Today I want to share an article that I read on Economist published on February 12, 2009, so it is rather recent. The article, “Politicians on Twitter – Tweeting The People” expounds on concepts that parallel my philosophy for healthy and successful communication.
For those who are not familiar with Twitter, it is a micro-blogging system that enables users to make small posts (or tweets). As humans, we are normally inclined to do two things – be curious about others and go commune with people. Why? We are social beings. Twitter allows individuals to make small posts about their lives – such as “I am going to have lunch with @Dfurious at Souplantation” – and followers (people who subscribe to another person’s posts) can respond to it informally – such as “Oh that’s my favorite restaurant!” or something to that effect.
Why do you think Starbucks is so successful? Before Starbucks, where would people go to commune? The grocery store? I think not. Starbucks allows for individuals to meet with friends and peers on a common ground for a common purpose – be it just to catch up. Grabbing lunch or dinner with an individual commits a lot of time whereas coffee / tea (or other beverage stations) allow for an informal meeting, which yields room for immediate departure if need be.
This informal form of communication is like a “nudge/poke” feature on Facebook. It allows the other party to know that you exist and are interested in the events in his/her life. Now for a real life example.
The aforementioned article discussed how politicians use Twitter to voice their opinions on matters in real-time. Quoting the first paragraph,
ON A recent evening John Culberson, a Republican congressman from Texas, used the micro-blogging service Twitter to field a dozen comments from around the country. He told a panicked man in Wisconsin not to be too frightened about the economic crisis: America would pull through. He told another follower that he wanted public hearings on the stimulus package, but that Nancy Pelosi was standing in the way. A man from Arizona wanted to know: PC or Mac? PC, said Mr Culberson; he missed his Mac, but the federal government plumps for Windows.
Culberson replies to his followers even on simple questions like – PC or Mac? What does this accomplish one might ask? Right off the bat, Culberson established two things – a connection with this follower and shows that Culberson is human. Strip away the titles, strip away the ranks, Culberson and myself and you and you and you and you are all regular people. We enjoy the company of others and fancy when the company replies back to our questions or concerns. It is not a one-directional conversation, or else it would not be – by definition – a conversation. Culberson changed the paradigm of political campaigning!
On the other hand, another politician by the name of “Mrs McCaskill…lags behind people like Mr Culberson, who use their Twitter accounts to talk to people.” McCaskill has over 4000 followers and she only follows herself. Considering the premise discussed earlier, I agree with Economists. I understand that there are situations where replying to everyone is impossible, but at least make an attempt to.
All in all, Twitter allows individuals to communicate with others frequently on an informal basis, which at times is more effective than a single formal one. Even more effective communication is when one responds to replies. I hope you found this article useful. Let me know via commenting or retweeting (RT)!
Lawrence Chan – follow me on twitter