How does twitter fit in the range of media options?
Sam Bradley of Texas Tech recently wrote about why 'many-to-many' communications don't scale very well. Using twitter as an example of M-to-M the basic argument is that it quickly produces information overload due to noise - both in terms of quantity and focus.
The Internet set of social media tools allows for an infinite number of messages to simultaneously appear in a myriad of places - extreme case of the first M. This fragmentation is expected because differentiation tells us that categories will diverge into separate segments (think carbonated soft drinks or digital cameras), each with its own audience. The consequence is that ever smaller markets emerge because of chunking and the simple fact that we like to categorize things. Since we haven't figured a way to find and/or categorize items of interest on twitter we seem overwhelmed - although groups and or tags are a start along this path.
If one thinks in terms of a message having reach (the second M), then we may need to reshape our expectations with social media.
'Social media' can be defined as the set of vehicles that allow people to pass messages amongst themselves; this separates it from traditional or online media which use other distribution platforms. One point worth considering then is the purpose of the message. While there is a lot of talk about 'participation' and 'conversation' the reality is that the purpose of a message may range from conversational to marketing to pure status.
Numerous tweets in my stream are not conversations (and TweetDeck's removal of replies t0 the non-followed make it even less so); they are broadcast messages. For example @guykawasaki 's summary of various alltop sections provides interesting tid-bits but it is not a conversation, neither was his request for input on his logo. Now it is certainly possible that some of those tweets turned into bursts of conversations; but that was not their original intent. They are marketing, they are broadcast.