When Kevin Thau announced that Twitter is not a social network, it set the micro-blogging user community thinking. The VP for business and corporate development said that Twitter is actually about sharing news and updates.

Alright. I get that. If you’re CNN or BBC or maybe one of the popular tech sites like Techcrunch or Engadget, you can perhaps get away with ONLY sharing news and updates. BUT, if you are a company or business or a newly developing site, you won’t exactly be able to get away with “just” sharing news about YOUR interests. Twitter, no matter how many bots there are, is used by real people with real interests and real needs.

Let’s look at this way: If you’re using Twitter to share news about yourself (or your company/business) just how many people do you think are actually interested in what you say? Unless you’re Lady Gaga or Justin Be-Girl, not many people care that you produce the best dog food in town or are a social media “expert” because, “frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”

Personally, I think of Twitter as a networking event where you get the chance to meet all kinds of people with their unique experiences and stories. I began using it because I was curious, lonely, job hunting and bored. I found people who shared my interests, people I enjoyed connecting with, people who did not just tell me about their day but also asked about mine. It was around this time that I noticed the Social Media “Gurus” and coaches. Intrigued, I clicked on every link they shared and read voraciously. (Yes, I was that naïve.)

But it taught me many things. I also noticed the development of a certain distaste for those who only shared but never replied to me. I had some good ideas too, what the heck! Can’t you just reply to a simple question, oh thou great “Guru”? Then, Chris Brogan replied to a totally random question I asked him and I could not believe it. I even tweeted the event as some great breakthrough in my Twitter life. Yes, I realized later that Chris is one of those rare people (read Gurus) who actually reply to your tweets. I started reading his blog, his articles and advice, although I never quite liked his blog topic posts, but hey, he’s a good guy.

Wading through the myriads of articles about social media, learning about SEO and Social Media Marketing on my own time, all the while juggling home and freelance writing work, I stumbled upon Mitch Joel. By then I had gotten accustomed to looking for a “Follow me on twitter” button on websites and I began following him. Surprisingly, for me, he followed back. Now, as my friend Scott (@Strandev) would say, it doesn’t really matter if people follow you as “followers” or through lists. However, I think it earns people like Chris and Mitch a dedicated fan following and, of course, helps their business. Obviously, I would have continued following Mitch regardless of whether he followed me or not because this guy has some amazing things to share. Mitch, indirectly, introduced me to what has become the reason for this post. The hashtag: Usguys. This post is not meant to be an Ode to Usguys, so I will only say that it is THE networking experience.

Naomi Dunford, another one of those people who will reply to you, shared an interesting post which highlighted much of what goes in the name of “Social Networking” but is really nothing short of condescending advice to “Oh you are so dumb” people. These are people who sell stuff. No offence to product or service marketing people, what I mean by sell stuff is that it is all they do. Chris Brogan, Mitch Joel, Naomi Dunford and many others also sell things but they do not allow their twitter usage to become a podium for their all-encompassing wisdom. They engage.

Many of the people I know on the USGuys stream also sell things, are marketers, have businesses and maybe also help others use social media in their business. However, none of them ever talk in a vacuum. Most of the times I am surprised when I read their Twitter bio and find someone who has accomplished so much in life and is innovating, building and defining things every single day. I am surprised because they do not boast about it. They come across as completely down to earth and modest people; real people with real lives; not “Gurus” proclaiming the salvation of my Social Media life from their podiums.

Twitter is not only about announcing what YOU do, like or think would be best for me. It is also about caring, sharing and knowing people. I try to maintain a balance in my tweets, I talk to people (@reply and @mention) and I send out original tweets like interesting news, posts I have written or plain silly stuff. Twitter is about more than just selling dog tick repellant and growing your business. The people who own those dogs are the ones who are going to spend their cash on your product. But will they?

  • People will not take advice from someone they do not know.
  • People will not like someone they do not know.
  • People will not buy from someone they do not like.

Get the picture? I’m by no means saying that this is final and applies to everyone, but it is definitely the way human beings function in a social setting.

Using twitter to network and get to know people helped me find friends, work and likeminded people. I turn to twitter for advice, help and information. I can even ask my tweeps to check if my website is working or not. Unsolicited advice from wannabe gurus is not what I have in mind when I say that. I do not turn to it to hear the rumblings of some self-proclaimed god talk AT me instead of TO me.

And Kevin Thau, You “Humbug!”