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: