Today I had a most baffling exchange on Twitter. It was actually the most baffling exchange I’ve ever had on Twitter, and that’s saying something. I spend a lot of time on Twitter. I’ve made friends through it, I stay in touch with friends on it, I get work through it, I interact on it with companies whose services I use, I use it to stay on top of ridiculous pop culture fads and unraveling events of great social import, too. But this really isn’t about me.

This is about an industry leader having a severely fouled-up understanding of what Twitter is and how it works and my fear that it bodes very badly for said industry.

(Now, this happens to be an industry I know a lot about, but do keep your mind open to how this example might extend to any industry. I’d love to hear from participants in other industries, really…)

Below is the exchange I had today with the person who mans the National NeedleArts Association account on Twitter. In case you’re not familiar with it, TNNA is the trade organization for the independent yarn industry. It represents independent yarn stores (read: not box stores), independent yarn companies, publishers, designers and teachers. It puts on two trade shows a year. It should be the source of the most solid business information to the independent yarn industry. (I was a member of TNNA for years, and only let my membership lapse last month because I no longer work full time in yarn. I was an involved member. I love the industry and remain a part of it in my small way.)

Ok, here’s the exchange (read it from the bottom up).

TNNA Twitter exchange

I wrote a second explanatory tweet that doesn’t show up in the screenshot. It said, “@TNNAorg You’re the only ones who see tweets from people you follow. Your Twitter profile shows only your own tweets when someone visits.”

Now, I’m not writing this because I’m in any way upset or concerned that one of my followers didn’t like seeing foul language in my stream. I don’t swear like a sailor online (I totally do in person), but I’ll fire off some four-letter ammunition every so often. And if I quote, retweet or reblog something from someone, I credit them even if their username contains profanity.

I’m writing this because the exchange above exposes such obvious confusion over how Twitter works that I couldn’t let it sit. It chafes my general frustration with the “business world” and its blatant misunderstanding of, or too-frequent outright disdain for, using online tools to boost their business. When an organization that exists solely to support an industry exhibits such a failure to understand what the tools even do, I get cranky. And when I get cranky, I blog.

I’ve encountered tons of people who question the usefulness of Twitter or who don’t understand how they could possibly use it (or why they would want to) for their business. That’s par for the course in this sphere I can only refer to with an eye-roll as “social media”. But until today I hadn’t encountered such a fundamental misunderstanding of how Twitter actually works. (Note that I wasn’t a follower of @TNNAorg.) (Note also that @TNNAorg, as of this afternoon, no longer follows me. I didn’t hear from them after my final two tweets. It’s possible I misunderstood them, and that I’m therefore blowing this all out of proportion. But I don’t think I did and I don’t think I am. Obviously.)

There are several pretty big yarn-related businesses doing stupendous things on Twitter, and I implore them to use as much influence as they possibly can to pull their representative trade organization into the modern online-technological era. Same goes for the many dozens of smaller businesses, some of them based solely online, which are also achieving great success utilizing online communication strategies.

The lead business organization in an industry should be leading its members to bigger and better things.

And that’s all I have to say about it. What do you think?

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