The Death of Twitter

Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.

Yogi Berra

You read it here first, folks: Twitter — at least as it is structured today — is going down. Oh sure, it’s easy to be a contrarian: simply watch where everyone is going and then head in the opposite direction. But the media attention on Twitter means we need to monitor its impact on social interaction — especially recruiting. That said, there are real reasons why the social media phenom Twitter is poised to become a victim of its own success.

The famous Yogi Berra quotation above actually contains a nugget of perspicacity: the “nobody” Yogi was referring to were people like him (e.g., ballplayers and other celebrities) who began avoiding a popular restaurant because it was too crowded. Probably one of the reasons so many diners flocked to the place was to see the celebrities who put it on the map. As soon as it became a destination for the tourists, the celebrities had gone on to more exclusive destinations.

Twitter grew at 33% in January; 55% in February; and 131% in March. And that was before Oprah logged on. With such a hockey stick growth trajectory, every person on the planet will have a Twitter account by the end of this year.

We know, of course, that this won’t happen. First, there is also a well-documented tendency for people to abandon Twitter accounts within a couple of months. Oprah has already gone relatively silent, for exampleMickey Park Combo C4.

More importantly, however, is the fact that the noise level on Twitter is becoming deafening. Getting back to Yogi, many who were early adopters of Twitter are getting tired of phantom spam followers, and are “un-following” people to adjust the volume down. The utility of Twitter — its ability to connect you immediately with dozens or hundreds of like-minded souls — is being usurped by spammers and corporations who use it as an instant messaging broadcast medium.

Employers are posting tweets with brief job titles and compressed URLs linking to job postings. But it is rare to respond to one of these tweets and have a live human reply in kind. Or even an automated reply (à la @DonDraper of the “Mad Men” show). The spirit of Twitter — an ongoing conversation answering the question, “What are you doing?” — is violated. Soon, such tweets will be seen as so much spam (“twam”?) and ignored.

Alternative Paths

Institutions have a visceral mistrust of social media for the simple reason that they cannot control it. The ubiquity of social media via mobile handsets has made trying to block employees from using online networks futile.

But canny corporations have begun to embrace alternative platforms to provide “safe” space for people to communicate with a modicum of control. Yammer, for example, allows organizations to establish an internal Twitter-like platform open only to people who share the organization’s e-mail domain.

Others are establishing internal sites that operate like Facebook, the most notable being the IBM Blue Pages, recently evolved into the BeeHive. Employees create profiles of themselves, their backgrounds, and qualifications, which managers use when staffing a project team. The portal also has employee blogs and wikis where teams can congregate online to brainstorm and discuss technical issues.

Lotus and Microsoft both offer software to allow Notes and Outlook enterprises to create closed communities of interest and collaborate internally.

In short, employers are offering workers alternatives to Twitter and Facebook for self-expression and connection with others. True, your family and friends outside of work cannot access them, so you may continue to use the public platforms for personal interactions. But I submit that people will want to focus on that aspect of the interaction and tune out work-related messaging that may come their way while they are chatting with Mom or old high school chums on Facebook.

By the Time U C it It’s Gone

The precise end of Twitter will probably occur much like the death of distant stars. We see a glow in the night sky that comes from a star that is no longer there, the star having been obliterated thousands of years ago. It simply takes millions of years for the light to reach us, so the light we see started its journey when there was a star to shine.

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For me, the telltale wavelength shift occurred when politicians started tweeting after the last presidential election. Everyone saw how President Obama exploited social media successfully during his campaign, and jumped on their Blackberries. The fact that many of them didn’t realize how Twitter is public was the tipoff that they didn’t know what they were doing. When Oprah announced — with Oprahesque fanfare — that she was on Twitter, a shudder was felt through the Force.

The end won’t come next week, next month, or even next year (perhaps). But the seeds of its destruction have been sown and are beginning to sprout. Rumors abound that Twitter is about to release a premium version to address this problem. There is also a lot of speculation that Twitter will be gobbled up by Google, Microsoft, or even Apple, despite denials from Biz Stone, one of the founders. To date, however, it’s all just conjecture. So you still need to understand Twitter (and its various spinoffs such as TwitPic, TweetDeck, HootSuite, etc., etc.) and other social media.

There are many opportunities to exploit the intimacy and immediacy of Twitter that most employers haven’t yet explored. You need to monitor the state of social media, and how the various channels are being used and misused. Be aware of what is being said about your organization on blogs, forums, on search engines and job boards, as well as platforms such as Twitter. Ignoring the conversation won’t make it go away; people will simply talk about you behind your back.

“If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You Might Wind Up Some Place Else.”

Another gem from the Yogi applies to the evolving field of social media recruiting. The real point is that it is a mistake to focus on one platform or tool. Appreciate each for its capabilities and unique characteristics, but view them in the context of your overall communications plan. Decide what it is you want to accomplish, and then select the tools that will help you achieve your objectives. In other words, don’t start tweeting jobs because “all the other kids are doing it.” If your organization is unwilling or unable to be social with social media, perhaps you should forego tweeting your jobs until you can establish the infrastructure to support a true two-way conversation (at 140 characters per tweet, of course).

Conversely, if you can devote the time and energy to engaging people using social media — whichever platform you choose — you will find the richness of the relationship will enhance not only your success in recruiting, but the quality of people you recruit as well. Do that and whether Twitter lives or dies won’t matter as much as the connections you create and nurture.

I tweet as waqueau1. Follow me at your peril.

Mark Hornung is a senior vice president of Bernard Hodes Group. He works with clients in financial services, high tech, healthcare, construction & engineering, retail, automotive, and other industries. He has a degree in philosophy from John Carroll University.

Brent is the Sr. Marketing Director for ERE Media. He joined the company in June of 2016 and brings 18 years of expertise in technology and data-driven marketing to the recruiting industry. 

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65 Comments on “The Death of Twitter

  1. Mark…loved your insights…I’m personally watching to see where this goes…been participating on Twitter for over 2 years. For me the key to the crowd is how “I” control the noise.

    I don’t have to follow thousands…just the circle of influence I desire or need to stay connected to. I try to acknowledge and thank those followers who are not spamming or bots…so I control the flow from that end as well.

    Quick thought to share…I have friends that I connect with via old school technologies like the phone…some with email, some with facebook…Twitter is just another communciation tool, or stream that I choose to swim in. This way I stay in touch with all kinds of connections…it’s expanded my circle of influence and relationship.

    So their’s my two cents…for whatever it’s worth. 🙂

  2. Mark – thank you for your spot on observations. The Twitter buzz is way too loud and the reality of where this fits in as a communication tool needs to settle in.

  3. Twitter – as it is structured today – may look very different in 12 months. But it’s not going down. It’s evolving. Evolution is the nature – and beauty – of social media, not its demise. Twitter has experienced incredible growth and press these last few months. Undoubtedly this hype will die down, but with more and more companies integrating Twitter into their media strategies, this is a communications channel that is here to stay.

    Already, companies like Dell are reporting huge sales numbers that are directly tied to their Twitter efforts. HR professionals need to examine and embrace Twitter for the potential it holds with regard to candidate relationship management/networking. Just posting jobs to Twitter is not going to work. I applaud companies for trying to work Twitter into their sourcing strategies, but it’s not a job board – post-and-pray is not going to yield the metrics everyone is waiting to see. Twitter is a communications channel. If you don’t open yourself up for two-way dialogue, you’re not going to see a return on investment.

    NAS Recruitment Communications has rolled out Social Media Boot Camp which educates recruiters on the social media space: The definitions, dos/don’ts, employment brand extension, and tracking success. Follow me at CarolineSlomski – I promise not to tweet too loudly.

  4. I wrote a blog post about that very same subject last week. I’m keeping up with twitter but as it is structured now, it is just too high maintenance. Too many useless tweets to go through, too many to write just to make our presence known. Twitter is cluttered.

  5. Mark, your reasoning is sound, but I think you might be missing the primary cause of death. It’s just that NOBODY is so interesting nor does ANYONE have that many pithy, brilliant thoughts to merit such constant attention. I mean, CMON NOW, not EVERYONE is Miss California.

  6. While you make valid points about the annoyance of spammers, Twitter allows you to control your Twitter feed. If you don’t want information from a spam account, it’s simple, don’t follow that person. While they might start following you the only way they can interact with you is if you follow them back.

    Twitter has been working to regulate spammers and updates the Twitter model to facilitate these concerns. In a few years Twitter will evolve differently than it is today, but that’s not too say it won’t still be around and based on the original concept.

    The point on job posts not being able to give human interaction can be true for Twitter users such as @CareerBuilder. However, for a recruiter who has a list of candidates to Tweet to its more of a live job board and discussion. Because of recruiters more concentrated following they have the manpower to give a ‘human’ response.

    Notice how you tell us to follow you on Twitter at the end of the article, why waste your time if it’s not here to stay?

    @emilyluiz

  7. To Caroline and Emily (and others who rise in defense of Twitter), the point is to not get hung up on any one tool or platform. As you both admit, Twitter must evolve or its demise is pre-ordained. I, too, applaud those employers who experiment with it. But they need to do so in the context of a holistic recruitment communications strategy, not just because “all the other kids are doing it.” Keep tweeting!

  8. I still don’t think it absolutely has to change or its death is pre-ordained. I just know it will evolve as every social media platform does. I do agree with you about experimenting with it in the context of a holistic recruitment communications strategy. Strategy needs to be behind every corporations comm efforts for them to be as successful as possible.

  9. Mark – nice post. I’ve been using twitter to connect with an audience in the wireless industry and it’s been fairly effective. I choose not to get lost in the noise and so I use some of the tools to help me manage my productivity. Because I was using social media tools long before Twitter’s arrival, it just doesn’t seem very different than the information I gleaned and the tools I sifted through to get that information (pre-twitter).

    You are correct about the fact that “it’s easy to be a contrarian.” But whether twitter continues evolving or dies is really of little consequence to me. I’ll continue using tools, like Twitter, that help me connect with my target audience. It’s simply too large a talent pool to ignore. If it dies, then I’ll ignore it and move on to the next tool that I can add to my belt.

  10. I enjoyed this post but I think it is premature to predict the death of Twitter. I will subscribe to the proposition that certain methods of recruiting are passing.

    “I found my job on Twitter” was recently posted on CNN Money: http://alturl.com/m65p and Head2Head recruiting Canada posted a an insightful post on their blog how they have used Twitter for recruiting:
    http://alturl.com/7xmx

    The exact model for successful sourcing on Twitter is yet to be determined but I would not count it out just yet as it is still evolving.

  11. Hi, while agree with the author on a number of points and believe that Twitter is the “flavor of the month” – it’s too soon to pronounce the phenomenon DOA or predict where it will end.

    Mark subsequently concurs that Twitter is evolving; I’d like to add that new media never replaces old media, only the mix changes, and then the media itself changes to adjust.

    I’m a late adopter of Twitter, but had to get on once the SmartSearch ATS enabled our users to post a job via their twitter accounts (and facebook page for that matter).

    We’re only beginning to see where Mobile Recruiting is going, and Twitter is surely part of the process of getting there.

  12. I’ll defend Twitter, too. In fact, Shally Steckerl has a system he’s developed for optimizing Twitter from a recruiting / sourcing / marketing perspective. All are invited to learn about it this Thursday at his Advanced Twitter webinar:
    http://aces.arbita.net/webinars/advancedtwitter-may2009 (If you miss it, we may have a DVD recording of it for sale linked from there afterwards.)

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