22 March 2009

Nice to meet you, too: some first impressions of Twitter

I’m aware that blogging about Twitter is like dancing about architecture, but I can’t write 140-characters-or-less forever. I also get that I'm late to the party but that's never stopped me before.

I started an account for the magazine I work for first. It’s a sign of the times that after 25 years in print, I get a daily report on UBs and PIs for the magazine’s website. “It’s the future!” everyone keeps barking at me because, having grown up in print media, they’re convinced that UBs=circulation and PIs=readership. I’m yet to be convinced – I think the model is wilder and more chaotic – but there you go. It’s a living – for now.

So, onto Twitter and using it as a cute little marketing tool for the website. Links, competition announcements, whatever. There’s a lift in UBs and PIs that can be tracked to all those tiny.urls and bit.ly links, and everyone’s happy. Hurrah.

What catches my eye, however, is what’s flowing past me as a result. All the followers are tweeting away and it’s pretty interesting. I get it straight away: Twitter isn’t chat, it isn’t static and it’s not even “regularly updated” content. It’s a torrent of moments straight from people’s heads.

At first it’s just a shitstorm of blathering voices until I realise that I can turn some up and turn some down. I can even turn them off completely.

I started my own Twitter account, @kollektor. I transfered the most interesting voices from the work account first, just a handful of them. Voices that, if I was in a room full of people, would be the ones I would listen to because they’re talking about things I’m interested in.

The girl who tweets regularly “so bored” is not one of them.

At first I stand in the doorway of an unfamiliar room. There’s a flow, a style going on that I’m not part of, and I want to get to know a bit more about the rhythms and conventions before I plunge in.

I find people in my own city tweeting about food, fashion, media, geekery, politics, bars, art and news. I’m interested in all of these things, so I follow them.

But it’s not called social media for nothing and I can’t lurk for too long. It’s a two-way street, so I contribute: what I’m reading that I’d recommend to others, what I’ve discovered during the course of my day that delighted me and might delight others, an occasional bit of direct tweeting. A couple of photos, a TV still that amused me, a traffic report (!), some links, a bon mot here and there.

You put in, you get back. Some replies, retweets, even a cheeky DM.

No one’s running things. No one is moderating or setting the agenda. Again, Twitter isn’t chat.

I should rephrase that: I’m running things, I’m moderating.

Too many tweets about the intricacies of C++ programming? Unfollow.

Talk of seasonal produce around town? Follow.

So far, I’ve kept my follows fairly local, the Twitter equivalent of going to London and staying in Earls Court. This will change.

1 comment:

melissa harris said...

thanks for the mental image of twitter....i have resisted to this point as i feel i need another
distraction like i need a hole in my head

but i am tempted.