Small Wars Journal announced yesterday that they have begun to use Twitter.  They are the latest of the military/milblogging community to do so.  In recent weeks, I’ve noticed various service public affairs outlets getting into the Twitter game, as well as a number of prominent milbloggers beginning to Twitter.  Small Wars Journal described their intended use of Twitter:

Yes, we are up on Twitter under the userid smallwars.

We’ll auto-tweet the title and a link of all new entries on the SWJ Blog and most new threads in the Small Wars Council. At the moment, the following things do NOT feed: blog comments, discussion board posts on old threads, and new discussion board threads within the members-only area.

Unfortunately, I do not think that they have quite grasped what is unique or valuable about Twitter–i.e. the social interaction.  Rather, they intend to (and have thus far) merely used Twitter as another channel through which to rebroadcast (“auto-tweet”) content that is already available.  Later in the same post, it seems that they intend to use their newly created Facebook page in much the same way.

But where’s the “value added” in this approach?  There really is none, or at least very little.  Sure, rebroadcast over a different channel increases the likelihood that someone will hear your message.  But a targeted approach that is aware of genre constraints and audience expectations might be more valuable in the long term.  In this case, do members of the wider Twitter community want to see rebroadcast blog or forum posts?  I certainly don’t.  In the case of Small Wars Journal, for example, I already subscribe to the RSS feed for the blog, as well as the feeds for the forums on topics that interest me.  I don’t need or want to see all of that same stuff again on Twitter.  In fact, it just turns into noise that gets in the way of hearing the signals that I do want to hear.  This is the reason why, after following a number of military public affairs Twitterers for a while (I won’t name names…at least not yet; I’m considering a larger research project evaluating military use of social media), I stopped following them.  It was just noise, adding little or no value, often repeating what I already received via different channels, and getting in the way of the Tweets that I did want to see and that did have value to me.

But don’t take my word for it.  Well actually, I’d love for you to take my word.  But if you feel you need more evidence or analysis, take a look at Nancy Baym’s recent post about the differences between blogging and Twitter.  I’ve posted some highlights of the key points (and my comments) below:

Blogs vs Twitter? It’s the Interactivity

Nancy Baym over at Online Fandom has a great discussion of the differences between Twitter and Blogging. Definitely worth a read!

  • Twitter isn’t a substitute for blogging.
    • And it should be added that neither should Twitter be merely a rebroadcast of one’s blog. comment by TransTracker
  • People like Twitterers’ minutia.
  • People — even smart thoughtful ones — actually LIKE the mix of links, random thoughts, and bits of daily life. They LIKE watching the person, not the topic.
  • Twitter is about banter. That banter is the best part.
    • Playing devil’s advocate for the moment: Could the rebroadcast of blog posts via Twitter help to create more discussion around a particular post? And where would/should that discussion occur–e.g. as short bursts of banter on Twitter, or longer comments on the blog site? Could/should Twitter drive conversation (that otherwise might not occur) to the blog site; or should it take place on Twitter? And if on Twitter, how might that conversation remain linked in some way to the original blog post? comment by TransTracker
  • Twitter is temporal and cumulative. I made this mistake myself; it’s not until some time after you’ve decided to take Twitter seriously and made it part of the ritual of daily life that you really get it. If you check out someone’s feed, you can get a sense of whether they’re interesting to you, but it’s not until you live with someone’s tweets day in and day out that you know whether the rhythms and content of their messages are going to be rewarding or not.
    • Very true. I had the same experience, in particular with a number of military public affairs Twitter accounts. And this is where I learned that using Twitter to merely rebroadcast blog posts (which themselves were often a rebroadcast of press releases) adds no value, misses the point of Twitter, and is actually quite annoying. comment by TransTracker
  • Twitter is a great site for language play. The 140 character limit is a fun challenge for wordsmiths, and those who do it well are joys to read. As a genre, insamuch as it is a genre, the language of Twitter is just way more fun than the language of blogs.
    • Again, I totally agree and have noticed as much myself. There are, at times, “arms races” of “wordsmithery,” games of one-upsmanship in which the participants try to out-do the others in terms of the snarkiness, etc. of their Tweets (or status updates on Facebook). Again, this is another aspect of Twitter’s uniqueness, fun, and value that is missed when people merely use it as a channel for rebroadcasting blog posts or press releases. comment by TransTracker
  • Can we just quit judging every new mode of communication that comes along and finding it wanting in comparison to the last one?
    • Judging in the negative, judgemental way? Yes, we should stop. Comparing and contrasting in a constructive way (as Baym has done here) to determine what’s the same/different among these technologies, where their strengths/weakenesses are, their unique attribu
      tes, values, etc.? We should do more of that.
      comment by TransTracker
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