In the balmy days of my post-Christmas break I have been flexing my muscles as a new media junkie with Twitter. Some say this is the next Big Thing — but it has recently been excoriated by the Daily Mail, no less, for enabling celebs like Jonathan Ross, John Cleese, Will Carling and Stephen Fry to publish trivia about their lives.
Mind you, British newspapers have been known, themselves, to post trivia about celebrities, along with Celebs’ profound reflections about religion, philosophy, art and science. What seems to have got the Mail’s goat is that the celebs are now posting their own trivia for themselves, rather than having it dug up against them by Mail hacks; who sound understandably ratty about the time they wasted on Twitter digging for juicy dirt, rewarded by mere banalities.
So what is Twitter? It’s a free Micro Blog/ stream of collective consciousness/ social networking tool. From laptop or phone you enter up to 140 characters (limited because that's the max for a text message on some services) answering the simple question “what are you doing?” (like Facebook “Status”). You follow people you want, and are followed by people who want to follow you. A stream of “tweets” is served up to your desktop from the people you are following, sometimes in a clever and engaging form by applications like Twitterific (and PC equivalents). Additional tools like Mr Tweet dig out an expanding pool of people to follow, relavant to your postings and proclivities. You can also search the whole database of tweets for opinions about anything. Thus Twitter becometh, potentially, a serious marketing tool.
So, for example, I learn through Twitter that Jonathan Ross has been off in Florida on his hols with his kids, felt jet lagged when he got back, enjoyed Planes Trains and Automobiles whilst there, and hot tips Benjamin Button (available in the UK Feb) for his BBC TV show about film. Some of these information gobbets are more trivial than others. How interesting you find them depends rather on how interested you are in Wossy. I’m no dyed in the wool fan, but I actually rather like the guy more, and feel closer to him, for having some personal if trivial information about him. If I were a true fan, I’d love it. Whereas the media often dehumanize Celebrities, Twitter rehumanizes them.
As well as purely trivial tweets, people post links to their blogs, marketing tips, and the like. BBC and other media outlets post news stories as they get ’em, with links to follow up. Aha. This gets to sound more interesting. People post mini thoughts, impressions and experiences that wouldn't make a full blog post, but were good to note along the way. And you can feel your tweets through to your Facebook Status (killing, er, two birds with one stone) as well. The bigger the number following you, the more you have a purpose built advertising network for your blog, or whatever. As I twittered away last week, I noticed a steady and increasing stream coming to the blog, never more than a dozen a day with my little circle of 79 followers. Actually that's a very good conversion rate, in marketing terms. If I actually knew who half these people were...
Ah, there’s the rub. Some I do and some I don’t. Does it matter? I hate to admit it, bt I am finding Twitter to be an interesting news feed, facebook input mechanism, and marketing tool for the blog. If my little brownie ring of 79 grew into Barack Obama’s 154,878 followers (inluding me), it might become a significant component in my online presence.
You have to get your mind round what Twitter is and isn't. It’s a stream of collective consciousness, not a Big Po-Faced Hello magazine. You dip in and out of this river and dabble your toes. One would be unwise to invest more than five minutes a day in twittering, or maximum ten. Most tweets are trivial because most human information is trivial. It could have its uses, and the more people use it, the more uses it will find, no doubt. I’m definitely committed to tweeting for a few minutes this month, to investigate what it is and isn’t good for, and will say when I know... Anyone interested in following the saga blow by blow may click here.
For twitter as an Eighteenth Century Coffee Shop experience, see here.