Nobody gets Twitter

“Nobody gets Twitter.” This was the opinion of Evan Williams, Twitter cofounder and chairman. during an interview in December 2008.

He confirmed what is apparent to many of us and true for most of us – the value of Twitter is not self-evident. With use you start to get the hang of it and at some point the light bulb goes on. His observation is not restricted to Twitter or social media or even technology, though tech examples seem particularly easy to find.

First time users of word processors and spread sheets not to mention such “time savers” as content management systems are usually thwarted by their first attempts to use these technologies. “Easy to use” is easy to say. The same applies to myriads of products from digital video recorders to kitchen appliances.

I once did some field research for a maker of high end appliances. My in home investigations showed customers struggled mightily just to set them up. The manufacturer responded by including an instructional video. The video proved to be so unhelpful, that it increased the return rate. Apparently it convinced customers that the product was too difficult for home use.

Even the fabled iPhone is sufficiently non-intuitive that Apple sells supplemental training. Indeed there is a healthy market on how to use iPhone books – a search Amazon.com’s book section for “ iPhone” returns 1,613 results.

It’s not just the products. Suppliers compound the problem with opaque instruction manuals (if any at all); unsupportive product support (what easier expense to cut in tough times); and compounds these with marketing communications, which fail to communicate.

Making stuff, whether on line systems or garden tools, easier to figure out isn’t easy. I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. If I were, helping customers, readers, or partners get it might be one.