This is part 2 to the previous post about Twitter as networking tool as opposed to media tool. In Part 1, I talked about why the term media didn’t fit for me, and why companies and others using these “tweet to win a prize” were being foolish. In this post I want to talk to you, yes you, the people who are actually buying into these contests and how you’ve violated the trust.
Again, let’s go back to the metaphor of Twitter and other tools being one large, energizer bunny kind of networking event. When I drop myself into the event, I’m looking to catch up with the folks I know already, share information back and forth about things that interest us (and this is not at all limited to professional information, the people you want to connect with need not have anything to do with your work.), and maybe get introduced to some new people who can benefit from being involved in the conversations.
At this offline event, “connecting” would be the equivalent of exchanging business cards, or contact information. There’s an implicit understanding that by giving you my contact information I’m saying “you are someone I’m interested in keeping in touch with”. I’m trusting that, based on our initial interaction, you will continue to be a source of good information, that knowing each other can be mutually beneficial, and that further communication back and forth is warranted in order to develop that.
Note, that much like we see people complain about with Twitter, it’s to be expected that we’ll discuss things that are not related to the one topic we may have shared at the event. Certainly, I’ve worked with people professionally who have become friends and we’ve discussed plenty of personal stories, or talked sports, or any other topics that we both enjoy discussing. That’s a natural outgrowth of many relationships, much to everyone’s benefit.
Of course, as with offline networking events there is always that one person who sees it as their mission to collect contact information any way they can and then pushing a product to you whether you have any interest or not, and generally not caring one iota about anything you have to say beyond your ability to buy from them. Those people, rightly, get ignored pretty fast. (Unfollowed in the Twitter vernacular.) They violated the trust that you placed by giving them your contact information. They got you to connect with them through a shared interest only as a bait and switch method.
We see this sort of bait and switch on Twitter from time to time, and it’s easy enough to block these folks and move on. Irritating, yes, but we’ve been around the online block enough to know there will always be someone being a jerk like that.
However, the retweeters looking to win a prize don’t even fall in to this category. This is the Web 2.0 equivalent of mass chain emails. Is there really a difference between “I want to win a free dinner” and the Web 1.0 version; “I don’t know if this is true, but just in case it is….” email? As I look at the people I follow who are doing the Morton’s contest, I know these people are far too savvy to send those kinds of emails, but they still do this? Does their savviness only extend to the fact that those emails were a fraud? If they hadn’t been a fraud would they have violated every one of their friend’s inboxes with these emails? Apparently so.
Here’s the thing that hasn’t changed since those emails though. I have a number of followers (Maybe a few less after I post these…), and I appreciate the fact that they find me interesting enough to follow me there. That means something to me. Much like all the folks who read this blog, I know you follow because you trust me to provide something of value to you. Some posts are more valuable than others, granted, and some of more meaningful to some of my readers as opposed to others, but I try very hard not to throw stuff up here that doesn’t give you, the reader, anything, even if it’s just sharing a bit of myself. A little personality online isn’t a bad thing by any means. 🙂
The question is, how much is your trust worth to me? How much would someone have to pay me to write a tweet or blog post that I know going in doesn’t provide any value to you? Since I don’t do any of this for money, and don’t even have ads here, obviously it’ll never be about the money.
How much do I value my place in your twitter stream or RSS reader stream, and how much do you value your place in my Twitter stream? If you’re willing to sell out that space for the chance to win dinner, or a free game, book, etc. I have to assume you don’t value it much at all. I also have to wonder about your integrity. If you’re willing to post nice things about a company you’ve never dealt with on the chance they will give you something for free, why should I believe you when you talk about other products or services you’ve had good experiences with? You’ve already pimped yourself out once, for next to nothing.
Of course, in the case at hand, you didn’t really have to post anything nice, and it was fairly obvious that you were participating in a contest, so your integrity is in tact, right? Maybe, but I do have to wonder about dealing professionally, or even personally, with people who value the connections they’ve made so little that they would continue to pollute the stream with contest entries. Again, you wouldn’t send emails or have face to face conversations with these same people like this. It would be considered the height of rudeness. It’s not communication, that requires you to actually care that the people you say it to are listening. Obviously, you don’t care what your followers do with your tweet, you just want your prize!
On top of that, we all know there are a ton of very smart, talented people who we could all benefit from interacting with on Twitter. When I have an opportunity to show them the tool and how it works, how is it going to come across as anything more than a waste of time when they open it up and see my followers all talking about trying to win a free dinner? Even if your touting just Twitter as social entertainment, how does that help you?
Here’s the funny part, if you provide me with enough great information, or help me figure out a problem I’m having, or provide me with a great opportunity through our connection, I’ll be glad to do the same when I can. Real connections bring about real opportunities, taking part in marketing gimmicks that annoy your followers doesn’t. I love being able to show my appreciation to folks who have helped me along the way and offer to help others when I can. Heck, I might even buy you dinner. 😉