Why Smart People Use Twitter

Brains On Twitter - The Anti-Social MediaSo I went to Wal-Mart this weekend because I wanted cheap crap at discount prices at 9 pm on a Sunday night.

Now, before I get any further with this story, I want to say, yes, this has everything to do with social media. So shut up.

Anyways, as soon as I parked my car I was greeted by a bright orange car with decals of paw prints on the sides and a huge Garfield sticker. What year is this? 1989? I was really disappointed there was no little suction cup stuffed Garfield hanging in the windows.

Anyways, I go into the store and move quickly to get the few items I need. As I get in line to check out, I’m preceded by a family that looks like they haven’t seen an ounce of culture since 1995, and and another family that has two children, both under the age of 8, out at Wal-Mart after 9 pm on a school night. Both families are buying more non-essential items, like tube tops, Wii remotes and furniture that looks like it was designed by a second grader.

High priorities here at Wal-Mart on Sunday night.

However after witnessing the Garfield car, the families that don’t know how to take care of their children, and the amalgamation of 200,000 square feet of crap in one ridiculously sized building, I realized there’s a reason I like Twitter so much.

You have to be smart and focused to use Twitter.

To create compelling messages over and over in limited format takes brains. Brains most people have, and brains the people shopping at Wal-Mart don’t have. Sure, on Facebook you can put all your crap in one space and attempt to organize it into some semblance of categories, but on Twitter you don’t get that. If you want to tell people about your loves and obsessions, you’ve got to do it in such a way that doesn’t drive the rest of human to tell you to shut up. You’ve also go to do it in space that is cripplingly small, not a 200,000 square foot retail cavern.

You also have to focus on a few topics if you want to build a great audience on Twitter. People have expectations on Twitter. Expectations you can’t control. They’ll expect certain things from you. You don’t always have to play to their expectations, but if you focus on a few topics you’re bound to do better than a crazy cat person who mostly shares his own blog posts and makes sarcastic tweets.

Most of all, if you’re good at Twitter, you’ve got some style to what you’re doing. Sure, that $140 futon may not be the most stylish thing, but the lime green cushion says something more about you than the choice to spend your time shopping at Target in your pajamas. With a limited space, every word counts, and your choices stand out even more.

Facebook, is the Wal-Mart of social media. It’s an 600 million member gorilla that can throw its weight around so much to affect the very nature how we use the web. Twitter is Target. It’s still huge, and there’s definitely crap in there, but there are also a lot of gems. MySpace is K-mart, struggling to hang in there and remain relevant in a land of big-box social networks that are too big for their own good.

The Garfield CarSmart people use Twitter because it’s big enough that most people they want to connect with are on there, and there’s a whole bunch of other great stuff for them to find if they look around hard enough. It’s still a big box social network, but there’s value beyond the huge amount of the masses on there.  Also, they aren’t greeted by the Garfield car when they use Twitter.

Are people smarter on Twitter? Do they actually drive cars that are decorated to look like other cartoon characters? I want to know where you think the smartest people hang out online.


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I think the Twitter/Facebook Target/Wal-Mart analogy is pretty on point. I think the ease with which you can Unfollow someone on Twitter helps filter out uninteresting things. If you start following someone and they don't really post anything interesting and/or post things that are really annoying, you can just Unfolow and move on. Whereas, on Facebook, most of those people are real friends or family. So you can't really Unfriend them, so you have to put up with a lot of dumb/uninteresting posts (although you can block them from showing up in your newsfeed....a very useful feature, which I've probably set for at least 1/3 of my 'friends'). Facebook has just become a place I go to share pictures with "friends" and see pictures of their kids, vacations, etc.

At high level the analogy with Wal Mart makes sense. But the actual story is just another example of issue simplification leaving out the actual essence - customer segmentation. As a consumer marketer I wouldn't never say that Wal Mart customers don't have the brains to tweet. Or that smart people use Tweeter - it's too superficial.

The day this blog has high level thinking is the day I stop drawing stick figures.

I absolutely LOVE this post! I HATE Wal-Mart but I still end up there picking up itmes here and there. I have strayed away from facebook but, again, I still end up on line a few times a week. I LOVE target! In high school I used to browse around there EVERYDAY and Twitter, yup I'm online daily checkin' out what's going on. This is awesome!

Controversy? OK. Interesting discussions

Despite all the controversy: 1) Enjoyed your blog 2) Still agree with you.

Do you paint yourself into corners often or was this article a unique event?

All the time. This is blog is for fun. Any learning that takes place is purely optional.

This post is perfection! I couldn't have said it better… 140 characters brings out intelligence and wit. Definitely tweeting this gem

Creativity thrives in confined spaces.

Meanwhile, intelligence suffocates. Fine if you want to call Spit My Dad Says "creative," but it's certainly not smart. Justine Beaver isn't creative either. He's a no-talent one-hit blunder whose career will thankfully be over when (if) his voice changes or he joins the 27 Club, whichever is first. He was "discovered" doing something soooo entirely original, singing crappy pap cover tunes from equally talentless pop singers like Bouncy Know-Less and Bratney Spears on BoobTube. If he weren't so deceptively cherubic (kind of like Damien with the three sixes embedded in his tangled beaver's nest up top), he'd be nothing more than another tweenage hobbyist who'd grow out of his playtime indulgences when he graduates high school (or drops/flunks out) and has to get a real life. Same goes for the other celebutards who are actively twerping (but whose claim to fame occurred before or not primarily because of Tw@tter), like Mr. and Mrs. Dummy Moore and Schweddy Baldwin and Miley Cyrus the Achy-Breaky Virus, they're not creative; well, they might be, but they're not talented. Nor do they come across as the brightest stars in the nulliverse. They're popular because they're headline grabbers, and people love a train wreck. Narcissism =/= creativity. A lot of creative people are narcissistic, or have some sort of personality flaw or mental disorder, but correlation does not necessarily equal causation. (Otherwise Charlie Sheen would be able to buy drugs and high-priced hookers with one of those Genius Grants.) My guess is that having an IQ far in upwards of your shoe size is a violation of Twitter's TOS. (And yes, even being the most obvious possible exception, the same goes for Shaq too.)

I guess that it depends on groups you hang out with on Twitter or Facebook.

Yeah, but somehow Twitter's simple follow and unfollow system makes it easier to filter the bs out and create a smarter conversation with the rest. In FB however I never unfollow (I don't know why, but it doesn't seem right, somehow), which means that I have to put up with the eating habits of all my "friends" on FB.

Somehow I don't think the people on Twitter are any smarter than the general population, especially considering the topics that are usually trending (things you would tell your ex, why you're hot, blah blah blah). Also, pretty much half of Twitter users don't have a college education, which is higher than the Internet average: http://www.quantcast.com/twitter.com/demographics?country=US Also, slightly higher than Facebook: http://www.quantcast.com/facebook.com/demographics?country=US

I don't think trends indicate much about Twitter, especially hashtag games. Trends would mean something if they were measured over long periods of time. Instead, they just measure what's hitting critical mass at any given time. Thus, why Justin Bieber trended for months.

Whether you are a marketer or business owner, spending 30 minutes talking - and more importantly, listening - with those people at Wal-Mart will fill you with more useful knowledge of how to improve your marketing or business than you will find in a thousand tweets, a hundred blogs, and fifty business books. But then again, I often find myself to be the contrarian in the room with few allies, so what do I know?

Wait, you mean talking to customers, listening to what they want, and implementing their desires can result in better sales? Everything I've learned in business has been a lie.

"Everything I’ve learned in business has been a lie." And everything you need to know about Twitter is accomplished while flunking out of kindergarten. Some call Twitter an evolution in communication. I call it how to succeed in epic failure without really trying.

Click on any trending topic or popular hashtag on Twitter and see what people pop up first. It makes Walmart look like Brooks Brothers.

1. People who shop at Walmart shouldn't judge other people who shop at Walmart. 2. Really? You have to be smart to use Twitter? #False. Pithy, maybe. But the amount of idiocy I encounter on a daily basis there is staggering. It just comes at you faster and in bite-sized format!

Idiocy does not equal not smart.

1. I judge everyone. Including myself. I just don't decorate my car with Garfield and take kids out after 9 pm on school nights. 2. You don't have to be smart to use Twitter. Smart people use Twitter. I encounter stupidity everywhere online. I used to have "Tweets I Hate" posts, which featured all the stupid stuff I saw on Twitter.

But smart people also use LinkedIn, Facebook, Quora, Foursquare and just about any other social network you can think of. And so do stupid people. Just like in real life, intelligence and stupidity are everywhere. I'm not sure I get your point, other than to shit on the people of Walmart while patting yourself on the back.

My original intention was to go into quality or the wares, in comparison to the size of the store. As in, both Target and Wal-mart have huge stores, but I can find less crazy things in Target. I got distracted by the people.

I never have understood twitter. Does that mean I'm not smart? I don't think you should judge how smart I am like I don't think you should be so judgemental of others. Twitter is a tool where you get to follow people who would never be your friends. That's a pretty sad and lonely hearts club too.

I have to take exception to your Walmart bashing - but that's only because I love the place and miss it dearly out here in Switzerland where shit closes at 6pm and how to inconvenience the shopper/customer is a national corporate past time. Nonetheless, as a prolific Twitter user, I fee flattered! :) The answer to your question is LinkedIn btw :) Either that or http://www.peopleofwalmart.com - I'm not exactly sure and I think the jury's still out on that one. Love ya J.

It's the judgmental folks who hang out at People of Wal-Mart.

Great analogies. Facebook = Wal-Mart Twitter = Target However, FB does have its uses. I am a big fan.

LinkedIn = Ikea. Intelligent and classy, but DIY assembly required.

Wal-mart has its uses too. Why else would I end up there at 9 pm on a Sunday?

"Facebook is Target." Shouldn't that read: "Twitter is Target"? I think that's a typo, or I'm really missing the point there. I do think you're on to something. The openness of Twitter makes it paramount to focus on a few topics. It creates a following interested in those topics, and it makes it easy to follow people that tweet about topics that interest you. The fact that the threshold for unfollowing is so low, creates an ecosystem that is geared towards quality of conversation.

Yeah, that slip up is a function of my inability to edit my own work.

Twitter is opinions and information sharing in 140 characters...I got plenty of those.

Characters? Opinions? Information? I have plenty of all of those.

The smart people are on LinkedIn. Actually, I think you make a great point here with Twitter. It really does take a lot of focus. I don't know, though, it seems like Twitter is just for those who have a serious case of obsessive compulsive disorder. "Must tweet this guy, must retweet, must reply, must tweet this article." Maybe not obsessive compulsive disorder, but definitely obsessive. Obsessive Twitter Disorder.

I have that. Where do I get treated?

Is it smart people, or mainly people who are succinct with the vocab? Or do you have to be smart to be succinct with the vocab in the first place?

In all seriousness, I think you have identified an interesting class based distinction that is emerging in social media. I think smart people use twitter because they have outgrown the social limitations of facebook. Unfortunately I don't really connect with twitter, it doesn't work for me, but I think smart people blog ... and then use twitter to make their work accessible. Oh, and maybe they drive a Copper Mini!

You're probably right. Smart people have more to say than in 140 characters. They also might be making videos on YouTube.

"Smart people ... might be making videos on YouTube." Riiiight, smart people like Rebecca "Friday Is The New" Black, Justine Beaver, the Nooma Nooma guy, and the whiny brat whose overindulgent fame whore parents fed their own sick want of attention and the stupid kid's aim to be the governor of New Joizee. (There isn't ANYONE in their right mind who wants to be the governor of New Jersey. Except maybe Snookie or Paulie Dee, but then again, they don't even have much of a mind between them to get anything right.) You know society is heading for a major downfall, and/or a bigger disappointment if there isn't a cataclysmic disaster in Silicon Valley, when the Lonely Girls and Soul-Jah Boys of today are the Amanpours and Spielbergs of tomorrow. As the Page Rank of these idiots goes up, the collective IQ of civilization takes a sharp turn southward. (In more ways than one, perhaps, when one considers that these teenage dimwits with way too much time on their hands and not enough homework or responsibilities appeals to a general ADULT audience that, to paraphrase a certain Mr. Foxworthy, is no smarter than a redneck.)

Haha I really liked those comparisons. I think I need to connect with smarter people on Twitter. I feel like 75% of all tweets I look at are god awful.

I'ma big fan of culling out tweeters of stupid updates I don't want to read or not relevant to me.

I don't even use Twitter, or any social networks for that matter. But I can say with confidence that yours is a conservative estimate. Sometimes being "the 99%" isn't necessarily a badge of honor. And to the average Twitter user, that's a little more than almost nearly half.

Love this post! I am a huge fan of Twitter and you explained it perfectly.


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