Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A brief thought on tweeting and retweeting those points of interest

Twitter skeptics would argue that most people have no "real audience" for their tweets. Users who don't have thousands, hundreds, or even tens of followers must just be shouting into an echo chamber when they're tweeting and retweeting links they find interesting, right?

Not necessarily. Over the past few months, Twitter has become a way to gauge mass popularity and interest in certain topics, highlighted especially by the big search box on Twitter's redesigned homepage.

If you feel as if your single little tweet about some funny thing you saw in the news will go unheard in the short-term, think of yourself part of a bigger picture. Real-time news aggregators like OneRiot and Delicious keep track of mentions, and if enough people feel compelled to tweet something, it shoots to the top of these lists, getting even more people to see it. Sure, maybe only a handful of your followers will get to read your tweet, but you sharing it demonstrates that yet another person found it worthy of sharing.

That's a driving force behind the idea of the "social web," because it's the users and readers, not the editors and executives—who are constantly deciding which content "really matters" and is "worth reading." Most news sites, like the New York Times, for example, show their "most popular" and "most emailed" stories, so readers can see what's hot at a glance.

This kind of model, where popular links get the most attention, means that we're trusting the taste of lots and lots and lots of other people. Often times, that really funny link isn't so funny, or just really annoying. But you can't deny that a lot of the time, you can StumbleUpon (get it?) some very cool stuff.

So do not tweet and retweet in vain. But for the sake of finding what's relevant and popular and worthy of my click, try talking about yourself less, and what's happening around you more.

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