If a Tweet Falls in a Forest…

I’ve long had the feeling that much of what I (and others) tweet about is like the old saw about a tree falling in the forest. Is anybody there when I tweet and, even if they are, are they paying attention?

Well, recent research done by Sysomos¬†indicates that 71 percent of the 1.2 billion tweets they reviewed over a two-month period produced no replies or re-tweets. Further, the study indicated that when a retweet does occur, it’s most likely to occur in the first hour after someone initially published the tweet.

Egad! Are we all just blowing in the wind? Maybe. Although, I would offer some caveats:

  • Many, many people online just don’t like to “get involved.” Yet they’re out there. (Think of them as the “little creatures of the forest” watching–and listening–as the tree falls, but not choosing to make themselves apparent.)
  • With Twitter, it’s not necessarily about creating conversation. Often it’s just about creating awareness. I’m finding this is particularly true with some of my clients who are literally “brand new and unknown” – Twitter is a great way to easily, and inexpensively, create awareness (depending, of course, on what it is they have to be aware of).
  • Timing is everything. I like to spend time on social media at the end of my typical work day, but I need to recognize that this may *not* be when my audience is online. To be effective, I need to determine when my “one hour window” is likely to be and then tweet – or schedule tweets – during that timeframe. And that’s what you need to do too. Who are you trying to reach? When are they likely to be online?
  • There’s safety–and success–in numbers. Taking part in online Twitter events that appeal to your audience can be a good way to leverage the chance of being heard. Tweet-ups can be one way to do this; you can organize your own, or join others’ events.

I’m not ready to give up on Twitter. At the same time I’m not going to suggest that it is a great–or even a good–tool for everyone. But I’d say the same thing about other communication vehicles as well: radio’s not for everyone, billboards aren’t for everyone, etc. I’m a firm believer that the right answers for any given communication need for anygiven product, service or appeal, will always depend on the answers to two deceptively simple questions: 1) What are your goals? Who are you trying to connect with?

If you’re out there tweeting, my recommendations would be to clearly identify who you’re attempting to connect with and why; learn about when they’re most likely to be online and tweet, or schedule your tweets, during those timeframes; considering engaging in some online events that would give you a real-time connection with your audience and–above all–make sure that you’re measuring your efforts in some way.

Would love to hear about efforts that are working, best practices for generating conversation or your thoughts on the value of Twitter and other social media tools.

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