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Corporate communications + Public Relations Adelaide

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June 2010

Confessions of a Twitterholic

At a recent Socadl Tweetup*, a few late-stayers cosied up around one table.

There was silence for a moment. So of course I tried to fill the silence. I piped up: “Hi, I’m Prakky, and I’m a Twitterholic”.

Michelle Prak, Twitterholic
"Is this the face of a Twitterholic?"

 Everyone laughed. I don’t know why – it was true. (I suspect that a few might have laughed because they’re Twitterholics too, while at least one laughed nervously, perhaps thinking: “Shit, I knew I shouldn’t have come to one of these #socadl tweetups!)

Now, I’m not sure of all the steps you take when you attend Alcoholics Anonymous, but from what I’ve seen in Hollywood movies, ‘fessing up and outlining your addiction stories are mandatory. So here goes with some Twitterholic confessions:

  • I do sometimes tweet while walking down the street.
  • I do stop walking in the street, letting people bump into me, while I tweet.
  • I have tweeted while laying down in bed.
  • I have woken in the morning and checked Twitter before I get up.
  • When I owned a Nokia E71, I got sore thumbs from tweeting.
  • I have accidentally retweeted myself.
  • I have bumped into my own scheduled tweets in cyberspace.
  • I have checked my Klout, my Twellow score, Twitrank and many other ways of fruitlessly assessing my ‘worth’ in the Twitterverse.
  • I have unfollowed an annoying person on Twitter. Then checked their tweets to see if they bitched about me.
  • I have tweeted during a favourite TV show and missed ‘a good part’.
  • I have wished somebody would shut up so I could check my tweets.

These are just a few random Twitterholic symptoms. Do you recognise any? What have you found yourself doing with Twitter?

* Socadl stands for ‘Social Adelaide’ and denotes a group of social media enthusiasts who often get together in Adelaide, South Australia, for tweetups face to face, and lots of learning and sharing online. Follow @socadl on Twitter.

Media cheat sheet: the social media questions to ask

Perturbed is not one of my favourite words.

But that’s how I’ve been feeling (or, to put it less politely, pissed off), after reading some recent press articles on social media. The articles have shown a lack of understanding of social media and – even more vexing – a lack of knowledge on behalf of the media’s sources.

One, from a guest magazine columnist and apparent ‘marketing expert’ who questioned how you can possibly brand an organisation in 140 characters (um, you do get to have more than ONE tweet, dear sir). He also challenged readers to name any organisation with success on YouTube (um, unless Coca Cola, Pepsi, BMW, the US Defence Forces, Qantas, Harley Davison et al have told him their sales are falling miserably because of the ‘millions’ they’re sinking into YouTube, I think we’re safe here …)

The other, within a national newspaper story on the #penrithdebate where some NSW pollies used Twitter to debate each other. The source, a PR agency manager, stated the Twitter debate was a waste of time because surely it’s just young people on Twitter. His quote didn’t even sound like he had himself convinced. He clearly has no idea that Twitter’s largest demographic is aged 30+. And in any case (and WTF?) aren’t young people interested in politics? Has he been to a uni campus recently? Are young people all vacuous things only interested in FCUK’s latest sale? Let’s give them some credit …

The art of 'social media interviews'
The art of 'social media interviews'

Now, I realise that this happens across industry sectors, and isn’t peculiar to social media. I’m sure the mining industry is sometimes frustrated by the media’s lack of understanding of their methods. Or an astrophysicist may be miffed by a journalist’s lack of knowledge of their scientific realm. And also, let me say, it’s impossible for a journalist to be an expert across every field. I’m sure that a lot of journalists are constantly researching and reading about their ‘beats’. But who can keep up, especially when your beat might change, just when you’ve become familiar with it?

So I’m going to try and be constructive. I’ve put together a list of some standard questions for journalists to ask when writing stories about social media. This may help them to ascertain whether their source is worth quoting, or is faking it. And I’m sure my blog readers will have plenty more to add.

Journalists Cheat Sheet: Twitter
If you’re interviewing someone about Twitter, ask them:
• How long have you been using Twitter? (If the answer is “I don’t waste my time with Twitter” or “I just read over my wife’s shoulder from time to time”, RUN AWAY )
• How many people do you follow on Twitter? (If the answer is “Five” or even “Twenty” RUN AWAY. Judging Twitter when you’ve only following a handful of people, is like judging an entire nation by three residents you met in an airport lounge. They should be following at least 50 .. roughly).
• How often do you tweet? (If they say “I don’t tweet, I only follow” that means they’ve never had a conversation. It means they haven’t unlocked 80 per cent of the power of Twitter. RUN AWAY. )

Journalists Cheat Sheet: Facebook

Facebook cops a lot of flak in the press. If someone’s opining on Facebook, ask them:

• How long have you been using Facebook? (If they say, “I don’t use it, but my teenage daughter spends hours on there” or “I’ve had a profile for years, but I rarely check it” RUN AWAY).
• Similarly, ask them how often they log onto Facebook. (If they say, “I haven’t gone on there for months” or “I check it every few weeks and there’s piles of Friends requests and I don’t even KNOW these people!” RUN AWAY. You need to be in regularly Facebook to understand it. It’s a community. You can’t pretend to know a community when you’re an apology to 99% of its meetings).
• What’s your favourite group on Facebook? (If they say, “I haven’t joined any groups, they’re a waste of time” RUN AWAY. Part of the power of Facebook is the sharing, networking and fun that occurs in groups).

Journalists Cheat Sheet: Social Media in General

Ask:   What are your favourite blogs/tweet accounts/YouTube channels? If they don’t have a favourite, they’re pretenders. If it’s nothing but negativity in their commentary, they’re pretenders. You can’t just generally be sceptical or cynical about social media in its whole entirety … it’s like being sceptical of the planet earth. Social media is made up of so many thousands of networks, blogs across all topics, photos and video and music for all tastes, that if you claim it’s all a load of bunk, you’re claiming life is a load of bunk.

And for the columnists/critics/commentators out there .. don’t write about a social media community unless you’ve “lived in there”.

Please don’t write about social media through some vague feeling or intuition you have about the realm being somewhat dangerous and a place for cyberbullies.

You wouldn’t write your top 10 recommendations for Tanzania if you hadn’t been there. You wouldn’t review a restaurant by squinting at its salt and pepper shakers through the windows. JUST DON’T DO IT. You’re only making a fool of yourself.

CaptCha CulTURe

I’m really interested in this notion of how CAPTCHA might be used to tell a very odd story or string together a crazy poem that turns out to be profound.

Most of you would have seen CAPTCHA  phrases – in layman’s terms, it’s those weird words that turn up on the internet sometimes after you try to post a link, or subscribe to an e-newsletter. The system wants to check if you’re human (as opposed to a budgie signing up) so it generates a word or phrase for your human eyeballs to see and your human fingers to type in.

Often, the words make no sense, but now and then they seem to come together in some karmic sense.

It reminds me of those fridge magnets you can buy – fridge poetry – with a great selection of colourful, powerful words printed on them. While you’re cooking dinner for your guests and having a glass of wine, your pals can meander over to the fridge and rearrange the words into something amusing or ridiculous. Or leave you a naughty message to find the next morning.

Captcha image
Captcha image

I did  a quick web search, and found a fantastic Facebook group called Captcha Phrases Make Awesome Band Names.  There were only 22 members though. Clearly, this is a niche preoccupation. (Well, 23 members now).

There’s also a slightly more popular I Love Random Captcha Phrases  (84 members). This group kindly supplies a few examples; let’s view it as poetry, shall we?

Coffee RuSH
Giraffe Stripe Gold
Pennant Fruit
other robust monk
Hot vaccine, office slouch.

Mmm. Stirring stuff.

It’s also worth Googling ‘funny captcha’. (Truly, it is).

Is there merit in a short story being generated entirely by CAPTCHA content? Obviously this might be a project for someone more 1) artistic 2) insane and 3) less busy than me. I’m just putting it out there …

Can you remember any funny CAPTCHA phrases you’ve had to retype?

Get your silver suits out!

You know all those futuristic sci-fi movies that attempt to show us what we might be wearing, driving and playing with 20 or 50 years into the future?

They show us wearing full length body suits – slick outfits, black, silver or white – and usually boots. We also drive supersonic cars down high-speed inner city tunnels (and sometimes drive vertically). Our workplace is full of screens and all we have to do is wave our hand around, or waggle our fingers, to access data and do our jobs.

These movies are usually laughable. “When are we going to drive those  cars or wear those silver jumpsuits?” we ponder. But after seeing this News Ltd article yesterday, I’ve had a realisation that we’re there!

See these ladies using iPads as menus at a restaurant? How ultra cool is that? (Whoops, don’t spill any wine ladies).

Sydney restaurant replaces menus with iPads
Sydney restaurant replaces menus with iPads

 Coupled with Lady Ga Ga outfits, I think the future has arrived, people!

Now where’s my electric car? And where’s Will Smith – I was hoping he’d be my sidekick.

See the full News.com.au story.

Facebook or Twitter? What’s the difference?

 If you’re anything like me, friends and family sometimes ask you “What’s the difference between Facebook and Twitter?” (Some may also ask you, “Have you put on weight?” but that’s another story).

If you’re a social media fan, this might appear to be a ridiculous question that you wouldn’t waste time on. But to the Facebook masses who haven’t tried Twitter, it’s a matter of interest and consternation. They hear about Twitter all the time in the media – some of them have given it a try. Yet they remain confused, because Twitter doesn’t work like Facebook and they’re searching for reasons why they should use it.

There’s a few headline answers I give to this question:

• Facebook is where you mingle with friends you already know – Twitter is where you talk to strangers and make new friends
• Facebook is for sharing old stories and photos – Twitter is for sharing what’s happening now ( I see plenty of breaking news, traffic and weather updates on Twitter, but people rarely bother to share this on Facebook)
• On Facebook, a person has to accept you as a friend before you can keep up with their news – on Twitter, you can follow who you like, even celebrities (apart from the rare blocked accounts of course)

Clearly, these aren’t hard and fast rules, they’re generalisations of what typically takes place on Facebook and Twitter. #sodontwriteme

There are many more key differences, which are perhaps too complicated to share with newbies, including:

• On Facebook, if you’re pissed off with something, you start a group. For example a group called “I hate it when toilet rolls are hanging the wrong way”. On Twitter, you start a hashtag, #hateitwhentoiletrollshangwrongway
• Facebook houses games, applications and quizzes – so you can spend a lot of time there without actually communicating with your friends at all (besides recruiting them to your crazy farm/pirate/mafia/vampire game or forwarding them the Are You A Psycho Quiz). Although many tweets contain links that send you elsewhere for news and fun, Twitter is very much based on conversations with your connections and you’re driven to a dialogue more so than on Facebook
• Facebook has less surprises. (You might be surprised by a Friend request that comes from someone you haven’t seen since your braces were removed – but rarely are you surprised ‘mid conversation’ by someone joining in, offering their two bobs worth.)
• Facebook is like a directory, where a business has a page and you can find out what they offer. On Twitter, you’ve thrown away the directory and prefer to ask your friends. For example, you tweet “Does anyone know a good mechanic in Magill?” or “I want to impress visitors: what are your restaurant recommendations, #Adelaide?”

Don't ask me where the mechanic is: tweet it!
Don't ask me where the mechanic is: tweet it!

I like this blog post on the topic: Twitter versus Facebook: should you choose one?

What do you tell people who ask about the difference between Facebook and Twitter?

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