What with the launch of the #NewTwitter, it seems apt to speak about what the changes are going to mean for the social space in terms of PR. Twitter’s changes are all with a view to making it more responsive so that you work less for more information. The increased functionality could herald some worrying times ahead for the various applications like TweetDeck, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see how this pans out. In terms of looks, it’s moving towards an iPad feel. Read more about it here and here.
When I first started using Twitter in 2007 I was told by my ahead-of-the-curve colleague that it was an information and news sharing tool. It wasn’t suitable for every piece of information, but when it came to assembling raw data from several sources that then went into fully baked news stories, nothing beat it. Traditional news was based on the 24 hour cycle, blogs boiled this down to hours and minutes and Twitter was taking it one step further to news sharing and spreading by the second.
As a PR consultant, this fascinated me and I started using Twitter to read news and opinion from around the world that I previously never would have seen. Gradually, I started sharing my own views and sometimes engaging with others directly.
In the three years since, the way Twitter is used has changed dramatically. Or, rather, it has expanded. As one of the founders, Jack Dorsey, commented yesterday at a conference in the U.S. that “people defined their own relevancy on Twitter.” He went on to highlight how “Twitter was not relevant when it first launched.” Sounds like an odd thing to say, but it emphasizes the importance of simplicity and letting the users define the position in the market place where possible.
The problem for Twitter, like many social platforms, is how to make money without going against why it became popular in the first place. As Ben Parr on Mashable says, expanding and enhancing Twitter makes it more of a destination, like Facebook. This means more ads, which means more revenue. Revenue is, of course, essential and this all makes sense, but my concern is that Twitter will move too far away from what I thought was its original selling point. If Facebook is now more like Twitter and Twitter is more like Facebook, why do we need both?
People, especially journalists, still use Twitter to pick up on news stories and get almost instantaneous opinion on various topics. But Twitter is also now used for people to have public conversations, sometimes about specific issues and sometimes about the most banal stuff that hardly anybody else (surely?) is interested in. I don’t understand why people link their Twitter feed to their YouTube activities. I personally have zero interest in whether someone has ‘liked’ a YouTube video and don’t want it in my news feed. I also don’t want to know where people have just ‘checked in’ using Foursquare. And I really don’t care if they’ve just become the Mayor a ‘Super User’ or if they are there on their own, with two others or an army of 10,000 social media aficionados.
Having an online debate around a topic in public is great, so long as people don’t use the virtual wall of their computer to be more vitriolic than is normally necessary. It’s an ongoing joke that social media, and Twitter in particular, is centered around people informing others about information like what they are having for lunch. Unfortunately, this is increasingly true. We should think about what we put online because it’s more permanent than what we say in real life. Also, the less we consider what we put online, the further social media moves away from actually making the world a better connected place.
More links to one another and more information sharing, virtual or otherwise, does not always make us more connected. It means we have more connections, but this is something entirely different. To me, Twitter is more about ‘media’ than it is about ‘social’. Sure, it’s a way for us to interact with each other so it is social. But it’s more about media because it allows us faster and wider access to content previously restricted by geography and other factors.
As people who find social media is part of our daily PR lexicon, we need to ensure we practice what we preach and don’t allow Twitter to just become a diluted, mini-Facebook.
I’m sure there are others out there who have differing opinions, so what do you think?