Waking up Saturday morning and hitting the 'deactivate' button to our company Twitter account was one of the most empowering marketing moments I've ever had. The relief was instant. I hadn't even considered the idea of 'opting out' before. In fact, I had been the staunchest advocate of ensuring you were 'part of the conversation' for as long as Twitter has been about. My opinion was that brands not on there couldn't hear what's being said, so therefore can't influence opinon or use their right of reply. I went toe-to-toe with CEOs on it.
I've changed my mind. Twitter isn't what it used to be. I joined in the first few months of its inception and, at first, I remember commenting to a team member that I could never see it becoming bigger than a handful of egotists. The way I saw it then was that it could really only be a platform for those wishing to be heard (because the masses didn't care enough to be involved). Then I became one of them. I devoured it and racked up a 10k+ tweet backlog. I went to meet-ups, spoke on the subject and advised others on how to use it. I was a huge advocate.
Then, after a marketing campaign where we did something somewhat polarising (as start-up/entrepreneurial brands are want to do), I saw the dark side of it. Not the healthy debate that could be had between real people and the real people managing a company. But the ganging up, the condemning. The digital equivalent of taking to the street with torches to burn the place down. The vitriol was intense and unrelenting. This wasn't popular opinion, it was just a noisy faction. It made me shy away from participation and start to treat it more like a broadcast channel. I decided that life was too short to waste hours debating with people who didn't care what you had to say – you were the evil company and they had their righteously formed opinion to hold against you and rally others together with.
But I still didn't quit.
Looking back on it, over the past year we have found Twitter less and less of a marketing tool. There is less engagement, less referrals, less re-tweeting. The statistics all point to the same thing, Twitter is becoming a divided ground – a place to quickly find out what's happening in the world ... and a place to project your opinion (in whatever form you want, as abusive as you like). The community aspect has shrunk down. This may be just our opinion, perhaps others have found pockets that work great (I know a number of bloggers who still love it). But we're not alone in our thinking. Just look at what Lena Dunham had to say about it. She quit Twitter.
And now, so have we.
I quit Twitter. 5pm tonight I'm deactivating my account. Here's why: https://t.co/yPoaZf477j— Jenene Crossan (@Jenene) February 15, 2015
On the back of a marketing campaign on Friday where we took a tongue-in-cheek approach to spin off our take on a just-released movie as a way to gift women pampering credit, we hit a sour note with a pocket of Twitter's community. Of the 13,000 people who interacted with our campaign on Friday, seven people didn't like it. But those seven people were not just noisy; three of them were plain old nasty. Discussion they weren't into. Debate wasn't their purpose. Basically, see it their way or be damned in evil corporate hell or slandered as a 'marketing fail'. Avenues of discussion offered were rejected, without consideration (in fact, spat back as evidence of somehow not caring).
Now, add to this that they were given my personal email address and my personal Twitter account to discuss with me. I direct messaged people to instigate healthy conversation so as to hear their views. No one took me up on it.
My outtake was that they really didn't care enough if that were the case. They enjoyed the drama; wanted to create a public spectacle. We had given them the stick and, god damn it, they were going to beat us with it.
Which lead me to the aforementioned Saturday morning. I sat with the idea for about an hour (after sleeping on it overnight). I weighed it up. The pros, the cons. The ensuing debate (which we likely would not hear and certainly wouldn't be part of). The time and the effort. And then it struck me. We have two great channels that work so well for us – Instagram and Facebook. We are mobile, accessible and reachable. We are not hidden, we are out in the open. We have a huge job to do this year and spending it in Twitter arguing with seven people who have a different point of view to us seems ... counterproductive.
Over the past 16 years of running my own businesses, I've never once shied away from a debate, an argument or withheld my opinion. But I have listened to others and respected their point of view – even if it differed wildly from my own. I've stood up for what I believe in and I wholeheartedly support others who do the same. But I won't tolerate bullying, or dramatic or grasping posturing so as to become relevant as an individual. I don't want to be part of a community that's undertone is more negative than positive. It's not how I choose to live my life.
So I opt out, as is our choice to do. There's no argument here for 'hearing the people' or 'listening to what's being said' – anyone who has something to say is capable of saying it across many other mediums. If they choose to only say it on Twitter, then I'm not convinced that they care enough about their argument. No one can fairly debate anything in 140 characters or fewer.
- Jenene Crossan is the founder and chief executive of Flossie.
- This post originally appeared on Flossie.com.