Robert Scoble posted recently that he’s discovered the secret to Twitter, which is "how many people are you listening to, not how many people are listening to you." To quote Scoble,
Why? You just have to read a post from an hour earlier where Scoble tells a great story about microblogging and starting a great impromptu party at a California vineyard. What made that situation work? People were following his messages, not the other way around. In fact, the more followers one has, the more difficult it becomes to filter signal vs. noise.
(I meant to say "the more one follows" there, but the same applies, as people typically reciprocate followers.)
What’s wrong with considering Twitter as semi-synchronous conversation? It’s not more complicated than people talking, others listening. Businesses need to have objectives when using social media; people do too. Your objectives may change over time and they may have varying weights – but everyone has a reason and different people use Twitter differently.
But I’m not going to say that the answer here is something along the lines of "it depends." (Being an analyst forces the fence-sitting out of you.) Social media doesn’t work well with a uni-directional approach. That’s the domain of traditional advertising. The secret to Twitter and every other social computing application lies within the conversation and relationships – which requires not only listening, but also speaking, energizing, supporting, and embracing.
Personally, the way I use Twitter has changed – I only have time to jump on once or twice a day usually during the commute, so @ and direct messages have increased value. But if you follow me, I’ll follow you back (unless you’re a porn star or sales pitch – which are showing up more often) and look forward to the conversation. As tired, played out, and 1.0 as the term may be.