A few things struck me today about Twitter and about one aspect of a World gone social. I subscribe to a great service called Timehop, which reminds me every day about tweets and Twitter conversations for this day but 1, 2, 3 and more years ago. It’s a great way to bring back things you were doing, events you attended, conversations you were having over the years. So the first thing is that I look back at the conversations I was having, and who I was having them with 4, 5, 6 and 7 year ago and I’m nostalgic for the village that Twitter used to be and the people I used to connect with.
Facebook has only been around for 10 years. We’ve been communicating in broadcast, text style, short messages of 140 characters or less (that’s microblogging) with Twitter for even less. My friend Neville Hobson just posted a week ago on his 8 year Twitter birthday. He pre-dates me on the service by 2 months and a week! He was probably the 47,973rd person to sign up whereas I was user number 771,698. That shows you that at the end of 2006, start of 2007 the sign up rate was moving pretty fast, but we both joined Twitter inside the first million users and before the take up really accelerated when it was used as the official back channel for 2007’s South by Southwest. So the second thing is that Twitter has only become part of the fabric of life of any generation for less than a decade.
Here’s the third thing — it’s now so mainstream that a major item on the BBC TV news this morning reporting on Twitter proclaimed 2014 the year of the selfie and told us that the World Cup was the most tweeted about event. For some while now most adverts on the the underground, on billboards, or in newspapers have a Twitter handle or a hashtag. Hashtag itself was added the Oxford English Dictionary in June of this year. In July of this year our prime minister David Cameron signalled a cabinet shuffle was happening in a tweet, with a hashtag to follow. Most brands and businesses use it for broadcast. The smarter brands and companies engage in conversations with their customers, or provide more responsive customer support via Twitter than their traditional support channels. Put all of these together and Twitter is very definitely an integral part of business, news and popular culture.
You might have guessed that I’m a huge Twitter enthusiast. Last week Iblogged about a connected conversation that happened on a Sunday that pulled together ideas across continents and centuries that highlighted the value that can be created by this social media connected World. That’s the fourth thing — with all of the frustrations of the medium, I wouldn’t be without it.
However, my biggest concern is how difficult it is to create community within the platform. Back when it was a village, the informal communities were there, the conversations happened. Today the balance has shifted to broadcast and noise. Finding the signal? Creating community? Instead of an app, there is a hashtag for that. The social media savvy amongst us use tools like Tweeteck or HootSuite or Tweetbot to search for signal and pull together our own commmunity overlays, but the sheer scale and transaction quantity of the network are both a strength and a weakness. The strength is in the amazing volume of data and analytics that are available to brands and businesses. The weakness is the shift to broadcast and to a place where each of us has our own firehose of content to dip in to and interpret, or marvel at as it flows by. The village has morphed in to a noisy megalopolis which has evolved like a favela without any real town planning. Twitter the company has grown up to be a very valuable asset with steadily increasing advertising revenues, and very smart people targeting we users, who have become the product. I’m interested in the dynamics of the way this has evolved over the last 8 years. What happens next? I’m wishing for new functionality to help me get back to the way it was maybe 5 or 6 years ago.
- When Is My Tweet’s Prime of Life? (A brief statistical interlude.) (moz.com)
- Here’s a Super-Easy Way To Beat Twitter’s 140 Character Limit (time.com)
- TimeHop: Is it a good idea to delve in to the past? | QueenBeady (queenbeady.com)
- Twitter study provides insight into our culture (bostonherald.com)
- #Timehop: Still a Must-Have for Seeing Social Media Past (adamearn.com)
(Cross-posted @ David Terrar on Medium)