It has been impossible to ignore the noise about Twitter in the past 12 months, and despite their misgivings even some of the most hardened cynics have created accounts and started to tweet.

But there can be problems, as some people just don’t have the stamina, the staying power, or the will to become a disciplined Twitter user.

Are you on the verge of giving up on Twitter?

If you recognise the following scenario then you may have a problem:

  1. You signed up for Twitter a while back, followed a few interesting people, a couple of celebrities, news publications, TV channels and brands/organisations.
  2. Some colleagues and friends have drifted on to Twitter and you’ve followed one another.
  3. You tweet sporadically about work things, home life and what you plan to eat/drink next.
  4. And then come the annoying Twitter followers…who seem to follow you based on what you have just tweeted…
  5. “getting a round of cool drinks for office – aircon on the blink AGAIN”
  6. Ping….a high-caffeine-kick cola and a handful of style magazines have become your best mates.
  7. “anyone got a spare power lead for old iBook G4”
  8. Bong….a scantily clad woman offering you low cost refurbished lap-tops wants to make your acquaintance.
  9. Your tweets become more sporadic and you write that fatal tweet, “not sure if I really get the point of Twitter”.

If you’re guilty of some of the above then prepare yourself for some bad news: you are likely to become a Twitter Quitter.

This blog post by Nielsen highlights Twitter’s comparatively poor user retention rate, which is currently hovering between 30-40% in the US.

Nielsen argues that this was true of the fledgling MySpace and Facebook as users struggled to understand what social networks meant for them in the early days. In spite of this it seems to be a common theme that on an individual level, many people fail to see the point of Twitter.

From my perspective this is a shame. Whether it’s blogs, forums, media sharing sites such as Fileshare or Flickr, and social networks, the fact remains that personal experimentation of social media is a key prerequisite to helping businesses understand, embrace and use social media effectively.

Twitter on other tools present major opportunities for businesses to listen and engage with key stakeholders, be they customers, partners, or investors. Businesses staffed by Twitter Quitters will fail to understand the potential benefits. The message here – with a big hat tip to icrossing’s Antony Mayfield – is “stick with Twitter, experiment and learn to read Twitter before abandoning it personally and professionally”.

Unlike many other social media channels, Twitter does not drain time and resource that many fear. This, interestingly, can be an issue. At our recent Online PR and Social Media roundtable, one attendee talked about brand reputational issues caused by junior staff given licence to experiment with Twitter and going too far ‘off-message’.

On the plus side, businesses that effectively plan and resource their Twitter feeds find themselves spending only a small percentage of their day building, developing and engaging a valuable network.

So, our advice is rather than becoming a Twitter Quitter, plan and set yourself some personal Twitter objectives:

For starters, here are two useful articles: Learn from the experts demystifying Twitter and A 20-step starter’s guide to using Twitter efficiently.

Now, it’s time to set yourself some personal Twitter objectives:

  • What am I using Twitter for? – e.g. to connect with experts in my industry and keep up to speed with key issues, trends and developments OR to build my own profile and expertise within my industry OR to experiment before developing my business social media strategy OR [insert your objective here].
  • What is my 140 character tone/style?
  • Am I following the right people? If not how will I find and follow others?
  • Does my username, avatar, background image, profile and biography work and say what I want it to say about me?
  • What do I feel about the balance between broadcasting information, being useful, linking out and being me?
  • Am I going to dip in and out or being an ‘always on’ Tweeter?
  • Do I need to use some Twitter tools or applications to get the best from Twitter when I’m mobile or at my computer, e.g. Tweetdeck?

Once you’ve cracked this, then it’s on to that all important Phase 2, which is considering what Twitter can mean for your business.

For those looking for some quick answers, we are running a breakfast briefing in London called Twitter – business strategies beyond the hype on June 10th. This session will review the opportunities and the pitfalls and explore how Twitter can be integrated within your business strategy.

Meanwhile, over to the community – any advice for helping out those on the edge of quitting Twitter…?