If you’re reading this, there’s a high probability that you are already very connected to social media.  Working in this space means it’s sometimes my task to get those people who are not hooked on the social media goodness to at least try it, just once, maybe at a party… Of a number of different strategies, candidly, adoption of Twitter has been the least successful.

Here are my five reasons Twitter is not the social media gateway drug:

1) instant gratification
On Twitter, you get out what you put in. At the beginning of your twitter journey, you have to make a commitment of time and energy to find the people who will go on to enrich, entertain and delight you – as you will them – but there’s no instant hit. Twitter, to put it bluntly, doesn’t put out on the first date.

2) the law of diminishing returns
For Twitter to qualify as a gateway drug, it would need to be less satisfying every time you try it.  Conversely, the hit gets bigger and better.  The conversations deepen and the number of truly fascinating individuals you encounter increases.  There may come a point where your twitter account reaches critical mass, but by that point you’re at social media maven status (and are probably going to retire and keep bees rather than spend any more time on the internet where you’ve lived for the past seven years anyway).

3) soft option
Twitter is one of the most hardcore social networks around. It’s riddled with incomprehensible naming conventions, in-jokes and freaky memes that serve no recognisable purpose to the uninitiated. All the cool kids with their hashtags, retweets and thousands of followers are deeply intimidating to the social media newbie. If you’re unaware of the generally helpful and positive vibe, you’re probably going to lurk around trying not to embarrass yourself, and thus never attain that elusive Twitter high.

4) peer pressure
Are all your friends doing it? If they don’t work in the digital space, aren’t gamers or geeks, the chances are that they are only just starting to hear about Twitter.  Your parents are now just about hip to Facebook; around 346,000,000 people read blogs; everyone has seenYoutube content; you’ve probably read news via Digg.  These sites have a clearly defined purpose and value proposition, whereas Twitter is a little geekier and a little more confrontational.  Answering the question “what are you doing?” for an unknown audience subverts notions of public/ private space – you’ve probably found that extolling the benefits of twitter to your offline peers is met with some bewilderment or an arched eyebrow.    

5) are you feeling this?
Since the Twitter experience is clearly as varied as the number of people using it, as individual as its users, it’s rather difficult to know what you should be expecting.  If you can’t be sure you’re doing it right, rather than going on to seek that elusive social media rush elsewhere, the likelihood is that you may simply decide that the whole business is not for you and go on to seek alternative forms of recreation.  Table tennis, say, or cocaine.

caveat lector
I’m primarily talking about Twitter for the individual, not for commercialisation, branding, monetisation etc.. And for the record, I’m not advocating a sinister pusherman approach to evangelising social media practices or the digital world; quite the reverse, but I rather enjoyed my analogy and I hope you did as well. Yes, I may have got a little carried away. I also think that the ‘gateway drug’ is a ridiculous concept.

Stay tuned for the route into social media adoption that does work in the personal and professional context alike…

3 thoughts on “Five reasons why Twitter is not a gateway drug

  1. Twitter is so not for the icing. It’s a cake and needs cooking. I love it because it is completely irrelevant yet not, just like this comment :).

  2. Well, I like the analogy – even if I can’t spell my own name! It’s true that hash leads on to harder drugs. I’ve never met anyone who did coke or shot up without having had a spliff first… WTF does ‘caveat lector’ mean btw?! If you tell me, I’ll tell you what ‘multim in parvum’ means. Ipso dipso, sono mal educado… Fake Latin! Whole new comdey catetory…

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