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Avoiding Twitter

How often have you heard the thought-provoking comment – all that glitters is not gold?  It’s offered as a reminder – or warning – that things aren’t always what they appear to be.


This bit of advice comes to mind as I encounter a growing number of online and print articles about Twitter…the latest being an excellent, in-depth piece from The Financial Brand website.

According to The Financial Brand researchers, one in five banks has quit using Twitter.  My immediate reaction to the headline is “Finally, it’s about time.”

What a relief.  For a while, I thought the entire world had gone Twitter-mad.

Launching on July 15, 2006, as a 140-character alternative to text messages, it was a god-send to the spelling- and punctuation-challenged young folks.  It was the pinnacle of brevity.

I see it as the modern day equivalent of the Morse code – a cryptic code understood only by its users.

It was immediately adopted by the nation’s young people to feed their insatiable need to stay in touch 24-7.

Unfortunately, its rapid success quickly caught the attention of the angel investors and venture capitalists trolling Silicon Valley hoping to get their claws into the next big thing.  Much like the nation’s pharmaceutical companies hoping to hook the entire population on drugs, the high-tech money dealers were hoping to hook the entire world on sending non-important, 140-character messages to anyone with a mobile device.

The rush was on – content be damned.  It was all about volume…keeping the twitter pipeline filled with drivel.  It’s become a rain-swollen river of acronyms and misspelled words sans punctuation.

Of course, as most cynical folks know by now, the ultimate goal is monetization and a lucrative IPO.  Think Facebook.

Now, seven years later, it appears the ultimate goal is to become a media empire.  Today, tweeting includes streaming live video and posting ads on Craig’s List with more undoubtedly to come.

Along the way, many of the nation’s banks and credit unions jumped on the Twitter bandwagon lest they be labeled Luddites and left behind.  Shoot first, ask questions later.

Well, now it’s later and as you’ll learn by reading the data-packed article on The Financial Brand website, it’s not worked out that well for a growing number of banks – particularly the smaller community banks.

Don’t get me wrong, Twitter does provide value at times.

It’s an excellent channel for providing breaking news and keeping the right people quickly informed as to what is happening minute to minute.

Done right, it enables some businesses to enjoy a two-way communication with its Twitter-using customers.

I’ve even read stories about it helping bring about regime change in some countries although I’m dubious as to the actual role played by Twitter.

On the other hand, it’s also an excellent channel to motivate a flash mob to storm a local store to free some of the merchandise being held hostage on store shelves.

And most important, for those with way too much time on their hands, it enables them to learn where Lady Gaga is having lunch on Friday or what Justin Bieber is doing at 10:00 Monday evening.

To me, the proof that Twitter is more hype than substance can be found on the Twitaholic.com website.

A quick check on Saturday provided a list of twitter users with the largest following.  The top six are:

  • Lady Gaga with 3.14 million followers
  • Justin Bieber with 3.10 million followers
  • Katy Perry with 2.9 million followers
  • Rihanna with 2.7 million followers
  • Barack Obama with 2.4 million followers
  • Britney Spears with 2.2 million followers

Does anyone seriously believe that the president personally sits around tweeting all day – or reading tweets?  I didn’t think so.

In today’s overhyped world, almost anything can be rationalized – even Twitter.

Yet, I don’t see it as a communication panacea.  I see it as contributing to media clutter.  Any message delivered by a tweet can just as effectively be delivered by one of any number of other communications channels.  The proof is the number of people managing quite well without Twitter.

Frankly, I believe Twitter makes little or no sense for the nation’s community banks and credit unions with small marketing budgets and a one- or two-person marketing team.

It’s not cost-effective to assign a full-time, highly trained employee to create and send tweets while sifting through a morass of incoming tweets seeking the occasional morsel that may or may not be meaningful.

Let’s be honest, consumer banking isn’t so important to most of us that we need a constant interchange of 140-character updates about anything financial.

In a vastly over-communicated world, tweeting is just another irritating distraction – much like those aggravating phone calls from telemarketers trying to sell us stuff we don’t need or want.

As for Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, I’m a big fan.  I’m very pleased that he created and launched Square.  To me, Square makes a much stronger contribution to our economy than the message tsunami he created with Twitter.

I don’t hold Twitter against him.  Originally, he was simply looking for a faster alternative to the more grammatically correct, time-consuming text message.  I hold it against the venture capitalists looking to make a fast buck on every new software application that comes along.

I’m still trying to figure out why my spouse, grown son, and four-year-old grandson are addicted to Angry Birds.

By the way, I strongly suggest you take the time to read the informative article, “Tweet This: 1 In 5 Banks Are Twitter Quitters,” on The Financial Brand website here.  It’s an excellent read.

To learn more about who uses Twitter, there’s an interesting article, “Finally, a look at the people who use Twitter,” posted July 31, 2012, based on Pew Research Data.  It’s available here.

Tagsacronymsall that glitters is not goldangel investorsAngry BirdsbanksBritney SpearsCraig's Listcredit unionsFacebookflash mobIPOJack DorseyJustin BieberKaty PerryLady GagaLudditesmedia cluttermobile devicesMorse codepinnacle of brevityprint articlesRihannaSilicon Valleysmaller community bankssoftware applicationSquarestreaming live videotelemarketersThe Financial BrandTwitaholic.comTwitterventure capitalists