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Twitter is a Complete Waste of Time!

Posted By Darren Rowse 6th of June 2008 Social Media 0 Comments

Every time I’ve written about Twitter (or FriendFeed or most other social media) I see comments left saying ‘Twitter is a waste of time’.

My response is simple – yes it is.

Twitter is a waste of time…. unless you use it in a way that isn’t.

  • Twitter can be a waste of time just like blogging can be a waste of time.
  • Twitter can be a waste of time just like going to conferences and talking to people face to face can be a waste of time.
  • Twitter can be a waste of time just like other micro-blogging/life streaming/social messaging tools like Plurk and FriendFeed.
  • Twitter can be a waste of time just like talking on the phone can be a waste of time.

I would argue that there’s never been a type of communication invented that can’t be used in a way that is a waste of time.

The key is the way you use it.

Twitter can be beneficial to bloggers in many ways (I’ve written 9 ways that Twitter benefits me here) but the key is to work out how you want it to benefit you and to go about using the tool (and it’s nothing more than a tool) in a way that takes you a step closer to it paying off in those ways.

If you’re just on Twitter because everyone else is and you’re using it in an unfocused way then you’re unlikely to see it as anything more than a waste of time.

I would also add that I don’t think Twitter is ever going to be something that everyone should use.

The way people talk about Twitter (or any other type of social media tool) sometimes reminds me of how people used to talk about Blogging.

Four or Five years ago I heard people speaking about blogging as though it’s the answer to every problem that a company or individual might have with their online presence. It was claimed that blogging could do almost everything and fix any issue you faced. The truth is that blogging can be great but it’s not right for every situation. The same is true for Twitter.

It takes a certain type of personality to click with Twitter and it will only ever meet some of your needs and even then, only if you’re smart about it.

If not, it could well be a waste of time!

A Question to Ask about Your Use of Any Medium

When looking at Twitter, or any medium for that matter, the question to ponder early on is ‘what are my goals?’ Once you have them nailed down you then have a framework to begin to think about how you’ll use it and how you measure whether it’s a worthwhile medium to use.

So what are your goals for Twitter?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. I find Twitter incomplete waste of time :)
    People that don’t like it and find
    useful shouldn’t use it then.

  2. “Wait isn’t Darren a big Twitter fan?” The title caught me off guard … but I see your point.

    I always say this to people:
    The productivity around the world has been cut in half because of the time spent on all these social sites.

    But maybe I’m wrong, maybe 1/2 the people waste time, and 1/2 of them are more productive, so it could even out — who knows

  3. It is hard to get folks to really understand what twitter is all about. I use it for a number of different things.

    First and foremost, I am pretty targeted in who I follow. I blog on Technology and Productivity (separately) as well as have interests in Macs and Information Security. So my Following list is made up of Productivity folks, Ubuntu/Linux folks, Mac folks, Blogging/Social Media types, Information Security folks, Alabama (USA) folks and real life friends. If you don’t fall into those categories, then I will probably not follow you.

    I use twitter for support with linux as I am a relatively new user to linux. The Ubuntu community is AMAZING and there are a number of great Ubuntu folks on Twitter.

    I use twitter for product recommendations. You can get faster and more realistic feedback about a product than scanning all of the review sites through Google.

    I use twitter to find out when some of my favorite bloggers post to their site. I also use it to notify my followers of new posts to my 2 blogs. I do still use Google Reader to read all of my feeds, but if I see a singular post (like this one) but don’t want to go through my whole RSS list, I can click on the link for a short break and then get back to work quickly.

    And of course, I use twitter to stay in touch with friends spread out through the country (and world). I just learned last night that a friend just got a new job in Houston, TX and is moving from Alabama in the next month.

    I agree with you, Darren, that you really need to know how you want to use twitter. When you have expectations for your use then it becomes a pretty productive tool in your arsenal.

  4. wow, solid points Darren. The title of your post pulled me in. Using twitter along with others platforms is apart of the challenge for me. I’m always thinking of creative ways to make the best use of time and resources.

    Once you nail down your goals, develop a plan or small steps that will lead you toward your goals or in proper direction. I’m not trying to be selfish but realistic. It is important to ask yourself this question everyday.

    I find that my productivity increases, as well as my focus. If a social media site is wasting your time and your commitment is lacking with regard to making the proper use of it so that you might offer value to your readers and so on, maybe you should drop it!

    It’s time to regain your focus! DON”T WASTE TIME!

  5. I agree, you just have to know how and when to use twitter. It’s ok to tweet 10 times in one day, but it’s also ok to not tweet at all over a weekend. What did your grandma say “all things are good in moderation?”

    It’s easy to gather a following of people using twitter, it’s good advertising, and an easy way to quickly message groups of people you’re close to or friends as well.

    I think it’s like anything else. Many can use it responsibly, and some just get sucked into the vortex without being aware of how much time they are wasting. Everyone needs their own personal governor.

  6. Finally, somebody with a presence speaks out against the Twitter critics.

    I generally find that those who criticise Twitter are the ones who would also say “I don’t get it”. A little education on the concept and they suddenly love it. :-)

    Thanks Darren. You made my day with this post.

    PS. That title really caught me off guard. I’m not accustomed to controversial titles from you. It made a nice change though.

  7. I used to think that way. That Twitter was a waste of time that I actually went weeks without using it. I didn’t see the potential of it right away. However, the blog integration and talking about it every now and then is great! A lot more people start following me and asking me questions. Some find my site through it and want to know more about me. It’s like a mini mini chatting tool.

    Also, it is great to ask other experts some questions. I don’t want to email sometimes, and it is easier to just send out a blurb to someone. Share the knowledge. I like to see how top bloggers write to other people some times. The advice they give to others. It helps. It really does. I just think people need to start use it to benefit their blog existence. If they want to keep it alive that is.

  8. That was my initial reaction too. I couldn’t believe the title I was reading! I had to read it twice. ;-)

    I see what you’re saying. For me, though, I think I’d really fall into some Twitter ditch and never get any writing done! Since I”m a freelance writer, that’d be awful.

    Focus? It would be hard to do with all the buzzing around on Twitter….


  9. I rebel against the thought that everything I do needs to have a measurable ROI. Twitter is fun. Is it aiding my business? Not particularly, not yet. It might do one day, but there again it might not. But in the meantime, I’ll have gotten to know some people better, and they’re interesting people, so I’m happy.

    If people would stop taking social media tools and trying to turn them into business tools, we probably wouldn’t need to twitter-bash nearly so much in the first place.

    I’m sure I remember that “wasting time” used to be called “having fun” :-D

  10. I didn’t see the potential of Twitter at first and didn’t use it for a a long time after signing up. But once I started following other bloggers and members in my niche, I started to see the potential not only to provide updates about new content on my blog, but to give readers a personal connection with me that they probably would not get otherwise. I put a
    “Follow me on Twitter” button in my sidebar last week, and my following has increased, so I’m going to keep using it and see where it takes me.

  11. Like others, the title took me by surprise, but it was definitely a worthwhile read.

    My personal Twitter feed is just that–a personal micro-blog. It’s where I update on what I’m doing in relation to live in general, my activities, moods, and my business. To that end, it’s a release and not a waste of time.

    Then again, I do have more focused Twitter accounts which help to bolster my blogging productivity (those short tweets can help people warm up their writing chops) and network with other like-minded individuals.

    And more than anything, the people I’ve recommend use Twitter have always come back with something similar to the above–i.e. it helps them get inspired for the day and discover new things to write about.

    Definitely depends on how one uses it.

    ~ Teli

  12. I totally agree.

    Most teens spend hours on msypace and accomplish…nothing. Tila Tequila and Soulja Boy used their myspace network to market themsleves and their products. Look at where they are now. The Jonas Brothers did the same. My daughter was added by them when they were an unknown group. They sent out bulletins about concerts in the tri-state area (NY, NJ, CT). I took her to the concerts, she met them and now …they are HUGE STARS!

    Youtube has it’s own “celebrities” like Chiris Crocker and William Sledd. They all used it to launch themselves into the public’s eye.

    Every form of communication can be a waste of time, but it can also be used by a visionary to achieve a purpose.

    Great post!

  13. I appreciate you framing this issue in the context of all networking and communication opportunities.

    In the “old days” events like conferences and service clubs were the traditional ways of networking – and those things took a lot of time and money. A business person had to think long and hard about taking several days away to attend a conference. I know I always debated with myself about the return on investment.

    I know I don’t fully understand or appreciate Twitter. I put my toe in occasionally, but I haven’t jumped in yet.

  14. I used to think Twitter was a waste of time. Then i started using it to hear all the important news and information that people like Matt Cutts or Danny Sullivan and of course Darren would twit about. I’ve “met” and have interacted with persons I probably would have never had a chance to speak to if it weren’t for Twitter. It’s a great networking and marketing tool and it’s also a wonderful tool to get up to the minutes cutting edge news.. LIVE! And when people twit their new posts on their blog its like an RSS feed.. i loVE IT!


  15. Great post. I’ve learned so much via Twitter; it’s amazing.

  16. It’s all about how and why you use it. For me, it’s more of a virtual watercooler.

    BUT it’s also given me access to mainstream and online media connections that have led to being quoted and linked to in a number of blogs (including PB).

    It also led to an exchange that found me quoted in last weeks Business Week cover story on blogging. Was that worth the effort? You bet!

    Twitter is just a tool, you get out of if what you put into it.

  17. I have found twitter to be a great way to networking tool …. provided you don’t enter the space with spam about your site. I also find it entertaining.

  18. Read this in twitter and my first impression is that you’re quitting twitter. Nicely done

    I actually have given up convincing twitter basher. Just like drug, you can use twitter to your benefit or you can may eventually damage yourself even more. If you don’t know how to handle drugs, just stay away from using them

  19. Nice! The title got me over here from twitter. :)

    Great write-up and thanks for answering my tweeted question about entrepreneurship.

    follow me on twitter – http://twitter.com/mark_hayward

  20. You presented a good case because it’s true that Anything can be a waste of time, if that’s how you treat it!

  21. For me, Twitter opens up the world of conversation for me. As a deaf person, I don’t have access to verbal conversations easily. So Twitter allows me to peek and see what people are talking about.

    I first started to use Twitter when the Steak ‘n Shake fiasco happened in January and I credit Twitter for helping me get the word out and making the issue go viral.

  22. Brilliant title, Darren.

    Since you’re the guy I credit with having helped me use Twitter for great results, I had to see what you’d written here. Your “9 ways…” post actually helped me discover some of the ways I could effectively use it to generate site traffic. Not long after reading that piece, I used Twitter to get almost exactly the same number of hits to my website as I got from YOUR site by posting a photo of me with your new book! Thought that was pretty magnificent. (So thanks x2!)

    Since then, LOTS of ebb and flow. Which further reinforces the idea that I can use it effectively, or not: my choice… Thanks for another reminder!

  23. A hammer is great for hitting nails. Not so good for making a strawberry shortcake (although that would make for good YouTube).

    My goals for Twitter are (as of now):

    -Getting quick blips of useful real-time info;
    -Posting non-spammy and useful promotional alerts;
    -Grow my network;
    -Consciousness expansion;
    -Hear news that’s better and quicker than CNN, BBC or Fox;
    -Take some pleasure in the unexpected poetry that happens;
    -Track key words (I use this rarely since Twitter still has scalability issues)
    -Keep up-to-date with Problogger of course

    Not all inclusive and it’s evolving, but I do seek out to use it intelligently, not fashionably. And Twitter CAN be a remarkable tool for hitting the nail. Can it make Strawberry Shortcake? Who knows, could be a startup in the making there.

  24. I really delayed my adoption of Twitter. I mean, SEVERELY, purposely, delayed it.

    At first glance, I thought, “This is like opening up an IM to the whole world.” And to some extent, it can be that way still. However I’m really glad I finally got into it.

    I’ve had mini-conversations with people I never thought I would. People I’ve admired in my industry for many years, who actually respond to me, joke with me, and are taking the time to get to know me. It’s really amazing how it opens things up like that.

    Similarly, I’ve learned that I actually do have a couple fans out there. People who can’t wait to send me a comment on something I’ve said, or make a joke with me about something. That feeling is pretty darn cool. I mean, we all know that the John Chows and Darren Rowses of the world have fans. But little ol’ me? Dang!

    That being said, Twitter can be a huge productivity block. I’ve been known to send out a message announcing that I’m going to be shutting down all forms of outside communication, and then literally being so worn out that I’ve shut down Twhirl, my email, Skype, and even turned off the ringer on the phone.

    It’s a time management thing. It’s really nice to check it out when you’re needing a break – I think of it like going to the “office kitchen” for a cup of coffee and catching up on the latest gossip or news. But then when it’s time to get back to work, it’s time to crack down and get back to work. End of story.

  25. A lot of vloggers on YouTube are starting to use twitter like crazy, but I really wished that they’d go beyond the bubble of the “YouTube” community and follow other people.

    I have found a lot of great networking contacts of people who run other blogs and its only going get better.

    Twitter isn’t really a waste of time for me. You can get a lot out of it in so little time.

    Oh if you want you can follow me at http://www.twitter.com/leonwestbrook ;)

  26. Well in my opinion Twitter works for only those who are already famous and people following them Twitter was still in Beta testing

    it works for Darren coz every one know who he is and people are all ways curious to know what that freak is upto now and they click on any link he post in his update

  27. Darren, great post! Everything is just a tool, and the rewards you gain will depend on how well you use it.

  28. Twitter brought me back to blogging. Micro-blogging, of course. That’s why I do not wonder that talks about twitter remind you “of how people used to talk about Blogging”: Tweeting is blogging. And tweeting is writing.

    Smile! Gerrit
    Wir sprechen Online.

  29. I like twitter as an idea and use it daily. To me it reminds me a lot like the IRC. People log in and chat to other people in the same ‘channel’.

    Twitter is a good way to promote sites of interest as well.

    I just wish Twitter had better resources so it wouldnt crap out on a daily basis. Nothing is more annoying when you can’t send a tweet to a twit ;)

    But then there is the new Plurk service that is similar to Twitter and Pounce and the other ones.

  30. Technology and the Internet offer tools and information that can be dialed down to more individual preferences. That’s why niches work, yes? … we want what works for us to be at our fingertips. Same is true with communication technology. We are simply moving way beyond the one-size-fits-all communication option. Twitter and other social media need to fit your needs, your way, be they business or social or educational, to be beneficial.

  31. First off, your title on twitter is what got me to click over and read your article. An example of how twitter is indeed useful. When I track my statistics I find more and more traffic coming from twitter. People who follow me must give a damn about what I’m writing about or what I’m doing or why do they follow? I don’t follow anyone unless I care about what they type. That to me is a waste of time, having a million people you’re following. There’s no way to keep up with that.

    I could spend all sorts of time moving from Plurk, twitter, friend feed or just stay put, so I don’t waste time. It’s too much to try every new thing that comes out. Let thing run their course and then when they prove to be successful, it might be worth the switch. OR let people like you research and use it and take their advise! LOL!

  32. Twitter can be a valuable tool if used right. We use it to attract traffic to our blog, to spread awareness of what we do and to grow our network. However, lately Twitter has been down a lot and we’ve thus been exploring Pownce and Plurk as alternatives. Since microblogging is already part of our strategy we want to use one that is reliable and omnipresent.

  33. Great post, Darren, thanks.

    You’re right of course, anything can be a waste of time if not used appropriately.

    And it’s probably that preconception that inhibits new adopters of Twitter more than most.

    And it’s that impression that some people have when they first try it which causes them to leave.

    But like any tool, which is what Twitter is, you need to learn how to use it before becoming effective.

    Twitter’s simplicity works against it in this regard. Many people think because it is so simple, that there’s nothing to it–that there is no learning curve. Wrong!

    Chaos theory teaches us huge complexity can emerge from the simplest initial conditions (as I have mentioned in several blog posts and comments). That is what has happened, is happening and does happen with Twitter.

    Users need to get their heads around this complexity and navigate their way through it to realize what a profoundly important tool Twitter has become.

  34. I agree with Sue@TameBay: the implication that something needs a (finanacial) ROI or it’s a waste? The person who really lives that is the real waste of time.

    I would say that the key isn’t the way you use it, but rather how well the way you use it correlates with what you’re looking to get out of it. Because if you’re looking at Twitter as a “virtual watercooler” but all you ever do there is try to drum up page views on your blog, then it’s just as much a waste of time–for you.

  35. Like everything else in the universe – it is what you make of it.

    I joined Twitter because a friend was on there who now lives far away. It was my way of staying close to her. I started following a few folks who looked interesting. Now I’m doing some artwork for them (which is what I do for $$) In other words – with minimal effort, I used Twitter to make a contact which is making me $ I am always on the look out for opportunity whether I’m on Twitter or strolling around town window shopping.

  36. It’s easy to get caught up in the chatter: There is a lot of noise, but there is also a lot of signal.

    I use it to try and connect with like minded people, ask questions and help out others who need advice.

    Most people prefer email though, so I don’t waste too much time on it.

  37. My bed, my car, my refrigerator, my shoes, my COMPUTER! Are you seeing a pattern? All that stuff has a very obvious and practical use. WHY do I need to sit around and hold twitter up and “work out how you want it to benefit” me?

    You compare twitter to the way people saw blogging being a solution to many things years ago. Wrong. Right off the bat people expressed themselves, sold stuff, kept a journal; so it was a solution to many things. YOU were one of the guys that figured out how to make money from it, and people have benefited from that too. When somebody does that with twitter I’ll do more than the daily update I slap on there now.

    Most real people have real stuff to do everyday and I don’t see twitter having a true value to MOST people. Some people-like a certain popular blogger with a built in fan base-can get on twitter and further maximize their “brand.” But a regular guy? Yeah right. At this point twitter isn’t even making money from twitter. Let’s review in a year.

  38. I think Twitter is good until certain point. Bloggers should center most of their attention on blogging, if you start using Twitter a lot you may become a good Twitter user but not a very good blogger

  39. I tried it for a week and it IS a waste.

  40. I’ve invited my blog readers to follow me. Also, since my business is national in nature, following and being followed by those in my business has already yielded gold — both literally and in ideas.

    Now all we have to do is get twitter to be reliable. My understanding is their newest capital injection will result in exactly that.

  41. OK so it’s not perfect. It’s grown from a sweet child to an errant teenager – just needs a bit of support and TLC to get there.

    With all this talk of capital injections, can I (shamelessly plug) http://www.twitterfund.com – let’s see if real fans can raise some real money to get it working better.

  42. Great post, it is all in the way that you use anytime that you have to make it worth your while.

  43. I think Twitter is good for marketing, and for making sure the advertisements of your latest posts get out. Other than that, I also enjoy seeing things that people I follow post and having casual suggestive conversations.

    Another great use is getting answers to quick questions. If you have a ton of followers, you ask a question, you get answers.

    I only have a small amount of followers on my Twitter account, but those few that get my updates cannot be ignored.

    Twitter can be a waste of time, if you use it wrong.

    Great post and I agree with you wholeheartedly Darren.

    The Tech Juice

  44. I use Twitter for my own purposes, and not really to communicate with others. It just makes a handy way to leave short notes for myself of ideas I have. I use my iPhone to text my twitter account whenever I have a “pithy” little comment or two on some spiritual idea that I’m pondering. It is funny that people have started following me. I wonder if they like my pithy little comments? Oh, well, it makes a fun way to generate ideas for blogging.

  45. Twitter is another way to get the word out there. I also find it valuable for meeting and staying in touch with people I like.

  46. Darren – I have found twitter to be a great networking tool. In the short time that I have been active on twitter I have not only made some valuable local contacts and expanded my business network, but twitter has also been a “decent” web traffic referral.
    Noise and spam is a waste of time in any forum. Quality content will reap benefits even if it is 140 characters or less. :)

    Disclaimer – If Twitter does not get its technology up to par quickly and eliminate outages than it will become a waste of time.

  47. I’ve never really tried it out, but judging by what people have using it for, I’d say that a lot can be accomplished from it.

  48. I signed up, posted a few tweets and then forgot about it…I have to get back to it soon…But this time around, I need to approach it with a positive frame of mind…Hopefully that will inspire me to write interesting and result oriented tweets…

  49. Of course it’s a waste of time, that’s the fun thing about it. How else do you think us SAHM survive the day?? Telephones are so yesterday. As for productivity – overrated. Give me my Twitter, I love it.

  50. Great title – of course it made me click cause I am like, “But I follow Darren and he is a prolific tweeter!”

    Fabulous point too btw – any form of communication needs to be used effectively or else it can become a waste of time.

    I also agree that it isn’t for everyone – just like blogging isn’t a cure all!

    For me, twitter is meeting my goals of building and deepening online relationships and helping me keep in touch with people even when I don’t have time to get to their blogs. Plus I love that it “hooks” me and I follow links and hop over to people’s posts.

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