Locals attest to Twitter’s viability, usefulness, potential
Why so hard on lil’ ol’ Twitter, the new big bird on the online social-networking block?
The critics have spoken (you read “Why Twitter sucks”, right?): It’s a nauseating, lonely, soulless nest of microspeak blather. Web blight. A Sesame Street for teenaged tweakers. A George W. Bush press conference.
Maybe, but reducing Twitter to all-or-nothing platitudes is viewing the site with negative goggles; myopic, you overlook Twitter’s positive aspects—and potential.
And while Sacramentans haven’t wholeheartedly embraced the social-networking network—we don’t even crack the top 50 cities on TwitterGrader.com—there are plenty of local users who’ll attest to Twitter’s value, and for different reasons.
Alejandro Reyes, who goes by “@successfool” on the site, is the area’s No. 1 Twitterer (this also according to TwitterGrader.com, which ranks popular users). Reyes is a marketing consultant, a “rock your personal brand” guru who teaches clients how to advertise using social-networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. He started Tweeting in April 2008 and now has nearly 10,000 “followers.”
“I thought [Twitter] was silly at first. But I’m sure people thought the cell phone was silly when they first came out,” explains Reyes, who says Twitter provides 80 percent of his business.
Reyes is an argument for and against Twitter. On one hand, his successful Tony Robbins-esqe enterprise justifies it as viable marketing tool. On the flip side, his sometimes 100-plus day’s tweets is bad microblogging etiquette. Twitterrhea.
Still, the rest of Sacramento’s top 10 Twitterers—a motley bunch including three more self-help coaches, a proud dad, a music writer, Fox40 TV, a travel adviser, a right-wing blogger and Arnold Schwarzenegger—reaffirms the site’s marketing viability. You may not want to read the tweets these top Twitterers twittle, but Sacramento’s A-listers have more online followers than former Mayor Heather Fargo had votes in the last election.
Twitter is legit. And so local institutions are using the platform to do—and revolutionize—their jobs.
At UC Davis Undergraduate Admissions, Regina Patton and her co-workers use Twitter as an RSS feed to keep them up to date with prospective and enrolled students—and even conferences they can’t attend. It’s a useful tool, and free—and administrators still are exploring its potential.
“With so much interest in Twitter these days and its viability as a low-cost way to reach our constituency, we will be looking for ways to identify our followers and adjust our communication with them,” Patton says, explaining that some people will still want to talk on the phone or use e-mail, but that younger students communicate with Twitter, which speeds up the process.
Local news outlets probably have adopted Twitter more than any other demographic. Over at The Sacramento Bee, media editor Ken Chavez oversees the news Twitter feed, which provides readers up-to-the-minute headlines and story links. (SN&R also does this at www.twitter.com/SNR_Sacramento.) Bee scribes also link to stories—with mixed success: Columnist Marcos Breton, a newbie, keeps double-tweeting the same post.
News10, Fox40, National Public Radio, CBS13—all these news outlets use Twitter to aggregate headlines and direct Web traffic to stories. As one local blogger put it: “I no longer use my Google Reader. I just follow my RSS feeds on Twitter.”
To be sure, Twitter has reinvented how people access breaking news. Locally, for example, Twitterers following cyclist Lance Armstrong found out about his recent bike theft before Sacramento police. And later, when the bike was rescued, Armstrong confirmed its recovery on Twitter hours before local police could go on the record.
Experts say this could be the future of breaking news.
Consider: A major event happens in Sacramento—a protest/celebration/terrorist attack. Twitterers with portable devices blast firsthand accounts of the event, and an editor at Twitter HQ sorts the good tweets from the bad. This editor contacts the more insightful microbloggers, using them as on-the-scene informants, and reports the news more quickly and accurately than ever. And with TwitPics (exists) and live video (not yet) to boot.
We all know Twitter has its shortcomings, including the painful Twitterization of language, which is particularly frightening. But it’s the media that’s wholeheartedly swallowed Twitter’s strange metonymy—tweets, twits, twats and other Starbucks-menu collateral language. You can’t blame Twitter alone.
So why not welcome this new media, focus on the potential? There’s no money for schools, energy and health care, yet investors throw millions at Twitter’s spiritless microbloggers with their “Just downed some Chipotle” updates. You almost have to give the site the benefit of the doubt, hope that the endgame is not some sick commodification of American youth.
But still, in the meantime, hang onto your library cards.