A note of caution

Twitter has been featuring prominently in my life in the past few weeks, moreso than usual. I’ve been doing a series of presentations and training in the last month on social media and, unsurprisingly, the microblogging site has been a large part of that.

But one common theme that’s emerged as the assorted presentations have been put together is the danger of viewing Twitter as the be-all-end-all-complete-future-of-journalism-and-media.

Twitter is a great communication tool. There are some very cool tools being developed outside of the site, especially Twitterfall. And, because it’s the flavour of the month, absolutely everything appears to be revolving around it at the moment.

On one hand, it’s fantastic journalists and PRs are starting to realise the value in the site IF they handle it correctly. On the other hand, because Twitter is THE internet site of the moment, there’s a danger of being caught up in the hype and using Twitter for the sole reason that you’re on Twitter.

This is the same for all things social media  – it’s not good saying that you blog or have a video on YouTube if nobody reads or watches it. The same’s true of Twitter. Having an account is useful, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve solved that campaign in one fell swoop.

One post I’ve been quoting heavily from in the presentation is Shannon Paul’s advice to stop looking for easy answers:

“Should YOUR company blog? It depends.

Should YOUR company have a Facebook page? It depends.

Should YOUR company be on Twitter? It depends.

If YOUR company IS on Twitter, should it be a person or a brand? It depends.

ANYONE who says they know the answers to these questions without taking a look at your business model, goals and objectives and listening to your customer base should be taken with a very large grain of salt.

There are no easy answers.”

Jemima Kiss and Kevin Anderson from the Guardian say pretty much the same thing. Twitter is a good tool but you’ve got to know what you’re doing with it and even WHY you’re using it:

“She’s [Jemima] spot on when it comes to Twitter. There is a tendency for organisations to rush with the herd to a new social media service or site without thinking about what, editorially, they are trying to achieve. I’ve seen the same thing happen with blogs and Facebook.”

I use Twitter for work on a daily basis. I also use other sites. Facebook, blogs, YouTube, and a host of other social media odds and sods. Often Twitter is a nice addition or afterthought rather than the primary driver.

It’s worth just taking a step back from the hype and considering exactly what it is you want from anything online. Often Twitter isn’t the right tool for it.

Similarly, there’s the danger of putting all your eggs in one basket. You don’t have to be on Twitter, it merely helps. Twitter can be useful in a PR campaign, but it might not necessarily achieve the best results.

Similarly, I genuinely believe any journalist who limits themselves to solely being contacted through Twitter risks missing out. Restricting yourself to one medium is, well, doing just that. I’d rather have my fingers in many pies than focusing on just one pie, no matter how large and tasty it looks.

Sky News have just announced a Twitter correspondent. Again, on one hand a smart move, on the other, it’s a bit of a niche role even within an industry that has plenty of niche roles. But, on the third hand (we’re talking genetic engineering here) if it gets them an exclusive or two, it’ll be worth it.

This may be a bit of a rambling post, but it’s definitely worth repating there is more to online media work than Twitter.

And with that, I’m off for a drink with a bunch of people I first met on Twitter.

[If you want to see the last presentation I did for Porter Novelli’s #pntwit day, the slides are here.]

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