Trust Is All That Matters

I spent four months in Rock Springs, WY before moving to the Seattle area. During my time in Rock Springs, I rented a small apartment and didn’t have many friends outside of work. But over time I got to know a man who managed a small print and frame business. One afternoon he asked me to lunch. I was excited to finally make a friend.

But when I showed up for lunch, he was dressed in a suit and tie. I thought that was odd, but didn’t realize what I’d walked in to until he pulled out a large white binder and said, “There’s something I’d like to share with you”.

As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, my new friend wanted to “share” the Amway dream. I felt used. I pushed my lunch away and spent the next 10 minutes coming up with excuses to leave.

I thought back to this experience as I read several articles discussing Twitter advertising from Robert Scoble and Steven Hodson. I respect both of these guys, and felt I’d chime in with a few thoughts of my own on the issue.

Twitter has always felt like a casual conversation among friends to me. It reminds me of the old days on IRC chat where people sat around and shot the breeze for hours. But I can’t imagine sitting around with a group of guys on a Saturday afternoon when suddenly one guy stands up and yells, “23-inch Dell Monitor on SALE NOW! Use Referral Code: 12301”.

Can you imagine this same person shouting out ads every five sentences? How about only once every time you got together?

No way. We’d kick his butt to the curb the 2nd time he pulled that stunt. And that’s how in-Tweet advertising feels me. It feels shady and unauthentic. Why would I click on some random link so someone else can get paid when I don’t see the value?

Now I’m not going to unfollow someone the first time they send an ad across my screen. But I’ll scrutinize the relationship to see if their other tweets are of such high value that it’s worth the occasional ad noise. If not, I’ll unfollow.

Both Robert and Steve mention Chris Pirillo as someone who uses uses his blog, Facebook and Twitter to push ads and coupons on his followers. I like Chris’ sense of humor and have followed him for many years. I saw him speak at WordCamp Seattle this year and find him to be intelligent and thoughtful. He’s also an excellent speaker. But as much as I recommend him in person, I stopped reading his blog and following him on Twitter because I was unable to determine where his editorial content stopped and his ad pitch kicked in. Does he really like that new Mac or is someone paying him to talk about it? Chris gambled with my trust and lost. And trust is not easy to regain so why risk it?

Last year a travel company offered me cash to place a small text ad under the search bar on my blog. I thought about it for a few weeks and eventually accepted the money which was just enough to cover my hosting fees for the four blogs I host. You won’t find it on my blog today because I decided not to renew it for a second year.  At the time, I felt like it wasn’t a conflict of interest because I don’t really write about travel.

But it never felt right. I understand that some bloggers like Steve are trying to make a living by writing and providing valuable content and opinion. I agree with Scoble that those people deserve to get paid for their writing. But when it comes to Twitter and its casual nature, I don’t agree that anyone is entitled to receive payment for their tweets. Why should anyone get paid to use Twitter? What do they provide that I can’t get elsewhere? Links to content that I can find on Digg or Failblog?

Writing a blog, interacting with people on Facebook and Twitter all give me the opportunity to make friends, share my thoughts and learn from others. Once advertising enters the mix, my guard goes up and the relationship changes. Apparently those changes don’t bother many people given the number of ads I see on blogs. Remember how nice and clean Dooce used to be? Check it out today. Same goes for TechCrunch. I don’t have much patience anymore searching for content among a sea of ads. It’s easier to unsubscribe and move on to another blogger who respects my time.

I don’t want people following me on Twitter or read my blog to wonder if I really like the Flip Mino HD or I’m just saying so because Flip paid me to say that or gave me free product. My reputation and name mean more than the money.

And isn’t trust what it comes down to anyway? Why risk losing that trust by sending ads down your Twitter stream? The risks don’t outweigh the rewards.

My Top 5 Twitter Tools

I can’t believe I’ve been using Twitter for two years. Over that time I’ve tried a number programs and services that promise to enhance, make it easier to use or just make Twitter more fun. I used to manage everything from the Twitter website, but that’s become time consuming as the number of people I follow has increased. 

Just for reference, I’m currently following about 1800 people. You can add me from my profile page if you’re interested.

I wrote a similar post about a year ago, but a lot has changed in 12 months. I’ve settled on a few services that I regularly use. Here’s a list of my favorites.

Favorite ClientTweetDeck

If I could only use one of these tool or services, TweetDeck would be it. This is a must have application for those who follow more than a few hundred people. My favorite feature is how TweetDeck allows me to organize those follow by creating groups. It might be too much for those new to Twitter, but it’s changed the way and frequency I connect with others more than anything else here. For example, I’ve created a group called Friends. When any of these people tweet it shows up in its own window making. You can even create groups based on keyword searches.

The only downside for some is that TweetDeck takes a lot of screen real estate. It’s made for those running dual monitors. Try Twhirl if you are short on screens. But the best compliment I can give TweetDeck is that it makes Twitter more fun.

Here’s how my configured TweetDeck looks. I’ve created groups for All Tweets, Replies, Friends, Sent, and Direct Messages.

tweetdeck

Favorite Follower ManagerTwitter Karma

This service has grown on me over the months to the point where I use at least one a week. Twitter Karma, like TweetDeck, is probably more useful to those who follow or are followed by more than a few hundred people.

Basically, Twitter Karma makes it easy to see the following:

  1. People I follow who follow me
  2. People who follow me but I don’t follow them
  3. People I follow who don’t follow me

I care most about #2 above because it lets me catch someone worth following that I missed merely looking at my list of followers at Twitter home.  It also allows you to bulk follow or unfollow. Some people use this service to prune people they follow who haven’t reciprocated, and it makes quick work of that. But I’ve enjoyed Twitter more the less I worry about who or how many are following me. I try to focus on following interesting people who make me laugh and whom I can learn from.

twitterkarma

Favorite Stats ServiceTweetStats

This falls into the fun category of Twitter tools. TweetStats was created by Damon Cortesi and is a lot of fun to use. Wonder when you send the most tweets or whom you tweet most often? This will tell you.

tweetstats

Favorite General ServiceTwitter Grader

This polished tool takes a number of helpful services and combines them into one. At first you might be most interested in what your “grade” is, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find a number of neat features that enhance Twitter.

 grader1        grader2

My favorite feature is how it looks at my profile suggest people in my vicinity to follow. For example, I’m presented here with a number of people around Seattle that might be interesting to follow which I can do right from the page if you’re logged into the service. Twitter Local provides a similar, if not more detailed service but I don’t use it as frequently as Twitter Grader.

Favorite URL Shortener/Link SharerTweetburner

This is an interesting service, and it may not be apparent why you’d want to use a service like this at first glance. This service is for people who want to shorten a URL to send over Twitter and find out how many people clicked on the link. It’s sort of like a TinyURL with stats if that makes sense. It’s simple to use, and I enjoy seeing which links get the most traffic.

tweetburner

There are many other fun Twitter services out there for the using, but these are the five I’ve come to rely on and use regularly. I would have added Summize to the list,  but they were recently purchased by Twitter and have become the standard Twitter search.

What Twitter tools and services have you come to rely on?

Update: One of my readers pointed out that I didn’t include a single mobile application and he’s right. I own a crappy Windows Mobile phone for now so I don’t access Twitter much with it. When I do, I use m.twitter.com. If I eventually get an iPhone I’m sure that will change, but I do 99% of my twittering from a laptop or desktop computer running Windows Vista.

Quakk Twitter App for Windows Mobile

I never thought it would happen. I’ve downloaded a number of Twitter apps for WindowsScreenshot_2 Mobile and they were terrible. Most wouldn’t even launch without some error.

So imagine my surprise when I installed Quakk and it not only worked but is nice looking to boot! I run it on my Motorola Q9M and it works great. You need to have the .NET Compaq Framework installed before running it. You can download the framework and Quakk from this link. Finally a WM Twitter app that doesn’t stink up the joint.

I like how Quakk allows me to quickly see my follower timeline, replies and direct messages. I’m Akula on Twitter if you’re interested.

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Twitter Karma is released

Today on Twitter I saw someone mention Twitter Karma and decided to give it a try. It’s the most useful Twitter tool I’ve tried. In short, it matches up those people you follow with those that follow you so you can see the overlap. You can easily see who follows you that you don’t follow in return and vice versa.

Twitter Karma is even more useful for those who follow a large number of people or who have a large number of followers. Once I fed it my username and password, it took about three minutes to process my followers. Here is what you’re presented with once it does its thing:

screen_2008-01-04 23.36.07 

To the right of each icon is a red and/or green arrow that makes it easy to see those you follow and those you follow you.

Although it takes a few minutes to process, it’s a tool I’ll be using at least once a week or so.

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