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Stop twittering

The other day a co-worker remarked with disappointment that certain high-level execs here at Rogers were either rarely tweeting or tweeting about insignificant matters like their cottaging. Who says everyone has to tweet, anyway?

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The other day a co-worker remarked with disappointment that certain high-level execs here at Rogers were either rarely tweeting or tweeting about insignificant matters like their cottaging. And that got me to thinking about the efficacy and necessity of corporate tweeting. Who says everyone has to tweet, anyway? The herd, that’s who. But the effective business leader doesn’t follow the herd instead she builds the road they’ll travel. For a fee, of course.

So why are these execs not tweeting? I asked one of them and he said, “They’re busy. Executives generally manage they don’t spend their time communicating. Twitter is not the be-all and end-all of communications.”

In this age of near forced conformity to the tech fashion of the moment such honesty is a breath of fresh air.

Let’s say you’re in charge of tech in one form or another. The reasons you might not Twitter include time constraints, and security and privacy concerns. Or it might be that, hype aside, it’s just a poor medium for getting a point across. As the exec told me, “Rogers is a publicly listed company of which all the executives have clear fiduciary responsibilities, and Twittering is either going to be trivial in its statement or, if it’s material, it has to be done in other channels.” Yeah, 140 characters will do that to you.

Perhaps you feel that since you “should” have something to say, you’ll substitute the endless minutiae of your life, like what kind of toast you had for breakfast. However, very little of that is as compelling as the culture of Internet narcissism would have you believe especially when there are 46,892 other people tweeting the same thing.

As heretical as this may sound in the age of social media, not everyone in a company (say, your company) should be tweeting. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. So before you tweet ask yourself why you’re doing it.

If you’re doing it because all the cool kids are doing it, you’re not focusing your strategy you’re just throwing the digital equivalent of crap against the wall and hoping it sticks. You’re just another part of the noise and fragmentation that has turned the media landscape into a chaotic mess that makes it more difficult for all communicators to reach their audience. It’s spam. Do you like spam?

Maggie Fox, CEO of Toronto-based Social Media Group, told me, “You really have to examine what your business objectives are and how they will be served by engaging online on a platform like Twitter. It may very well be that for your company the audience you’re trying to reach is not on Twitter and it may not be the platform for you.”

At this stage in Twitter’s life cycle, data suggests your audience isn’t using it: According to Nielsen, only 10% of people who are online use Twitter and just 4% of the online population use Facebook, MySpace and Twitter to search for information. (However, Twitter is growing exponentially at the moment.) If you cross reference that with the 2007 study ” The power and politics of blogs,” which finds the blogosphere is dominated by media and political elites, it may even be possible to make the argument that some portion of the activity possibly significant around social media is really just media industry folks talking among themselves and generating the sort of self-serving hype reminiscent of the dot-com boom.

Are you doing it because you have a lot of free time? But don’t you have a business to run? Perhaps planning the future of your company or the operation of your department? Remember, you’ve still got those four news/industry web sites you need to skim twice a day to stay on top of business news and current events. You have 11 blogs you need to scan (and don’t forget to update your own). You need to check Facebook and LinkedIn. And when you’re done with that, you can start in on your e-mail inbox. Where does a person fit into this schedule tweeting about Cheerios or the character-challenged insight that, “Hey, innovation is a good idea!”?

Now that’s not to say that life’s lighter side should be off limits, but if that’s what tweeting is to you, then do it, but in moderation, for God’s sake. There’s even a number for that, in case you’re wondering. Says Fox, “People want to know they’re connecting with human beings. One of the ratios that I’ve seen is that for every four company tweets you might tweet something a little bit personal, depending on the nature of your business.”

You can also see what CB and PROFIT have recently discovered here, here and here.

The good news is you can now put down the keyboard guilt free and just buy your search terms on Twitter like, say, #herd and spare us all your tweets or lack thereof.