About three months ago, I decided to launch myself into the Twitter world — this after a very good Half in Ten webinar on how to use social media strategically.
Here’s what I’ve learned — and tentatively concluded.
- It’s possible to express a thought in fewer than 140 characters — even for someone as voluble as I. And it’s good discipline because you need to bore down to the core message.
- It’s not possible to express a thought of any complexity or even to qualify a relatively simple thought. No room for “possibly,” “unless,” etc. And, of course, no room for acknowledging different views.
- Tweeting infects one’s thought processes. I often think through issues while taking my daily constitutional. Find myself talking to myself in little blips. This also happens when I read something I like (or don’t).
- Twitter is a great distraction. When I get to a tough place in a draft, I have yet another way to put off the inevitable slogging through. And I take advantage of it, though I know I shouldn’t.
- Twitter is truly a social medium — much more collaborative than a blog. Many cryptic conversations. Lots of tweets and retweets to help others get information out to broader networks.
- For some people, Twitter seems to fill a void. Maybe they need a sense of connection and there’s no one around they’re really connected to. Or maybe it’s something completely different. I just don’t get why some people tweet fragmented streams of their daily lives. Do get why some people tweet — how shall I say? — fragments of themselves.
- Twitter can be part of an activist communications campaign, but only by facilitating networking among organizations and individuals who are already engaged — and communicating with one another in less confining ways. Mini-messages — often comprehensible only to those in the know — don’t grow grassroots.
- Tweeting can subvert activism. It’s easy to feel one’s doing something for a cause by tweeting or retweeting a message. But one’s not really doing anything that will make a direct impact on the powers-that-be. At best, Twitter is a way of letting others know what they can do, but only via links.
- Malcolm Gladwell is partly right when he says the next revolution won’t be tweeted. Successful campaigns for social change have leaders and lieutenants. Also a critical mass who’ll put real skin in the game. Twitter followers aren’t the same as, for example, the people who followed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. across the bridge at Selma.
- But the next revolution — assuming we have one — may be tweeted in ways Gladwell doesn’t allow for. Social media could help keep participants connected. They might help get the media coverage needed to build support — and provide some measure of protection. Twitter might have gone the way of the telegraph by then. But I doubt we’ll see a replica of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
What do you more seasoned tweeters say?