This question has left me undecided over the last couple years. Having a key stake in a multi-media business, I was a little embarrassed to admit I was a Twitter virgin. My hesitation was not without good reasons. In fact, I can easily come up with a “Top 10” list to sum up my concerns of why I shouldn’t be on Twitter:
1. I prefer to have my privacy to be somewhat guarded in the social media universe
2. I tell my daughter not to talk to strangers and I should not be a hypocrite
3. Getting followed makes me nervous
4. There is lots of noise in my head already
5. I find “#” and “@” mixed up with letters and words to be rude and confusing
6. I will never fully express myself in 140 characters or less
7. Looking at Twitter feeds makes me dizzy
8. I don’t want to waste more time and be less productive
9. The majority of people who I need to engage don’t use Twitter
10. I can’t commit to something that I don’t believe in
I felt pretty content with my “why not” concerns until two recent events changed my mind. First, my 13-year old daughter told me that a Hollywood teen-celebrity who she’s been following re-tweeted her tweet.
“OMG mom, OMG! I’m gonna be famous!” she exclaimed.
I suddenly realized that I might be missing out on a big part of her life if I didn’t get my Twitter act together, especially as she was marching towards fame. And just what witty line could she have tweeted to get picked up and endorsed by someone with 1M+ followers? She has had a Twitter account for about a year now and she told me that she only tweets funny quotes and has some 400 followers. Our conversation went something like this....
She: “Like the other day I tweeted something you said to me that was hilarious”
Me: “You quoted me? What did I say? Do you actually know 400 people?”
She: “Everyone I know is on Twitter mom. Get over it”
I couldn’t get over it. Has the digital divide widened the generation gap or is it really a divide of mindsets? I used to look at digital communication as “a need-to-know” model and multi-channel media as business tools. My daughter and her friends treat digital communication like air and water. Being “online” is the very fiber of their existence. Taking away her smart-phone for a day equates to torture. While her attention span is often limited, she has an amazing ability to navigate through the sea of social media and pick up on all things interesting. What would happen if I continue to ignore this gap? What would happen in the B2B world if social media becomes the only way to engage other businesses? I cringe at this very thought.
The second event was a recent CIO Roundtable discussion hosted by my company, The IT Media Group. When the topic of social media came up, more than 50% of the CIOs welcomed the idea of developing a sound digital strategy. 20-30% showed curiosity and were interested in peer advice. Less than 20% voiced concerns and resistance. Now if we examine the age range in the room, I would consider everyone to be many times over my daughter’s age (40 – 55 YRS). The general consensus among senior executives is that social media has a measurable impact to their workforce and day-to-day business. Some have successfully leveraged social media as means to improve internal communication (CIBC Mellon). Others have taken advantage of social channels to improve customer services and brand awareness (Indigo Books & Music). One rather powerful message that came from the discussion is that digital disruptions are happening at a fast and furious pace – you either get in front of it or get run over.
I don’t want to “get over it” or “get run over”, so perhaps it’s time to get on it... Twitter, that is. I have been an avid LinkedIn user and an occasional Facebooker, which gave me the social confidence to gingerly enter the Twitterverse. The timing was perfect; our company was just re-launching its web presence and our executive team was excited about leveraging social media channels.
Since I opened my Twitter account a week ago, I have had some highs and lows. Some of my original concerns are no longer concerns at all, while others are just temporary mental blocks that I am learning to overcome. For example, I hate the idea of having random followers, especially the ones of questionable character. My daughter laughed it off, “Mom, it is normal. All you need to do is block and report them like I do”. But how did someone with a handle of @3somelove find me? Or, did anywhere in my profile indicate anything to catch @buy&sellsilver’s attention? Is there a flaw in the Twitter algorithm? Then I noticed that my followers come and go. Strangers who had no business to follow me in the first place decided to un-follow me. This makes me mad and confused. Was it something that I tweeted? Did he get offended by that Forbes article I re-tweeted? How do I win my followers back? My obsession starts to run wild. The next thing I know, I’m staring at my “why not” list #4 and #8 and banging my head against the wall.
Day three of my Twitter journey was a welcome change. A prominent IT publisher re-tweeted my tweet! I felt like a 13-year old about to be made famous by Justin Bieber. I could visualize my Twitter feeds kick into high gear and my following grow overnight. I could sense the power of viral press and social engagement. It was a good start.
While I was choosing whom to follow, I observed a good percentage of my peers in technology marketing and CIOs we have worked with were already on Twitter. Still, the Twitterverse remains a mystery for a significant large number of people whom we consider technology buyers and influencers. Perhaps they too have the same concerns as I? Perhaps everyone needs a compelling event or two to get started. For me it was like learning to walk. Once I took the first step, the rest was easy.
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