Why Twitter Communication Is Hard

The Challenges Of Effective Communication On Twitter

According to recent statistics, over 600 MILLION tweets a day are sent. That’s a staggering amount of participation, and presumably, those sending those tweets are trying to communicate with others.

Except, apparently, there’s little exchanging of meaning on Twitter, and little effective communication, at least relative to the amount of text being transferred.

Why?

Twitter A Poor Medium For “Most” Messages

There are a lot of reasons why this is the case, many stemming from the character limits imposed by Twitter.

Those limits are a double edged sword. On one hand they make it easy to post tweets; it hardly takes any thought to do so, which is one reasons there are so many tweets.

On the other hand, those limits make it hard to communicate unambiguously about a topic of any complexity. People use Twitter to send messages that require no effort, and consequently, readers of tweets spend equally little effort reading them.

Here’s a few more reasons for Twitter being a poor communication medium.

Tweets are disposable and transient. The life of a tweet (the period in which it will be read or responded to is measured in hours (1-3 hours).

The ambiguity of tweets resulting from brevity means that meaning is, by and large based on the reader’s ability to guess about what’s behind each tweet. The same tweet, since it lacks a lot of information, can mean many different things depending on the reader.

Context is often lacking. Tweets tend to be read standalone, rather than as part of a flow of conversation. People don’t track back the stream to read whole conversations.

What Does Twitter Communicate Well?

Twitter’s strength lies in communicating simple facts and news, and when people can dig into details via attached links, at least provided they are interested.

The ease of tweeting, which is a downside for complex communication, is a strength when it comes to reporting on activities, or news on the spot. With millions upon millions of people who can tweet on the spot, Twitter has become a way of communicating news. Not always accurately, but certainly with an immediacy that cannot be matched by conventional media.

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