PART I: Twitter & The Land of Opportunity

February 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Time to chip in on what seems to be the hottest of hot topics recently: Twitter. It is the first of two features I’ll be publishing on web’s hottest topic. [Update: Part II: ‘Can Tweets Change Your Life’ Is Here]

Interestingly, this post was inspired by what began as a short comment on my great friend Spode’s excellent Think about Tech website and evolved into something altogether more substantial. Here’s a slightly revised version:

I’d like to address this Twitter usage issue as I think I see it from a slightly different viewpoint: it’s called natural evolution. The clear split between personal and professional users.

In one corner you have the original Twitter message: “What are you doing?” Admirably backed up by a recent post from Twitter king Stephen Fry where he declares: “For me Twittering is not a commercial or PR activity, it’s a fun and fascinating way to interact with all kinds of people who have so much to say. Since the primary function of Twitter is to answer the question “what you are doing?” my tweets will sometimes, obviously, involve news of publications or openings or events. Just be assured I am not using Twitter to advertise!”

Thanks Stephen by this is naive. You couldn’t manage your 100,000 followers without the assistance of your army of agents, secretaries and general helpers. After all, you may only be using Twitter in a social/interactive way but to allow this your life is being professionally managed in the background.

Against this you have the undeniable fact that Twitter is an incredible mind hive/thought shower/[insert cringe worthy marketing term here]. For example, on my Twitter profile about 70% of my 310-ish followers are fellow journalists and PRs. This doesn’t bother me, in fact I quite like it as a giant online resource. I can throw out questions and expect (reasonably) intelligent answers from a wide array of sources. In fact, when Twitter (almost inevitably) hits Facebook/MySpace levels of popularity I’m not sure I really want my friends hearing that I’m struggling with a Windows 7 beta installation incompatibility or witnessing my delight as I proclaim a product like NuevaSync to my geeky circle.

In essence then I think Twitter is headed down two unstoppable paths simultaneously and ultimately it will get torn in two with professional and social settings and possibly even separate sites.

As for the pros and cons of Twitter as a whole, I recognise it is a horrendous time swallower – that’s a well known fact – but I think there are benefits in taking time to become established in an emerging medium. Take a look at the likes of friend and US tech journo colleague Veronica Belmont who has been there since the very beginning in early 2006. She has amassed almost 60,000 followers and like Stephen Fry this has only enhanced her career. Veronica was already a respected writer and now with the help of Twitter she’s something of an industry celeb  – whether she signed up for this reason or not.

Consequently it’s naive to think Twitter can continue its humble mission of “What are you doing?” at least in its current form. As a tool its potential benefits for the individual have grown so powerful that so we can’t castigate professionals, small companies and even corporations for trying to better their prospects through it. Whether they can pull this off is another matter entirely. But just look at where it has taken the razor sharp humour of Twitter’s Darth Vader persona in just 300 tweets…

As I concluded my Think About Tech post: “I think I’ll be swiping some of this for my own blog and posting it on Twitter”…

Can you blame me? 😉

Part II Here

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2 Responses to “PART I: Twitter & The Land of Opportunity”
  1. Chris says:

    see your point. I manage my followers and resent the people that think that having X-thousand followers makes you somehow more relevant, surely by then you can’t keep up and it’s all about ego? where’s the tipping point between it being a two-way conversation to a one-way “this is what I’m doing, aren’t I clever?” tool?


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