I used to be in the conference industry (called the events business by those working in it). That’s my a month ago my friend Matt sent me a link to an interesting presentation: 25 signs your event SUCKS. I thought I might as well check out what’s going on in conferences at the moment. It mentioned some web technology I had heard of, some I hadn’t.
I discovered that the techniques that might be used to support conferences soon could be categorised as ‘Social Media’ ideas. I already have a tag in my blog called social networking. The new name for that is social media. It turns out that the ‘media’ in social media is the word in the sense of the kind of media that people like to share: videos on YouTube, pictures on Flickr, blog posts on WordPress and others.
The social media ‘Platform’ most talked about at the moment is Twitter.
I’d been hearing about it since Summer of last year, but didn’t think it was for me. Seeing it mentioned as part of creating a community to support of a conference piqued my interest.
It started off as a micro-blogging service. Instead of writing a few hundred words about your life every few days, Twitter asks a single question: “What are you doing?” Each time you update twitter.com with what you are doing, the friends of yours who are watching the twitter.com web page get an update. You need to keep your answer concise, you only have 140 characters to play with. This limit is because Twitter is designed to help you keep your circle of friends informed when they are away from their computers. When you sign up with Twitter, you give them your mobile number, and you have the option for your friends twitter messages (known as ‘tweets’) to be sent to your phone as SMS texts, and for your tweets to be sent to their phones.
What do people use Twitter for?
Those keeping friends informed update their status when they are doing something different from what they were doing before: “I’m having coffee with Sophie” “I’m Meeting Debs in town” “I’m away until Saturday”
Others use Twitter to broadcast thoughts in the past they might have written in a notebook. Thoughts that might inspire others in their circle. Twitter can also be a quick way of asking your contacts a question: “Do you know any good coffee places near London Bridge?”
Some use Twitter to entertain people. They might pretend to be someone famous and come up with humourous ideas of how they might answer the ‘What are you doing?’ question. If you follow ‘Michael Bay’ (@MichaelBay) you’ll get messages such as these: “The sunset on the set last night was beautiful. Not a real sunset, just a fake one I break out every once in a while.” “Just bought 3 highly endangered Asiatic lions. Why? Just because.”
Many people use Twitter create networks of those with the same interest that they haven’t met yet – traditional online social networking. Blogs sometimes form the nucleus of these interest groups. Blog posts could be described as a record of the ideas the group has.
The ‘media’ of the blogging Social Media Platform is the idea.
For Twitter, the media is a thought expressed as a sentence or two. Twitter is for sharing thoughts. Thoughts that can keep others informed, involved, amused, educated or inspired. If you want to share fully-formed ideas, write blog posts and articles.
How I got started with Twitter
To start off, sign up at Twitter.com. Once you pick a user name, ask your friends if they are on Twitter. If not, use the tool on the site to invite them. The method for choosing who’s updates you receive is called ‘following.’ If you follow a person, you get to see their updates (tweets) mixed in with yours on the Twitter home page. If they follow you, they see your updates when they go to Twitter.com.
You don’t need to know someone to follow them. If you know their user name, you can add that to the Twitter address and see what they’ve been writing recently. For example, if you find someone interesting on the web, and they mention their twitter user name, you can take a look. Stephen Fry’s user name is stephenfry. His profile page on Twitter is at http://twitter.com/stephenfry – there you can see what kind of tweets he writes, check out a link to his home page. You can add his old updates and future updates to your twitter feed (the tweets listed on twitter.com) by clicking the ‘Follow’ button on their profile page.
When someone ‘follows’ you, you get an email informing you of their user name. It is Twitter etiquette to take a look at who they are and ‘follow’ them in return – unless you think the kind of tweets they write would not interest you, or that the web page they link to on their profile page has no content you are interested in.
So, get involved with Twitter if you’d like to share your thoughts. Work out if the sharing will inform, update, entertain or inspire others. Before you attempt to do all these things, pick one or two to start off, and see if people respond.
I’ve been on Twitter for four weeks, so I’m just starting out. If you want to get involved, you might learn more than me very quickly.
Explore at twitter.com