Test of the Twitter Broadcasting System

One of the arguments of the proponents of social media is that the audience reigns, choosing which content it wants to consume. Broadcasting is bad, the logic goes, because it doesn’t target messages to specific audiences and doesn’t allow them to choose the desired content.

On that basis, my admittedly limited experience with Twitter makes me feel like many of the people on the network are guilty of the same crime, except worse: at least with the TV guide, I knew when to tune in to get the content I wanted!

I admit that many human relationships are in a grey zone between personal and professional, but there are stages along that spectrum.  My family and friends are generally purely social. Indeed, many of them have no idea what I do for a living. Most of the people I work with are purely professional: I would never invite them over for dinner. And then there are the people with whom I might go out for drinks, but they won’t be invited past my moat.

There are definitely gradations. I probably wouldn’t care if most professional contacts heard that I was getting married. But that doesn’t mean I’d invite them to my wedding.

Applying this logic, I use various social media differently. Facebook is purely social: my acid test is whether you would care to see pictures of my godson or not. However, I still take care not to post content that would embarass me if it escaped from the zoo.  LinkedIn is purely professional.

But I can’t figure out the way many people use Twitter.  There are a lot of people I am following because I respect their professional perspective. I think I can learn from them.  But here’s the rub: I really couldn’t care less when they pour their next cuppa. If they were my best friends from primary school, maybe I would. Why is it considered such anathema in the Twitter world to have two channels: MePro and MePerso? If you have a thought that is so revolutionary that everyone most know, surely you could easily tweet it to both?

Which makes me wonder if these people aren’t guilty of committing the same crime for which they condemn the broadcasters: being too lazy to make it easy for the consumer to filter the content.   Or maybe they’re just being nice to the clever person who know has the opportunity to invent the drivel filter?

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10 Replies to “Test of the Twitter Broadcasting System

  1. It’s not insurmountable, but could get annoying. Especially if you’re interested in the mobile Twitter experience. That means you’d have to configure yourself for your professional and personal addresses and maybe a second professional address if you manage a corporate and individual Twitter ID…and so on.

    I have chosen to only have my professional address stream to my smartphone (I can always reach my personal e-mail through a web interface), but I might have to change that if I wanted to start using the personal Twitter account more actively

  2. I don’t see that as a major technical hitch as it is easy to have multiple email addresses – indeed, most people I know have work and personal emails anyway.

  3. Heather — So I’ve realized that there is one major technical hic in the multiple Twitter identities theory: Twitter only allows one ID per e-mail address, which I find a bit weird!

  4. Joao — That is an interesting point, and it corresponds to how I feel. Facebook is a “place” I go to see friends. But Twitter is more of a wire service. And I think it is telling that Twitter is virtually impossible to use effectively without Twwetdeck or a similar complementary tool.

    Heather — In the run-up to 2000, a survey of British farmers asked what was the greatest technological advance in farming during the 20th century. All of the agricultural technology industries were poised to shout from the rooftops if their technology came out on top. The winner was announced, and it was the mobile phone. Farmers explained that not only did it make their work easier by connecting them to buyers and suppliers, it made their fairly lonely work a lot less lonely since they were now connected to the farmhouse at the touch of a button as well as to the wider world.

    I just saw an advertisement for a car that has button you push if you are in an accident, and the car automatically calls an emergency call center. Someone stays on the line with you until help arrives. The idea is apparently that while you are pinned beneath your airbag, your mobile phone in your handbag is not likely to be much help. So before we were integrating other technologies into phones, and now the phones are becoming parts of other technologies!

  5. Joao,

    I think the point about Twitter as a medium – or communications tool, is spot on and many of the new means are developing in the same way that previous media have done.

    I recollect working for a car breakdown company in the early 1990s when mobile phones weren’t common and one of our rivals launched a “phone” with two buttons that could call the emergency services or the breakdown company. Many of our customers said they didn’t want a “proper” phone and this was a great idea. Who would imagine 15 years later the mobile is used for regular comms every minute of the day, surfing the internet, finding your location, listening to music, taking photos or even uploading video.

    And suddenly we view the mobile phone, not as a want but, according to a new survey in the UK, as a necessity of life.

    A new Maslow hierarchy? Communications is as vital as food/drink, sleep and sex?

  6. A friend called my attention to a comment appearing recently on FERPI’s website about the change of positioning from Twitter. They changed the motto appearing on their home page and now they no longer emphasize that you can find out what others are doing through twitter, but state that you can discover what’s happening in the world instantly through Twitter.

    An evolution because of the growth in the number of users? Probably, but also a consequence of how people are using the platform differently. And certainly in line with what is being said in this discussion: that people increasingly use Twitter as a medium, and that twitter is aware that it has become a powerful medium in the most traditional sense of the word – escaping control and limitations of traditional media.

    In the last days, the attack which left Twitter offline for a couple of hours raised also interesting questions and was commented in this blog. The problem seems to be related with a cyber attack to a blogger who had also Twitter and other social media accounts and who had been active in posting about the Russian Georgian conflict – up to the point that the author questions if this particular blogger fits in the category of a “digital refugee”…

  7. Kristen,

    I agree and think that what people could do is set up different Twitter accounts where their “brand” output can be clear.

    If Tweeting from a press office (or generally as the voice of an organisation), then I feel the output should be official. But the individual press officers could have their own “professional” Twitter accounts that are clearly their own views as press officers. Then if they wish to talk about their personal lives, etc – have a separate Tweet feed.

    I appreciate the idea that social media blurs the boundaries, but feel that we can have separate outlets, provided we are not inconsistent and that our various “persona” are apparent.

    Mind you, the drivel tweets should probably be self-moderated in the first place – and enough of those would make me unfollow someone regardless of the quality of other content.

  8. Heather, topic filters are really just a mini-search engine, if you think about it. They might let you focus on a specific subject, but they depend on the right mention or keyword. In a way, you are obliged to follow the stream in order to get the surprise nuggets. What I would like is a system of tags like “pro content”, “personal content” and “drivel that not even my mother really cares about”. Maybe that kind of full disclosure would reform some of the worst offenders on the latter point! 😉

    Bill, I don’t know what PRSA’s moderation policy is, but some moderation is useful to prevent spam, offensive content, etc. from being posted inadvertantly.

  9. And then there’s the PRSA so-called blog, “PRSay,” which is really just a billboard for the PRSA official point of view. It’s “moderated” to limit dialog and development to those comments that are most useful to PRSA. Mike Cherenson’s latest on the APR being a prime example. {Thanks, Judy, for the heads-up.)

  10. My problem with Twitter is that too many people use it entirely as a broadcast medium. Whether they are tweeting about something personal or professional, there seems to be a lack of thinking about whether or not the comment is relevant to the “audience”.

    The argument that we can choose not to follow isn’t necessarily helpful – and yes, we can use filter tools to focus only on topics we want to engage with, but the one-way statements still dominate.

    I find it particularly irritating when reading a blog post to see the list of Twitter “comments”, which largely seem to be people pointing at the blog post. Where is the dialogue and development in that?

    So Twitter is broadcast and rebroadcast much more than conversation or adding anything of value.

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