Friday, March 2, 2012

to tweet or not to tweet...


...that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the stings and scorns of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them.
(with apologies to the Bard). (And, sorry, that’s 205 characters).

Anyone who hasn’t used Twitter is usually quick to call those who do “twits”. It’s a worn-out pun now, folks. With Twitter claiming 175 million registered users, it’s surely time to at least consider it seriously. It has also been around long enough for us to make a few observations on the way it has changed, enhanced or undermined the way we communicate.

With only 140 characters in which to express yourself, it seems to some that a tweet is a quintessential example of the dumbed-down sound bite. There are others to whom it is a thing of beauty. Yoko Ono is a keen tweeter who was recently quoted as saying:

“it’s almost like a haiku, but involving other people in a participation act”.

Speaking of haiku, there are those who set themselves the challenge of writing poetry or a prose poem in 140 characters - and there’s an app for that: TwiHaiku. Check out Unfold Press“the most poetic 140 characters you’ll read today”. Think I’m kidding? Consider the exquisite little poems on their site.

Then of course there is the cacophony that you can encounter when launching into Twitter.  It may seem less like haiku and more like the noisiest cocktail party you’ve ever attended. But, as with a cocktail party, the key is to engage with the conversation that interests you and add your own comments. If the subject is enticing, those first comments may lead you to a blog or a website or an article that warrants your undivided attention. Or the subject might just be part of the stream of daily culture that passes you by, maybe or maybe not leaving impressions or information in its wake. Just like a regular conversation. And unlike television, or even a book, you get to respond. Yes, you are included in the conversation.

Here's what a recent conference speaker Tom Bedecarré  had to say about using Twitter in business:

"One important question is, how to understand the change from a push model to a collaborative discussion. I find that clients struggle with that change. The good thing is, whatever is new and interesting gets a lot of attention. For a brand, last year it was the iPhone application, this year it is the Facebook page ... 
Twitter is used for a lot of different things – that is one of the interesting things about it. People are creating business opportunities, use it to communicate with friends, publish something or tell the people out there about a brand. This is why I don't understand Twitter haters. There is something really exiting about Twitter. This is going to be a platform that will lead to great ideas."

Twitter may be just the thing for 175 million people, but not for you. That’s fine. But it's certainly interesting to observe just what it can and does do to our communications.  

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