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Twitter Is For….

I don’t tweet.

Years ago I got a Twitter account because I wanted to see how it worked, and of course you can’t rummage around in Twitter without an account. I got a few followers right away (people with nothing better to do, I guess), but I never tweeted one syllable, so there my account sits, gathering digital dust.

Twitter Is Everywhere
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Above: Twitter Is Everywhere

It’s not the priceless Congressman Anthony Weiner who makes me glad I don’t tweet, although if I got a tweet of his crotch, I would never touch my smart phone again. No, it’s more the everyday, ordinary tweets I run across at work.

KPBS’s Midday Edition, of course, has a Twitter account (@KPBSMidday), as does everyone in the newsroom. We tweet who our guests are, and if they say something newsworthy or particularly interesting, we tweet some more. But it’s an odd, unsatisfying kind of communication because nobody ever answers. Someone re-tweeting your tweet is the best you can expect.

Instead, we get random tweets from those we are following -- cryptic messages from other media outlets and public radio shows doing the same thing we are doing. We get a lot of random, symbol-laden quasi-sentences of glee or triumph or invitations to events we wouldn’t attend on a bet. (However, just now, as I was writing this, Liam Dillon of tweeted that Kevin Faulconer endorsed Bonnie Dumanis for Mayor, a piece of news that some might think weakens this case I am busy making. Nevertheless, I will carry on.)

Late in the day after our show has aired, I see a sea of Macs displaying Tweet Decks full of messages that I assume my colleagues understand and perhaps even value. But I can’t help thinking that Twitter is taking us all for a ride. I think people who tweet are sure they are doing actual work, connecting with a group of people who await their tweeted wisdom. But perhaps all we really have with Twitter is the perception that we are connected – and connecting.

I actually think it’s all a crotch – I mean a crock.

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Avatar for user 'Nathan Gibbs'

Nathan Gibbs | June 8, 2011 at 9:54 a.m. ― 5 years, 9 months ago

I think you're doing it wrong.

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Avatar for user 'alexls'

alexls | June 8, 2011 at 10:13 a.m. ― 5 years, 9 months ago

Those who don't need to tweet (or Facebook, or do any other kind of social networking to promote their media output) are living in a rarefied, privileged bubble of borrowed time. It ain't gonna last!

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Avatar for user 'Grant Barrett'

Grant Barrett | June 8, 2011 at 10:26 a.m. ― 5 years, 9 months ago

Nathan, you took the words right off my keyboard.

Pat, here are two simple strategies for you to try:

1. Keep an "essential" Twitter list that has only a handful of really good tweeters to follow. Be merciless about culling it and be skeptical about adding new people to it. Mine follows about 85 Twitter accounts. It's the main thing I follow. It's better than anything else I have for getting a quick taste of what's happening among friends, coworkers, colleagues, and powerful people. I hit it first thing in the morning and a few times throughout the day. It follows no news accounts directly: if news is crucial, my "essential" people will retweet it and then I'll see it.

2. Have a second stream that's the exact opposite: it follows *all* the tweets within a given geographic area. I set one stream (in Hootsuite, which is like TweetDeck) to show me all tweets within 25 km of the center of San Diego. It's a firehose, but when something really important happens in the area -- big crime, big fires, big earthquake, or other big news (Bin Laden's death, for example), it's the first place I go to get a taste of what people are thinking in English and Spanish (and a little bit in languages I can't read, like Tagalog and Japanese). I also dip into it at other times just to make sure I am stepping outside my walled garden: I see politics, opinions, language, and preferences that I would not otherwise be exposed to from people who live lives very different from mine.

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Avatar for user 'Pat Finn'

Pat Finn, KPBS Staff | June 8, 2011 at 10:27 a.m. ― 5 years, 9 months ago

It's no doubt true that from my rarefied, privileged bubble of borrowed time, I am doing it wrong. The next time I try to start a revolution or warn people about a tsunami, I'll have to learn fast.

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Avatar for user 'Pat Finn'

Pat Finn, KPBS Staff | June 8, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. ― 5 years, 9 months ago

Thanks, Grant. I suppose I'll have to give it a try (sigh!). I've been told I'm getting twitted on Twitter, too.

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Avatar for user 'PRProSanDiego'

PRProSanDiego | June 8, 2011 at 11:38 a.m. ― 5 years, 9 months ago

Pat, as we often say in both the crisis communication and emergency management business, a crisis (or fast-breaking news event) is not the time to hand out business cards. There are discussions taking place on Twitter among knowledgeable insiders in politics (particularly in San Diego), governance, business, communications, sports and celebrities, and news media ignore them at their own peril. Give it a try and take Grant's excellent advice on finding and using good management tools and practices that work for you.

BTW, Twitter is the only place where a humble PR gal could have a conversation with a rock star CEO (Tony Hsieh of Zappos), a big city mayor not her own (Sam Adams of Portland), and celebrities like Ellen Degeneres. Twitter levels the playing field!

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