twitter".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, June 20, 2017 at 9:26 a.m.

    Interesting perspectives, Gary. Regarding Twitter's supposed impact on TV shows, Nielsen findings indicate that, except for some unusual event the actual amount of tweets sent and/or received about primetime TV shows ---as a percent of the measured audience---is very small. On the other hand, re your point about the extent of delayed viewing for TV shows, if one takes all dayparts and all program genres, the percentage of the audience that watches on a delayed basis is very small---around 10-12%. The figures for primetime broadcast TV network shows are considerably higher than the norm but this genre of TV fare is a small part of the average person's daily intake of TV content.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, June 20, 2017 at 8:09 p.m.

    Why they call it

  3. PJ Lehrer from NYU, June 25, 2017 at 12:46 p.m.

    But it did make me want to buy something...

Next story loading loading..