Evolution of the Twitter prompt

I recently met a non-profit organization that three others and I are working with as our client for a PR campaigns class. When asking the members of this organization about their feelings regarding social media and its value in the philanthropic sector, we received interesting but not surprising responses.

Some of the participants voiced concern regarding social media and professionalism while others simply couldn’t understand why anyone would care what someone else ‘was doing.’

Since the purpose of this focus group was to listen and gather information rather than tell them what I thought of social media, I had to keep my lips zipped and responses strictly to notepad for future use with the campaign to help answer their questions.

Fortunately, Brian Solis, author of PR 2.0 and Principal of FutureWorks, a PR and New Media agency in Silicon Valley addressed this very topic in a post titled, ‘On Twitter, What Are You Doing Was Always The Wrong Question.’

In his post, Solis makes several insightful comments regarding the use of Twitter and how it is that engagement should be executed. He summarizes major themes of the most popular social media platforms and discusses the meaning behind Twitter changing its 140-character prompt question.

In regard to the other platforms, Solis summarized them like this:
Twitter = what are we doing
Facebook = what we are sharing or reviewing
MySpace = what we are in to
LinkedIn = what’s in it for me…

Solis goes on to conclude that Twitter evolved into ‘What’s happening?’ versus ‘What are you doing?’ because the evolution of the platforms purpose became more clear.

Solis went on to state that, ‘Regardless of character count, the true revelation is that in order to inspire new insights from its community, the real question we should all answer is, “what do you think everyone is better off for knowing right here, right now.”’

I personally think that the good tweets I get are those that tell me information I didn’t already know or that share with me a link or description of what that person found, discovered or learned. I like the descriptions that Solis provided and agree that Twitter has evolved. Nobody cares what someone is doing at any given time unless that tweet contributes to the followers.

What are the differences between your first impressions of Twitter and what you think about it now? Do you agree with the summaries of the other platforms? Do you think that Twitter should explain more than ‘what is happening?’

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6 Responses to Evolution of the Twitter prompt

  1. sdoyle says:

    I am personally not a Twitter fan but did share the first impression that all it was for is to know what celebrities are having for lunch. Being a stubborn person but still a student have seen that Twitter can be used for useful purposed such as following your PR teacher and seeing the helpful information she posts. I have still not fully embraced Twitter but am beginning to see the usefulness behind it.

  2. astrazzara says:

    I use Twitter as a platform for me to gather news and important trends for a wide range of information. It makes it easier for me during the day to just keep my Twitter account up and get all my information from there. That way I can pick and choose what I want to click on, if the headline in 140 characters doesn’t grab my attention, I then know it’s not something I want to read. I also don’t have to go around sifting through search engines. For example, if I was looking to find a great , new recipe or find the nightly special discounts at a restaurant I only have to pull up Twitter because it already streamlines it for me.

    I don’t think of Twitter as a platform just for me to talk about what I’m doing, rather I think it’s a collaboration forum. I want to know more what other people are doing. It’s also not awkward to follow a complete stranger on Twitter as it would be on Facebook.

  3. kinoshita says:

    First off, I think Solis does a great job summarizing each platform. I would say he is dead on.
    I also agree that the best tweets are the ones that tell you things you didn’t know before. I love getting a tweet linking to a great article or Web site. However, I don’t think that tweets should be all business or all play. I think the best tweeters find a happy balance between the two.

    With the technology of today and the huge push for authenticity and relatedness, it’s almost mandatory to share with your audiences who you are as a person while maintaing professionalism. I think Twitter is the perfect platform for this.

    Originally, I thought Twitter was the equivalent to constant Facebook status updates. Now, that I have a firmer grasp of what Twitter really is and how powerful it is, I’ve changed my mind. For me, Twitter is both “What are you doing?” and “What’s happening?”

    There are many times when I could care less what others are doing, especially if they are updating me every five minutes. But there are times when I find it compelling, and it triggers a thought or conversation. As far as what’s happening, whenever I want to know what’s going on I look on Twitter first. On several occasions I’ve looked to AZ Central and AZ Family and found nada. I poke around a bit on Twitter and have almost always found something. I love it! The only thing is there is so much information, good information too, that I need more hours in the day just to keep up.

  4. ecain says:

    When I first heard about Twitter, I thought it was absolutely the dumbest idea. Obviously I was wrong. Now I think that Twitter is one of the most helpful tools I use each day. You can reach so many people in a different, less personal way than Facebook or MySpace provides. I absolutely think that Twitter should explain more of what is happening rather then what you are doing. No one really cares if you are hungry, sleepy, or in a bad mood. Twitter has become a way for people to keep up on current events and express their opinions on those current events. For example, I found out Michael Jackson died on Twitter. A year ago I would have never guessed that I would find out breaking news on a social media website. In my opinion Twitter is absolutely amazing. What other place can you read your friends updates along with the personal updates of Ashton Kutcher. I think that it will be very interesting to watch and see where Twitter as well as social media in general will be 5 years from now.

  5. bihrig says:

    I was reluctant to use Twitter at first. I could not understand why people would care what other people were doing. I have had to force myself to Tweet, just to get use to it. It is growing on me now, but I don’t use it to see what people are eating for lunch. My favorite parts are the links to articles, blogs, photos and videos I never would have known about had it not been for a Twitter user. Once I found interesting people and organizations on Twitter to follow I enjoyed using it more.
    Twitter is a great social media tool if used correctly. People need to post interesting links and information, not that they are having a bad day. I don’t think it matters how Twitter prompts it’s users to tweet, they will right what ever they want. Twitter and I have had a roller coaster of a relationship over the last 11 months. A year ago I had never even heard of Twitter, 8 months ago I hated Twitter, a now I love Twitter. I’m excited to see what social media sites I will have to grow to love in the future.

  6. bjohnson says:

    Sdoyle- Thanks for your comment. I understand that Twitter does have pros and cons. Hopefully, with time you will be able to utilize Twitter the best way possible for your needs. Astrazzara- I completely agree that Twitter is a collaboration platform. It’s a great way to exchange links and ideas. I don’t always post the best links but I always try to link something interesting! Kinoshita- I think the best part of a getting a good tweet is when it stimulates an idea and gives one a new perspective of virtually anything! Ecain- I agree with you that people don’t care about meaningless ‘to-do’ activities. Unfortuantely there is still a large tweeting population that continues writing about ‘what they are doing.’ Hopefully that will change with time. Bihrig- I think we all have gone through an interesting relationship with Twitter as it is relatively new. Using it is one thing but understanding its purpose is entirely different.

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