A Twitter epiphany

From the Zazoo blog:

They say a year on the Internet is like seven years in the offline world – think of it as dog years (oh no, now I can’t get this image of my Dalmatian chasing his tail out of my head!). In that case, a year in social media is at least twice as fast.

So 10 weeks is a long time in the life of Twitter – by my complicated reckonings, it’s about a year ago. Now that I’ve completely confused the issue, I’ll get to my point: 10 weeks ago I wrote a post questioning the business value of Twitter (two posts, actually). Since then, Twitter has really entered the zeitgeist, with global users supposedly jumping from 6 million to 8 million just in the past couple of weeks, up from practically nothing 12 months ago.

There have been articles in just about every major newspaper in the Western world trying to explain the appeal and the utility of the service. It’s been used by Australian and American politicians, Rove, my resident breakfast radio announcer Adam Spencer and schoolkids. Most of the coverage has been favourable if somewhat bewildered, though some people are looking at it harshly, such as IT philosopher Jeremy Pettit, who wrote, “Didn’t Nietzsche say, ‘Soon everyone will learn to read and write, and that will be the death of language’? Brilliantly offensive. I’m sure he had Twitter in mind. The morbidly self-obsessed screeching to the morbidly self-obsessed in bite-sized chunks.”

Anyway, after writing those earlier posts I decided to become more pro-active and try to test the business utility of following scores of people and having them follow my 140-character musings (BTW, I’m @raywelling if you would like to follow). I tried to seek out social media experts to follow and sought the advice of more experienced Twitterers about how to monitor what’s going on in the Twittersphere.

I’ve watched people of all ages and backgrounds join up, particularly social media geeks, such as the hundreds of people attending ad:tech this week who drove the conference search term up to the #2 trending term on Twitter on Tuesday.

After attempting to manage the growing flood of postings through Tweetdeck (a specialised Twitter browser) and setting up regular searches on terms I’m interested in (contact me via the comments box if you want to know how to do this), I noticed a few trends settling in, such as the fact that an increasing number of posts tend to be links to interesting/useful blog posts, stories, videos, photos etc. (if you’re wondering about the problem of long web addresses in a 140-character environment, there is a widget you can use to shorten addresses to a manageable length).

Anyway, I had my Twitter epiphany this week. After viewing a tweet from a social media PR expert in the US who happened to be in Sydney speaking at a conference, I decided to follow him. Within minutes, I had a direct message from him noting that I was based in Sydney and since he was in town, did I want to catch up for a drink? We did catch up, and even if it doesn’t turn out to result in extra business, I can now clearly see how these connections can prove to be extremely useful. If nothing else, I met an interesting person who I would never have connected with through conventional means.

They don’t call it ’social media’ for nothing!