Monday, April 27, 2009

One Size Does Not Fit All!

When it comes to ecommerce and social networking and for that matter just regular life, most of us form opinions about things from a very narrow viewpoint; our own experiences. If we don't like it or understand it then it is not worth discussing or paying attention to. I've always known this but never spent much time thinking about it. 

This morning, I was reading a blogpost by Ina Steiner about the impact of Twitter and this little factoid stood out: "Worldwide visitors to Twitter approached 10 million in February, up over 700% vs. a year ago" no matter how you shake it, 10 million visitors a month is huge. This information alone should, at the very least, encourage online merchants to check out Twitter to see if there are any benefits to be gained there, but then I read the comments to Ina's post:
"by: Jim S.
Sat Apr 25 15:38:57 2009
Maybe I'm in another world but I think Twitter tweets are annoying and the biggest waste of time yet. Who cares what someone is doing at 12:01pm? I put it right up there with people constantly yakking on their cell phones in public places."

by: clueless
Sat Apr 25 19:43:32 2009
Maybe I'm an idiot but I just do not get twitter. I have signed up for twitter. I still don't get it. What am I missing? I have a couple people I'm watching. But I still have no clue. Cannot see what all the fuss is about.

by: Ming the Merciless
Sat Apr 25 21:21:32 2009
IMO, Twitter exists primarily to promote the sales of 3G mobiles and expensive 3G net minutes.

It's another new tool for the growing hive mentality in this country.

Whether it or any of the other social networking sites like Facebook will actually produce significant member e-commerce sales remains to be seen."
This sample of comments points out the problem: "Because I don't understand it or think it is useful, it must be a waste of time" 

Rather than investigating Twitter to see if there are any benefits in its use, we take a few cursory glances and read about what someone had for dinner and make a judgement that it is a waste of time. It may be, but making a judgement from reading a few Tweets hardly gives you enough information to make that assessment.

I try to learn from others, as much as possible, because if I rely solely on my own perspective, I often miss the big picture. Twitter didn't immediately make sense to me, but once I spent some time with it, I began to see the power. It allowed me to connect more effectively with my blog readers. I was able to meet a wide variety small business owners, that I would never have met any other way -- Twitter is a great networking tool, for those who utilize it. Sure, there are seemingly unimportant things being tweeted, but that doesn't make the tool worthless.

I use Twitter, I see the value of Twitter for me, so my opinion is based on a narrow viewpoint (mine). My dad hates Twitter and thinks its a waste of time. He has never even been to the site. Twitter may be a waste of time for you, but I would encourage you to at least investigate whether it can help your business

Just my 15%


ms.pat said...

Randy - perhaps its mostly us older folks who see it as a waste of time. I went there, even signed up but haven't the foggiest idea what its all about nor have I been able to find decent instructions as to what to do. Most of the other new sites along this line are the same way. I've signed up for so many of them that if I tried to figure them all out it would take up most of my day. I'm still trying to figure out the difference between twitter and facebook, between facebook and myspace, between myspace and squidoo. I don't need fancy things like "walls to write on" or "friends" who are people I never met and don't know. These sites tend to try to be "cutesy" and I think that turns us older folks off. (shrug)

Siva said...

Hi Randy

I agree that without trying something seriously for a while you cannot make a concrete judgement on its usefulness. The next best thing to using it personally would be to get input from others who use the service or product and glean what aspects are of use to them.

Lastly, if a product or service is rapidly gaining popularity, for a small business its definitely worth seeing if there are any angles to leverage as small businesses can move more rapidly than the competitive big brethren.

Great post and right on point as usual :)


nadine said...

Hi Randy,
Twitter is like blogging. Is blogging good? Some of it is very good indeed. Lots of it isn't. Like other social media, twitter fosters emergent behavior, some of which is likely to be very interesting even if the vast majority of it is crap at any one time.

Speaking of ina, any comment on her blasting eBay's PR flacks for their unprofessional behavior?

frenchfryedfreud said...

you say it lets you connect more effectively with your blog readers.

How? Can you elaborate?

Aren't they already reading your blog?

You say you meet a wide variety of peeps that you couldn't have met any other way.

Why not?

What is it about Twitter that trumps other forms of communication in these situations?

Randy Smythe said...


I just read David's blog post. eBay has certainly changed their tune about Ina's reporting in the past year or so.

I haven't talked to Ina about this, and I can't comment specifically about this but I have heard several eBay PR folks say; "what's up with Ina?" Intimating that there had been a change in the tone of her reporting. David, basically confirmed this.

I think there has been a change, but not but not necessarily in her reporting but in the fact that she has been blogging over the past two years.

When she was just a reporter there wasn't the tone wasn't as noticeable, what she writes in her blog is much different than what she writes as reporter and the opinions expressed and the topics she has discussed on the blog have (in eBay's eyes) tainted everything that she writes.

Again it is a perception issue and David is defending her as he should.

Randy Smythe said...


There are readers of my blog that I now count as friends because of Twitter. There are also sellers all over the country that I've met for the first time on Twitter and when I attend a conference in North Carolina, I get to meet them in person for the first time.

John Lawson (ColderIce) and I had never officially met before but thanks to Twitter I count him a friend and met him officially for the first time today (even though I've talked to him on the phone several times).

Twitter is just a tool to that I use to make these connections.

nadine said...

Hi Randy,
Yes, Ina has been blogging, and dare we say, interacting more with eBay sellers on her blog? blogging being a social medium?

Naturally, eBay PR flaks would think less of any reporter or blogger who talks much to the actual users of the site. They prefer reporters and bloggers (like their untutored inhouse guy) untainted by too much contact with the disgruntled customers.

Defensive bunch of overpaid hacks imo, like that clown Mallabo who was absolutely busted for some juvenile "anonymous" behavior on Ina's blog a few months ago. David refers to the incident.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Randy, just wanted to be sure you saw this on Twitter. Reuters today:

"Many Twitters are quick quitters, finds study"


frenchfryedfreud said...

Let me ask you again:

What is it about Twitter that makes it a better medium for meeting people than any of the many other ways already available?

You mention John. Why couldn't you have just texted each other? Why was Twitter better than talking on the phone? or email? or IRC?

You say there are readers you now count as friends because of Twitter but that tells me nothing.

Obviously you could have contacted each other through email. Why Twitter?

Just to be clear, I understand that there are situations to which Twitter may be ideally suited, such as the head of a large organization needing to disseminate information to a great number of people at once instantly.

But it is confusing to read examples like the ones you give because I can easily think of alternate ways of accomplishing the same thing without getting involved with another widget.

I am not against Twitter. I am not knocking it anymore than I knock Blackberries or Instant Messaging. Two other means of communication I have no use for.

Bob said...

I think it isn't really about "Ina's tone".

It's more to do with the fact that the content she discusses are ongoing ebay seller changes/problems that ebay would rather not see brought to light.

If Ina reports on a verifiable technical glitch or how sellers see ebay fuzzy math as a fee increase instead of what ebay calls "an adjustment to the back-end of fees"....than I guess those seller issues equate to "tone"...

I'm sure if Ina could find good news to write about ebay, then she would. Randy, I think you faced the same situation as an ebay blogger...

Randy Smythe said...


Maybe I should have said, it is an ideal tool for me. I don't like MysPace or Facebook, IM, email etc. in most cases requires me to know an email address or IM ID.

Twitter is part discussion forum, part IM, part party line, part news source, part gossip, partly entertainment and works for me and my style. It may not work for everybody but it works for me.

I would not have used those other tools you mentioned to me the folks I have met on Twitter. I wasn't looking for them, I stumbled upon them through folks I followed.

Et tu, Brute! said...

I am on the run so don't really have time for a response at length.

I am now an Etsy seller, among a couple other venues. But let's just take Etsy. Many Etsy sellers implement Twitter as a tool.

I haven't yet, but will be looking into it more seriously in the future. My hands are full right now with a special needs family member.

I do know it takes learning, and working. And yes, it will lead to sales. A friend featured one of my items on HER Twitter blogging, and it lead to a couple sales. The traffic I STILL get on that one single item is four times anything else.

I think as a group we have to move away from the "ebay" mindset. To earn means that we are going to have to work really hard in other places. Other sites. IT's what those earlier eBay sellers did.

Twitter is different, and vastly so. AND, it has to be learned. It is the call of each individual on how much they are willing to let go of the past, and approach the future. There is a lot I actually prefer over the ebay "past".

Twitter, from my research, is a viable tool, but it has to be learned. That is what I have learned from those who use it.

I've heard that Bonanzle sellers also Tweet. I don't think successful sellers blow a horn that makes no noise.

So to speak.

Anonymous said...

Let's get the records straight.....

The incident were eBay's PR guy allegedly Mallabo made that comment was March 2008, not just a couple months ago. Why they are discussing it now I have no idea. Plus, I know I would never jump to such conclusions, they had no hard facts to say it was they same person yet they posted his name. Well actually, Ming posted the name (try to figure that one out). How did Ming get this info?

Plus, why do they feel that they should be the spokepeople for eBay? eBay has people for that and even created their own blog in house.

Bob said...

@last anonymous...

If you choose to limit yourself to the info ebay will give you on ebayink, then by all means stick to it.

For more insights into ebay issues, (such as covert deals with corporate retailers, like Buy), you should read other blogs as well..

nadine said...

eBay mgmt are not competent people and make their decisions based on bogus metrics.

One result of this is that spew bad information, try to hide their doings from those who will be affected, change their minds often, and then try to spin their failures into tales of success ("Oh did we say we were going to compete in retail? You are too stupid to understand what we meant! We compete in the secondary market! and anyway, Paypal is our real business!")

Having journalists like the Steiners who keep tabs on them and refuse to submit to corporate-imposed amnesia is invaluable.

Stefan said...

One problem with Twitter is that people are signing up in droves, but for one reason or another, many of these same people just don't seem to "get it." Some have even suggested "quitter" rates as high as 60 percent.

Regardless, even if Twitter isn't right for you, you need to understand that it *is* right for millions of people. Any business owner that just completely ignores the Twitter phenomenon is missing a big opportunity, plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

hey if u want to give away yr best ideas to complete strangers and not get paid for them, knock yrslf out...

Is that 140 characters?

Charleen Larson said...

I've looked into Twitter. I understand how it works. I understand what people do with it. Still, it currently has no place in my business plan. Should that change, I'll sign up for an account, but by then I'm sure the Twitterati will be onto the Next Big Thing.

What I find most amusing about Twitter is the defensiveness of users who can't seem to stand the idea there are people going through their daily lives unTwitterpated.


Mr. Cisco Router Consultant said...

For "business development" Twitter is definitely only a fit for certain types of people.

It fits some people, businesses and personalities to promote via Twitter - and others it does not.

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