Is Twitter Killing Other Online Activities?

The world may be all a-Twitter, but it seems the inordinate amount of time now spent there is costing other places traffic.

Is it possible that Twitter is the new community that will, in time, see the demise of forums? Many of the one-time regular visitors over at the Search Engine Watch forums are now avid users of Twitter. I see them all there when I'm spending too much time playing in the new space.

So I looked a little deeper, beyond the growth of a couple of competitors to see what was happening.

Alexa Twitter

Users are jumping on Twitter like the bandwagon of a winning sports team. Moments like Michael Jackson's death or the Iranian election revolt bring in other elements that topic-specific forums lack.

Twitter is a broad-based communication medium. Not only do we get to trade links and information about our industry, we also have a share of sarcastic comments, other news, and general life information.

Hot URLs

Twitter users average 8.7 minutes on the site per day, according to Alexa. Given that 80 percent of the users -- and most are the power users -- are accessing Twitter through third-party applications, that number is seriously skewed. Most of the Twitter users reading this probably would admit to more time on Twittering.

Given the social aspect of Twitter, it could be a forum killer long before it becomes a serious threat to Google.

The counter to this argument is that Twitter can be used effectively to drive traffic back to the forums. So maybe some type of reciprocal traffic can be created -- like the blogs that use Twitter to add content to their sites. Wonder how long before Google sees this as some type of traffic conspiracy and downplay any influence it may have on its search algorithm.

I had thought briefly that Robert Scoble's move to check out of Twitter -- given his huge usage of it over the past year or more -- could have marked the high point of Twitter and it may start going backward. But realistically, I think he just saw how unproductive his activities on the site had become, and how his other projects had suffered.

The Twitter phenomenon has yet to be properly integrated into regular Web usage. It hasn't been monetized. Its search, while immediate, lacks long-term storage of any effect. And Twitter is generally still a playground.

I'll be adding a Twitter category to the SEW Forums, and I expect it to generate new contributors who may then spend time in the other threads. It seems the adage, "If you can't beat them, join them," has some applicability here. So this article is done, and while you think about it, I'm off to Twit about its publication date (@AussieWebmaster).

Chris Boggs Fires Back

Funny, Frank, that you would use the analogy of the bandwagon for a winning sports team -- being from New York.

Kidding aside, the coverage and mainstream attention that Twitter is getting is remarkable. Local stations, personalities, and others are jumping on the wagon, but many don't seem to know how to hold on. Others definitely don't know how to behave.

I recently received some spam messages from someone through LinkedIn who wanted me to hire his company to do amazing linking. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a way to report him as a spammer, because he was connected through a marketing group. At least with Twitter you can block people, and boy do I need to do that.

Idiots are setting up accounts and following people in droves, no matter how relevant or connected they could hope to be. Why would I want to follow someone with a tagline that says: "Are you a nonprofit? Get FREE WEB HOSTING."

Many people I follow, especially Fantomaster, regularly complain aloud via tweet about the buffoons that follow, then un-follow when followed-back. Many people using Twitter have no idea the slightest concept of proper behavior in a community. At the forums, we call those people spammers and dump them.

Perhaps Twitter needs more moderators to keep the riff-raff out. But could you imagine trying to police this growing mob? This would be like trying to police Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park and throw out people who are cursing.

I like your idea of the Twitter section at the SEW forums, and look forward to venting some more in there soon...that is if I have time between tweets. (Obviously joking -- I only have 430 updates so far @boggles, which pales in comparison to the pace I was posting in my early days at SEW Forums in 2004.)

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About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.