Twitter’s Fundamental Flaw

twitter_birdsThe following article written by Tim Klabunde was published in the Design and Construction Report, a publication for members of the Design and Construction Network.

A recent Sprint Nextel commercial included a brief glimpse into the world of Twitter. It depicted hundreds of little blue “Twitter birds” with small cell phone shaped text boxes above their heads. Looking at the group you could see that each bird was speaking a message towards their fellow blue friends. As the birds chirped they were creating a flurry of messages, yet each message was the same: “Me!”

This funny and quick snippet speaks volumes about the fundamental issue most people face when trying to leverage Twitter for business. That is the Twitter culture to focus on sharing about oneself.

How businesses fail with Twitter

To properly see the Twitter flaw we must first start with the basics of Web 2.0. At first the internet was primarily about online shopping sites and providing information. Even today you can see this in many corporate websites that are set-up as online brochures. Within a couple of years, however, things began to change. People began to realize that the fastest way to succeed online was to provide value, drawing a crowd from people that were looking for information and resources. This new interactive online environment became known as Web 2.0 and included web forms, blogs, social networking communities, and information resources. 

In the midst of these changes Twitter was started as a platform for individuals to share short updates of 140 characters or less to anyone that was interested in reading them. As Twitter became successful in strengthening relationships companies began to look for ways to leverage the growing platform to expand their businesses.

Unfortunately, many of the companies and individuals that have set out to leverage Twitter have failed. Most have missed the fundamental requirement of the new web, that in order to succeed you must provide value. Today many individuals and companies that try to use Twitter for business are “Me!” users rather than focusing on others. Those that have failed to embrace helping others in the community are ignored and filtered from Twitter updates by users.

How to succeed with Twitter

With the knowledge that providing value is the key to success on the web, it is easy to begin to see how you can become successful at turning Twitter into a true business tool. Instead of thinking about what you can gain from Twitter you must first start by thinking about how you can help people that follow you. Take these two questions: 

  1. Would you be excited to read someone’s twitter posts if they informed you when they were stuck in traffic, what they had for dinner, and what they were doing this weekend?
  2. Would you be excited to read someone’s twitter posts if they regularly contained leads for new work, great articles regarding your industry, links to requests for proposals, and information on local networking events they were attending?

The interesting thing about the second person is that not only would most people follow an individual that was providing those resources; they would also probably try to meet them at an upcoming event. Notably, they would be interested in building a relationship outside of the online environment. This new relationship development then becomes the basis for success through Twitter.

Building success online

Remember that Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogging, and other Web 2.0 sites are only tools that can help build a foundation for mutually beneficial relationships. You must personally evaluate what tools are best to help you reach your personal objectives, noting that some of these tools take much more time than others. Personally, I have chosen not to focus on Twitter but rather on providing value to others through blogging (, LinkedIn, and the Design and Construction Network (

Your turn

As you look at your goals for your online presence, evaluate what tools will work best for you. It will most probably be any number of online tools of which one might be Twitter. Regardless of the tools you choose, remember that success is found online when you provide value to others.

6 thoughts on “Twitter’s Fundamental Flaw

  1. Tim – Great article! You hit the nail on the head given the strengths and weaknesses of Twitter. One of the difficult aspects of that tool is finding who adds value. Most get caught up in the numbers game of trying to be followed (or follow) as many as possible. Of course as with many other things, less is more – quality trumps quantity every time. Well done!


  2. Tim:

    Very well articulated and I agree. Whether your strategy is Twitter or some other form of Social Media you need to 1) have a strategy for your objective and 2) engage others by sharing. The trouble in the construction arena is either the adoption or the penetration – and most likely both. More effective like-minded groups need to be developed (potentially leveraging new technologies that can encorporate twitter-type technology) to help proliferate its communication power.

    Nice job and in the spirit of Social Media I will tweet about your blog.

  3. John-
    Great note about quantity vs. quality. When I was first learning about Twitter I was surprised to find out that many people use TweetDeck or other software to filter the updates of people that they officially “follow.” You are correct, “quality trumps quantity every time.”

  4. David-
    Great thoughts! I am hopeful that in the Design and Construction industry will become one of the link-minded groups that you reference (it has had a great start). Thank you for your tweet and for your addition here on Cofebuz, your thoughts are welcome anytime!

  5. As Twitter continues to gain interest within the AEC community this is a timely and relevant overview. As someone who has been on Twitter for over a year, but has just started truly engaging with the medium, I would add that patience is an important virtue to bring to your strategy as it relates to Twitter. There is a lot of valuable content being tweeting for the AEC industry and I agree that the most important tactic is to take it away from a “me” conversation to a “what can I do for you” conversation. However, building a quality following, or even finding the right people to follow takes time and energy and is most successful if you realize the best approach to growth on Twitter is organic. The advice that I would give to any firm considering a Twitter account would be to build up relevant content, start following a small number of relevant people who are likely to follow you back and as your follower numbers increase, begin to follow more people who will in turn follow you. The last two pieces go hand in hand as one of the qualifiers people will look at before they follow you is your following to followers ratio. @valconyngham

  6. Pingback: Twitter for Business? | Fandotech Blog

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