As some old-time Slopers know, I've been online for a very long time. I was plugged into CompuServe back in 1981 via a 300 baud modem, and I've been participating in – and creating – online communities ever since.
I confess in my middle age-dom that I am feeling increasingly out-of-touch with the online world. Although I have a Twitter account with over 7,000 followers, it's apparent to me that I'm not really clear on how to build up a large audience in this medium, since the most completely random people have drastically more followers through some kind of magic that, I'm guessing, has something to do with how many people they're following themselves.
To look at the Twitter stream of most participants is an exercise in the banal.
But none of that is typically relevant to my life, since I dwell almost exclusively in the land of technically-oriented financial media. My Twitter hero is the same as my blogging hero – ZeroHedge – whose tweets are at various times droll, witty, newsbreaking, clever, educational, or important. During those rare instances that the market is actually allowed to tumble for more than a few hours, the tweets emanating from ZH border on Pulitzer Prize-worthy.
In stark contrast to this is another account I follow, that of Business Insider (specifically, ClusterStock, although I think most of BI's properties pretty much have identical tweets). For a long time now, I've been wondering what I find so irksome about BI's tweets. I never found them as clever or witty as ZH's. Indeed, I found them vaguely nettlesome, and this morning I took a look at just a small sampling to try to tease out just why that is.
I think in fleshing out this taxonomy, I've figured out the basis: simply stated, the tweets seem far more crafted to click-bait than actual information (or, God forbid, entertainment). Unlike ZH's, BI's tweets rarely can offer meaningful morsels in their message. Instead, they beg – yell, actually – to be clicked so that you can read the story beneath (which, incidentally, will be a page that will simply offer a quick summation as to the real story, which requires yet another click).
I therefore present to you the five categories of this BI Tweet Taxonomy and a tiny sample of each classification:
Like, Oh My God
These are tweets written in the style of an effusive fifteen-year old. If BI declared that Ben Bernanke's testimony to Congress was totally gnarly, it would not faze me.
This is the simplest form of click-bait. It's a well-known fact that those browsing the web are far more interested in an article with a number in it than one without. "12 Shocking Facts about Bea Arthur" will get traffic than dwarfs that of an identical article titled "Modern Maude". I notice that the second example below is a two-fer, containing both a number (12) and a Valley Girl adjective (like, awesome, if you like didn't see it, ya know).
Oh, the Humanity!
Drama, drama, drama. Business Insider seems to treat the most mundane stories as The Most Important Thing Since Jesus on a daily basis. I mean, look at these words – SURGES! HORRIBLE! COLLAPSE! CATASTROPHE! I can only imagine what their tweets would have read during the 9/11 attacks, since the overuse of superlatives has a dulling effect on one's audience.
Here Comes the Bride
Perhaps this one can be cured by a purchase of a thesaurus, but BI seems to have little else to precede a forthcoming announcement than the words "Here" and "Comes". I was even able to save a bit of time this morning since there were two Here Comes in a row.
Best. Headline. Ever.
And, last, an amplified form of the "drama" category, we have the land of the extraordinary. Those instances, events, and people which have no equal. I ask again: is it really possible to have all these extreme events and offerings in the course or just the two-day window of tweets I surveyed?
Maybe I'd have more followers if I tore a page out of the BI playbook, but I think I'd rather try to keep following ZH's lead and just try to write well, succinctly, and – if possible – with a bit of novelty.