Archive for December 1st, 2008

Not getting Twitter

Twitter isn’t something everybody gets. That I appreciate. Not everybody’s going to find it immediately useful, or even particularly understand what they’re meant to do with it. Again, that’s to be expected. It’s definitely not like Facebook, which is more of an over-arching site.

But if you get Twitter and use it regularly, you’ll probably have found a use for it. That use might be making new contacts for work purposes – and getting a case study, or a story, or from a PR’s point of view, getting a brand placed somewhere. Or it could just be saying hello, chatting from time to time, and then making contact in a work capacity when necessary.

Alternatively, you could be after some information, or doing a bit of crowdsourcing. It’s surprising just how many people respond when you put a request out on Twitter.

Or perhaps you know a few people on Twitter in a personal or professional capacity and just want to make sure you keep in touch with them.

Maybe you’re just one of those people who subscribes to news feeds from your favourite newspapers, magazines and blogs, thus enabling you to get all your news in one constant stream via your Twitter feed.

Or alternatively, you could sign up, spend a couple of hours on there, not follow anybody, decide you can’t work out what on earth is going on, then write a piece for a major publication decrying it as a waste of time, like Nick Curtis did for the Evening Standard.

I think it’s safe to say Nick doesn’t get Twitter.

In fairness, Nick isn’t alone. I know a few people who’ve signed up and after a couple of hours have come to the same conclusion. Like I say, not everybody gets Twitter.

The main problem is largely not knowing who or what to follow, so if you don’t know anybody on there it can be a bit, well, pointless. But one of the joys of Twitter is once you start following a few people, most folk are reasonably friendly and chatty. And once you’ve found a few people you want to follow, it’s quite easy to go through their friends and find more people that you’re interesting.

I’m guessing Nick didn’t use Twitter search or any other of the numerous applications you can get to enhance your experience. And if you’re on there on a slow news day, chances are there won’t be any breaking news. Twitter only really springs into life on that front – both regionally and globally – when something major happens that’s worth Tweeting about.

A journalist wouldn’t phone through a story about what was going on in their street unless it was newsworthy. While there’s a fair bit of inane chatter, when something newsworthy happens, Twitter knows about it.

The answer to Nick’s question is quite clearly “No”. Twitter isn’t like Facebook, and if you sign up expecting a near-identical service (or from a sceptical mindset) then you’re probably going to struggle at first (and its worth pointing out that if Twitter was a Facebook clone, it probably wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful, or create the level of buzz that surrounds it).

So there’s only a few celebs on there (notwithstanding that Barack Obama is the second Google result for Twitter and made social media a large part of his campaign). That’s not really the point.

It’s fantastic that Stephen Fry is on Twitter – his feed is always entertaining – or that Greg Grunberg (aka Matt Parkman from Heroes) is posting pictures from the set of his TV show direct to the site. That kind of gives it a bit of geek chic.

But what’s much more noteworthy is the number of leading lights in PR, journalism and business who are increasingly viewing it as an effective way to network and get their message across.

When you’ve got three major broadcasters, the two main political parties, Richard Branson, and Mark Borkowski all Tweeting from similar hymn sheets, it’s probably worth at least spending a bit longer to investigate why Twitter is so successful.

I can appreciate why Nick Curtis may not be enamoured with Twitter. i’ve had similar conversations with other friends in the media. And, yes, they’re right in some regards – it’s not essential to be on Twitter. But if you look on it as a communication and information tool (which is essentially what it is), then it becomes a bit more useful than just another social networking tool.

Hopefully Nick won’t get flamed by angry Twitter fans, protective of their site, as that’ll probably confirm his worst fears.

What would be really great is if somebody emails him offering him to give him a quick tutorial and explanation of how to get the best out of Twitter – if he’s still not keen, that’s fair enough. Like I say, it’s not for everybody. But he may well get something out of it – after all, a fair few users now know who he is, so it’s not like he’s still coming into the conversation cold.

So, if nobody wants to offer to give Nick Curtis a Twitter 101, I’m happy to make an open offer that if he ever wants a quick tutorial, I’d be happy to show him how it works and how, as a journalist, he can get the best out of a site he’s not entirely convinced by.


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December 2008
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