Jeremy Klaszus has an interesting article in Fast Forward Weekly this week about Alberta politics on Twitter. After reading the article, I’m struggling with something Jeremy touched on regarding the use of Twitter. It has nothing to do with politicians on Twitter, (I think it is a fantastic forum for them to connect with constituents) but everything to do with what Jeremy sees as the downside to Twitter.
Twitter has other downsides. For one, it can be intensely addicting and, when used without restraint, rude. At the recent “Twestival” in Calgary (a pub night for Twitter users), many people in the room couldn’t keep their hands off their BlackBerrys for more than a couple minutes, even during a panel discussion on Twitter. To an outsider, it seemed ironic: the technology is supposedly about connecting people, but put a bunch of Twitterers in one room, and they struggle to let go of the technology long enough to give full attention to each flesh-and-blood other.
The world of social media is real time. People are talking, thinking, sharing now. Not 20 minutes from now, not 4 days from now. Twitter is about conversation. It adds an entirely new dimension to discussion. To those not yet used to the forum, it may appear rude when your audience is tweeting away. But take a step back and you’ll find an array of conversation and engagement like you’ve never seen.
I want to know what people are thinking as they are thinking it. Twitter gives me that. At Twestival, Twitter users were indeed on their Berrys, iPhones and other devices. But who do you think they were talking to? One another (and sending questions to the panel). If I were to be involved with another Twestival, I’d want to see a screen up showing all of the tweets coming from users in the room, much like we saw at last night’s Third Tuesday Calgary event.
At Third Tuesday Calgary, Joe Thornley encouraged audience members to tweet while in the room. Comments on what he was saying were coming in from a few audience members (search #ctt), interesting points he was making were being tweeted to Twitterati who were unable to attend the event. Attendees were agreeing with things he said, disagreeing with other points he brought up. Alain Saffel from Edmonton even joined in on the conversation. And the entire world could see it if they wanted to. When and where else have you ever seen this happen?
It was the first time I had live tweeted from an event I was at. Several times throughout the night, I felt like my attention had been fragmented. When I was sending out a tweet about something interesting I had just heard, sometimes I missed out on another one. But I was also able to converse with people in the room about those points on the spot. A good 15 hours later… my retention on what we were tweeting and conversing about during the presentation are high. I may have missed out on some of the things Joe said, but the other bits I have a high recall rate on. And with multiple people tweeting, most of what I missed was picked up by somebody else. It’s the ultimate note sharing tool.
People who are tweeting about what you are saying are so interested in what you are saying, whether they agree or disagree, that they want to talk about it NOW. They think the topics you’re touching on are worthy of putting forth into the world for debate. Whether they agree or not, that’s impressive… and frankly, flattering.
For those who haven’t yet seen this side of social media or are scared of what people will say about them, guess what? They’re going to talk about you anyway. But now, you have a direct link to the people talking about you… and you can respond right back. You can see what they are saying about your presentation, about your topics. There’s discussion happening that may bring up more points of view that in turn you can take and make your arguments more solid, or change accordingly. They can help fill in any gaps you’ve missed. It’s all in how you use the information that’s there.
Twitter is giving you unfiltered thought and discussion. Conversation on the fly that can be joined by people inside and outside the room. Conversation that is now searchable. Anyone wanting to know what happened at an event can search for the hash tag. No more closed door conversations. The event filled up or sold out? So what? You can still be a part of it and gain value from the conversation happening.
Jeremy’s downside is my upside. It’s a new way of interacting. It’s stretching the limits of what people are used to. It’s a little overwhelming at first. But it’s amazing how much it can bring to the table.
Side note – Twestival was a fundraising event to for Charity: Water. In about a month, 200+ cities all over the world came together to host local events. Worldwide, the event raised $250K USD to help provide fresh drinking water in areas of greatest need.