(This one’s a two-parter! Golly, I’ve been a busy bee!)
A few weeks back, a (rather jolly successful) marketing friend of mine came to visit. We went out for a meal, and over an exquisitely arranged starter, got to talking about blogging, facebook and twitter. She explained that she really couldn’t see the point of twitter – the status updates were the most annoying element of facebook anyway, so how could a site dedicated to nothing but updates appeal to anyone? Never one to back away from a challenge, I had to step in with my two penn’th!
To begin with, I don’t think one should ever underestimate the appeal of the mundane. As someone, somewhere in the internet ether once argued (forgive me, I’ve forgotten where exactly) we ask our friends what they’ve been up to when we engage in conversation, don’t we? We share last night’s TV viewing with our colleagues, tell our mothers what we’re about to cook for dinner, relay stories about the traffic or the weather to our hairdressers… this is small talk. It’s shared experience, the basis of social interaction.
But look again and you’ll see that twitter goes much farther than that. For me it is a place in which I share information and links, and find out the latest news. I used to have the BBC News website open on my desktop, flicking through the most-read and most-shared stories each morning with my morning cuppa. Now I subscribe to the subsections of national newspapers, breaking news channels and frontline blogs and let them tell me when a story is breaking. When Michael Jackson was rushed to hospital I was watching another channel, but thanks to twitter I knew that something was going on. As with 9.11, I watched events unfold on a news channel (last time CNN, this time BBC News 24) – but it was twitter that alerted me to their beginnings.
Of course, this discussion took place long before MJ’s death had crashed Google, before the twitterverse had gone green and changed location to confuse and confound the Iranian government. The full extent of twitter’s reach and influence hadn’t been seen as yet (and may not have been yet!) – still, I was convinced of it’s usefulness.
I also use twitter to keep track of other people’s blogs. To go through my bloglist (see column to the right –>) takes… well, let’s just say more than my lunch hour. Half of those won’t have been updated, but I’ll have still lost a couple of minutes waiting for the page to load, then a couple more returning to my list (yes, our work connection is tediously slow!). If my favourite bloggers tweet (and for the most part it seems they do!) they tend to also tweet when they’ve written a new blog post. Allowing me to be first on the scene, up-to-date and ready with a keyboard-loaded comment!
Which leads me neatly on to my next item: networking. Twitter, unlike blogging, takes down the barriers of blog content. Blog etiquette deems that a comment should really relate to the content of the post. Twitter takes this constraint away, allowing you to interact socially on a whole new level – much as you would with a friend. Case in point, I happen to know that lovely Amy stubbed her toe last week – because she tweeted it. And I was able to express sympathy, just as I would had a friend texted with the same news. Twitter allows you to build relationships on a more personal level, but without having to intrude beyond the confines of the computer screen. Not unlike facebook, it’s the much needed bridge between shared web presence and actual friendship.
Need a breather? I do. Part II coming up tomorrow.