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“Twitter’s a ghost town.” If Scoble Said It, It Must Be True…

“Twitter is the new social media ghost town.” That’s what Robert Scoble says in a post on Google+. Follower growth has not kept up there with the other services”, he goes on to explain, citing his own gargantuan follower numbers as firm evidence of this. Twitter “has turned into more of an ‘information utility’ and less of a community. It feels more and more empty”, he concludes. So why am I giving this the time of day here? Because it’s exactly this sort of outspoken nonsense that causes issues and perpetuates myths in social media for those of us working on-the-ground. After all, if you’re new to all this, who are you going to listen to: Robert Scoble, with his massive reputation and hundreds of thousands of mindless drones – sorry, I mean followers – or me?

Where Scoble really loses the plot and where I really have an issue is within the comments of this post. After I’ve moved away from Twitter my Klout score has gone way up (it’s now 83)”, he says. “This is showing that investing time in Facebook and Google+ is the right social media strategy and that Twitter isn’t the right strategy.” WHAT ON EARTH…?!

Robert Scoble, a smart and respected social media marketing A-Lister, is not only basing a misleading statement about the effectiveness of Twitter on follower numbers and Klout (of all things), but he’s also advocating the use of a Klout score to determine an entire social media strategy. There are undoubtedly people for whom Twitter does not work, and that’s fine. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to social media (much as Scoble seems to be suggesting there is). But these statements are, in my opinion, irresponsible and he should know better. They paint him as so out of touch with what’s happening in the real world it’s untrue.

The Social Media Rock Star Effect

The way he describes them, Scoble’s comments are based on personal experience. And from the perspective of an A-List power user with huge follower numbers, maybe they’re 100% correct. But Scoble is an atypical social media user. The average user isn’t a power user. The average user doesn’t experience Twitter, Google+ or any other network the way he does. And the average user doesn’t drop into conversations about platforms his lunches with Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg. Twice. If Scoble were to decide that revisiting Bebo is the next big thing he’d pick up hundreds of thousands of followers and significant engagement with no effort whatsoever. But that doesn’t mean anyone else would.

One of Scoble’s major issues is that Twitter lists are limited to 20 per account and to 500 people per list. Yes, FIVE HUNDRED. Normal Twitter users, and especially the marketers who read what Scoble writes, have no need whatsoever for lists of more than 500 people and, in fact, don’t really care about things like lists at all. In the real world, adoption and usage of Twitter is growing tremendously. Twitter is an immediate source of news and information – it IS an ‘information utility’, and even Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has described it as such. So to accuse it of being something it is, is nonsense.

The Real Google+ Experience

When it comes to Google+, Scoble is weirdly evangelical about it. “The average Google+ user gets dramatically more engagement and followers here”, he says. Um, really? That’s not my experience Robert, and I can assure you that if you ask around among the everyday folk who’ve used it, they’ll report a very different story about Google+ engagement. Another A-Lister, Chris Brogan, has been similarly outspoken recently, this time venting at LinkedIn and dumping his account.

Kelli Schmith, Lynn Kendall and I had a conversation about all this (on Twitter, I should add!). These are smart guys, have a big following and are very in touch with ‘the next big thing’, “ said Kelli. “Heck, I even bought Brogan’s book about Google+ for business. But do their opinions and predictions about other platforms change my behaviour? No. Have I had a 50 Shades of Google experience? Uh, negative. I’m an early adopter and I’ve been in technology since the days of the browser wars. I dig the new and novel. So, do I fear that I’m missing out due to their ‘even-God-must-use-Google+’ fanfare? Nope. The platforms that work for them aren’t necessarily the right forum for me or my clients (nor the people in my real and virtual non-Google circles).”

“I believe the Google+ evangelists might have their moment, but now is not the time”, said Lynn. “I think it’s a solid platform, but the current audience is quite different from what you find on Twitter. I visit Google+ occasionally, but rarely post anything. It just seems dull when compared to Twitter. It has a very slow pulse, and quite honestly, shows no obvious signs of people having fun!”

Personally, I love Google+ as a platform and I want it to take off. Does it have a role to play in future? Probably, yes. But currently, I’ve all but quit due to the fact that engagement is so low compared to Twitter and Facebook. It comes back to this A-List rock star thing: Scoble will get engagement wherever he goes, which actually gives him a distorted view and makes him ill-equipped to comment on social engagement on any platform at all other than from an A-Lister’s perspective.

So now I await the emails and calls from clients saying “Robert Scoble says I need to quit Twitter and get onto Google+” with bated breath. Thanks Bob…

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