What Mays found satisfying with @thisbeer was a niche community one step closer to a personal enthusiasm.
I was in a Twitter funk (a Twunk?) recently, wondering why I seemed less energized by the prospect of opening TweetDeck in the morning. Was it just low blood sugar, or was I experiencing a transitional moment in my social media evolution? It seemed as if the Twittersphere had lost a bit of its edge, and I was wondering why. According to sources, Twitter new user growth has declined over the last four months (since a high in July ’09), perhaps signalling a problem ahead for Twitter.
Fortunately, I was having lunch with Brad Mays, the godfather of social media at Fleishman-Hillard in Dallas (official title Senior Vice President, Digital Strategy). @BradMays spends his days evangelizing social media for big corporate clients. It had been months since I’d seen him, and we were luxuriating on enchiladas at Manuel’s in downtown Austin, when I just said it out loud.
“Is Twitter getting boring?”
He actually didn’t look surprised by the question. “It could be,” he said. “I think it depends on how you use it.”
Okay, so it’s my fault, just as I suspected.
“You know, we all signed up on these social media sites and went through the same routine,” he continued, “and we are learning a few things along the way about how we want to use them. Perhaps you’ve let Twitter turn into something that doesn’t fit your interests.”
Mays admitted he had felt the same lack of enthusiasm about Twitter recently, but knowing he needed to stay engaged in the community for professional reasons he looked for a way to make it fun again. “I decided to start a Twitter feed for beer,” he said with a smile. “I like to drink beer probably more than my wife likes me to drink beer, but I always find opportunities to actually take pictures of my beer. So I was with some friends in St. Louis and I started a Twitter feed right then and started taking pictures of the beer I was drinking. Pretty soon I started to see a few other friends posting their beer pictures, and now it’s gone international, and there are pub owners in the UK posting to it.”
What Mays found satisfying with @thisbeer was a niche community one step closer to a personal enthusiasm, rather than just generic Brad-Mays-on-Twitter.
Moving beyond social fatigue.
“In the next few months we’re going to start to see more and more social fatigue and people are going to be asking that same question,” he continued. “Why am I doing this? What use is it? And hopefully they’ll start seeking out those conversations that are most interesting to them. You know beer is one example of that, but it could be about anything.”
Perhaps some of us jumped into social media with too much enthusiasm for network building. “Does it matter that you have 3 million friends or followers on Twitter?” asked Mays. “I’ve always said it’s better to have five of the right people following you than 5,000 of the wrong people.”
He believes as more people refine how they use social media channels, they’ll start using them more effectively, and brands have to start thinking that way as well. “If you have a large customer base you still want to be relevant, and it’s an opportunity to look at niches. Refine and hone your message and make it relevant for those smaller groups.”
At that point Mays got a faraway look in his eye and I knew he was thinking of beer again.