Intellectual Voyeurism: The Understated Value of Twitter
People in the editorial, advertising, and tech world love Twitter, but for every diehard, there are two others who don’t really get what the big deal is.
You get a curated stream of the best stuff on the web!
–I have an RSS feed for that.
It generates clicks and shares of your content!
-So does every other social network.
You make invaluable connections!
–I do that on LinkedIn and, you know, in real life.
The problem with these arguments is that they fail to convey Twitter’s unique offering: the ability to listen in on conversations between the brightest minds in your industry.
It’s the ultimate intellectual voyeurism, and it’s useful as hell. I love being able to see Aaron Levie and Eric Jackson — two of Business Insider’s top tech people on Twitter — trading barbs. Watching Jeff Jarvis dish wisdom to New York’s top editors has inspired half of my good ideas as a content strategist (and some of my bad ones, too).
Everyone talks about the value of actively engaging on the platform, but passively listening in can be even more creatively inspiring. After all, that’s why people pay thousands of dollars to attend conferences with big-name speakers. On Twitter, those big names can be a lot less guarded than they are on stage.
You can’t consistently find open and accessible conversations between industry leaders anywhere else on the web (except Reddit, in some cases). Sure, you can subscribe to Pete Cashmore’s Facebook feed, but he’s likely keeping the best conversations restricted to “Friends,” which makes sense. Facebook started as an exclusive, closed social network, and so people treat it that way.
Twitter is a different animal thanks to its origins. It launched in 2007 at SXSW Interactive, amongst a crowd of industry influencers in editorial, tech and advertising. Most of them were strangers, and all of them were hell-bent on gaining exposure for themselves and their companies.
Twitter set up two huge screens in the conference center streaming tweets, and people signed up, hoping to see their messages on the big board. When the influencers left Austin, they kept using Twitter. When Twitter added a feature allowing people to reply to each other, they started talking. And kept talking. Bringing us to where we are today.
If you’re not into Twitter, give it a shot. Go on a conversation discovery ride. It’s like being a fly on the wall, except a lot less dangerous and disgusting.
Image courtesy of The Daring Librarian/flickr