Twitter Is A Medium For Conversation, Not Just Broadcasting

Last modified on April 27th, 2009

By no means am I a twitter expert. In fact, I’m not really even certain what that moniker means. Saying you’re an expert at Twitter is like saying you’re an expert at talking, or being able to hold a conversation. Sure, you have to understand what an @ sign does, and how to direct message someone, but other than that Twitter is just another tool in a wide arsenal of technology that allows people to establish and build relationships.

I used to only follow my friends on Twitter. Even though I replied to most @ messages directed at me, I didn’t follow everyone back, simply because I wanted to keep my list manageable. About a week ago I decided to change that, I ended up following back most people (my criteria being that they needed a profile photo and also needed to demonstrate a real interest in having conversations). If they failed either of those, I didn’t add them back.

One of the first things that happened (and that I didn’t even remotely imagine) was that I received an enormous amount of automatic email replies from those Twitter accounts, most of them of a business nature, or some lame attempt to get me to reply to that email. That people use these schemes, and actually expect them to work, seems completely foreign to me. I imagine it must work to some extent (the same way spam must work to some extent), but it’s discouraging seeing a tool with a legitimate, positive use being used in that manner. In truth, judging by the email responses I received, there are just as many businesses using Twitter as there are normal individuals. Or at least, they are the ones driving a great deal of the traffic.

If you head over to Rebecca’s blog, you’ll see that she has a running series interviewing some of the local politicians. So for yucks, I headed to Twitter tonight to see just how these politicians are using Twitter. First, let’s take a look at Gordon Campbell’s Twitter account (@g_campbell). If you browse through the first few pages, it’ll become crystal clear that Gordon Campbell (at least as evidenced by the first few pages of his Twitter stream) doesn’t seem to rank online interaction very highly. Obviously, Gordon Campbell probably has some other person running his Twitter feed, but it’s clear that the medium is being used simply as a form of broadcasting instead of one of interaction, which given the state of politics, is somewhat sad to be honest. You would think people in public office would want to, you know, engage in conversation with the public.

Here’s a small list of some BC politicians, and whether or not they are using the medium to engage people in real conversations or not (as judged by looking through a few pages of their tweets).

Engaging In Real Conversations

Not Engaging In Real Conversations

I gotta ask this quesiton — if these politicians can’t figure out Twitter, a simple service that facilitates easy interaction with the public, how on earth are they going to solve some of the larger problems, such as homelessness in the downtown eastside?

I’ve always believed that pointing out a problem without offering a solution is a wasted effort. So if any of these people want some help or guidance on how to use Twitter, by all means drop me an email — I’d love nothing more than to have everyone in that top list, and nobody in the bottom. We have some amazing 21st century technology available to engage in nearly real-time conversations with each other — isn’t it about time we stop engaging in 20th century politics?