June 22, 2009

NBC News’ Ann Curry on Twitter

NBC News’ Ann Curry on Twitter from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaAnn Curry, news anchor of NBC’s “Today” show, spoke animatedly at the 140 Character Conference in New York last Monday about the importance of news and journalism as a public service rather than a business and the growing impact of social media services like Twitter.

I caught up with her as she was leaving and did a 3-minute video interview before her handlers ushered her away.

“Journalism is an act of faith in the future, and it is a war,” she said. “Oftentimes I feel bloodied with a sword unsheathed. That’s because you’re fighting for stories that you want covered.”

Curry smartly uses Twitter as a sort of electronic newspaper to spread the word about stories that didn’t make it on air. (She tweets almost daily at @AnnCurry.) She points to the fact that many important stories don’t get a lot of attention — in both traditional media and on Twitter. Viewers and users “want to watch something more salacious and that makes me crazy,” and during the panel she bemoaned the items that often receive the most attention on sites like Twitter.

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June 19, 2009

Twitter, Facebook Just ‘Virtual Ballrooms’

Chris AbrahamTools don’t matter, and the best ones get out of the way, allowing people to connect more easily and effectively. That was my big takeaway from last Friday’s second-annual Blog Potomac.

Obsessing about “what’s next” in online services and technology saps too much valuable attention away from what’s really important: connecting with people. We need to stop obsessing on what comes after Twitter and focus instead on how best to connect to, communicate with and relate to our clients, colleagues and consumers.

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June 14, 2009

How one company uses Web 2.0 tools to run and promote their business

David SparkEveryone wants to be more efficient, productive, and successful. We’re constantly seeking advice on Lifehacker. We gravitate toward any post entitled “How to …” or “Top tips to …” And we’re feeding self-help book publishers who dominate 25 percent of the publishing market.

Rarely, though, do we get an opportunity to see one person or one organization completely open up the kimono and show us step by step how they deploy all of these time and cost saving techniques to actually run their business.

Stephen Jagger

Stephen Jagger

Last week, Stephen Jagger (@sjagger), CEO of Ubertor (web pages for real estate professionals), Reachd (web marketing training courses) and Outsourcing Things Done (high level virtual assistants), spoke to a group of entrepreneurs of the San Francisco Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) at Samovar Tea House at the Metreon in San Francisco. Here’s a summary of his presentation in which he talks about each of the tools he uses and provides an explanation of the value it brings to his business.

While I had used all but one technology Jagger mentioned, it was really eye opening to see an organization deploy all of these tools and demonstrate the business value they provided in terms of connectivity, productivity, and cost savings.

Step one: Lose the offices – Jagger used to have office space that his companies were spending thousands of dollars a month to maintain. An opportunity arose where someone wanted to take over their lease. Instead of searching for some new office space, Jagger and team all decided to go virtual. While they saved a fortune on rent and maintenance, they needed to adopt some Web 2.0 technologies in order to stay in touch and conduct business.

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June 7, 2009

How will Twitter be governed?

twitter-birdStowe BoydA recent post by Marshall Kirkpatrick, How Twitter’s Staff Uses Twitter (And Why It Could Cause Problems), makes some interesting observations and raises questions about the direction of Twitter based on the way Twitter staff use it:

We’ve examined the posting and following habits of people on the company’s staff and found that Twitter team members don’t follow very many other people, they aren’t following many of the top developers in their own community and they don’t even Tweet very much.

Marshall suggests — to perhaps over-simplify his thoughtful post — that these behaviors may not lead to decisions about Twitter functionality or the company’s business model that serve the interests of the greater Twitter community, or at least the community of dedicated Twitter users. He cites the recent blackeye over unilateral and unannounced changes to replies functionality (generally referred to as #fixreplies on Twitter) as one example of how different patterns of use might lead to design decisions that run counter to the wishes of the Twittosphere.

He also posted a response by Ev Williams, Twitter CEO, to an earlier draft of his post. Ev says, among other things, the following:

As you know, there are lots of different ways to use Twitter. Many people fall into the trap that you should follow all or most people back out of a sense of politeness or so-called engagement with the community. But the fact is, having more followers does not give you more time in the day (as much as I’d like to sell that). At a certain point, you’re not actually reading any more tweets by following more people — you’re just dipping into the stream somewhat randomly and missing a whole lot of what people say.That’s fine, but I believe people will generally get more value out of Twitter by dropping the symmetrical relationship expectation and simply curating their following list based on the information and people they want to tune in to.

I follow almost 1,000 accounts. Among these, yes, there are celebrities (because I’m interested in how they’re using Twitter as well as what some of them have to say). There are Twitter developers. (You mentioned a few I don’t follow — there are several that I do.) I try to follow all Twitter employees, some potential employees, industry leaders, friends, family, and other people I care about, people (or organizations) who make me smarter, or people who make me laugh. It’s hard to know if this is the *right* set of accounts to follow. And I’m constantly curating my list. (In fact, I’m now following @atebits since you pointed it out. Account discovery is something we need to work a lot on.)

1,000 feels to me currently to be about the right number — but I still miss a lot. And other people (like Biz and other folks in the company) are comfortable with a much smaller number because they don’t want to miss as much.

Also, keep in mind that a following list does not reveal, necessarily, what one is paying attention to. Hundreds of people give me feedback by mentioning @ev — which I check many times a day. I also have saved searches for “twitter” and other related terms.

I agree with Ev that the asymmetric follow model has benefits, and the kneejerk ‘follow everyone back’ etiquette is unworkable and unscalable, especially for those with more than a few hundred followers. However, nearly everything else he says doesn’t add up for me.

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June 1, 2009

Twitter’s hype is different than Second Life’s

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Chris AbrahamOne of my favorite clients, Fabrice Grinda, believes that Twitter is all hype. Call it Twitter Skepticism — the kind of unwarranted hype associated with Second Life. I consider this a fine challenge, so I left a comment — well, I left an entire rant, and didn’t even get into talking about organic SEO, PageRank, and the like. Tell me what you think:

Long story short, Twitter is light, cheap, open and permanent where Second Life is heavy, expensive, closed and ephemeral.

Twitter does everything right where Second Life failed.

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May 28, 2009

Celebrities: Use Twitter to do good

Britney Spears on Twitter

JD LasicaRecently the TV critic of the St. Petersburg Times asked for my thoughts about the migration of celebrities to Twitter over the past few months. Will it inevitably dumb down the service? Bring it into the mainstream? Make us want to move on to the Next Big Thing?

oprah-first-twitter-message1Ashton Kutcher is closing in on 2 million followers, Britney Spears is at 1.6 million, Oprah at 1.2 million, Shaq and Demi Moore at 1 million and Perez Hilton at 860 followers for some reason.

The columnist, Eric Deggans, did a solid writeup (I’m quoted): Celebrities who Tweet: Tips to keep them from ruining Twitter for us all.

Here’s the friendly advice I’m offering to celebrities joining the Twitterverse:

First, understand that you’re not leading this parade. But we’re happy to have you in it. You have the advantage of having tens or hundreds of thousands of fans follow you on Twitter, even if you don’t know the difference between a tweet and a twit. But listen, observe, follow back, participate. It’s the golden rule of social media.

Second, how should you use your special powers? To do good.

Ignore the newbie approach of chronicling the mundane aspects of your daily life. The Twitter question isn’t really: What are you doing right now? It’s: What are you doing that’s interesting? Or: what’s cool that you’ve happened across?

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