I have just got back from a few days at the annual Communication Directors’ Forum. At the event I got to speak to many key communications professionals from some of the UK’s most well known brands. The common questions that I was asked were about how the online world was changing and why all the fuss about Twitter?
– and relevance.
It is these three characteristics that I see as being key to the further development of online communications in the future.
When the Internet first appeared speed of communications was a key area everyone focussed on. We were all now “surfing the information superhighway”. No more relying on snail mail or faxes, a message could be sent by email or online messenger within minutes. With the advent of blogs and low cost publishing platforms this ability to communicate at speed was then increased in reach with individuals being able to tell their stories to a much wider audience, again within minutes.
Now Twitter has taken the reach of blogs and increased the speed to another level. News can be written in the time it takes to write 140 characters and passed from person to person via “retweeting” in a matter of a couple of seconds. This means news travels at a much greater speed than even blogs can achieve.
In a “traditional” social networking environment, like Facebook for instance, there needs to be two sided permission. I have to want to be your friend and you have to want to be mine for communication to occur. So I have two choices – to be, or not to be, your friend.
In Twitter’s case if you start to follow me I have three choices. I can say no and block you. I can say yes and follow you back. Both basically the same options as with social networking. But I also have a third option. I can let you follow me, but not follow you back. This allows people who want to know more about a person and what they have to say to listen in without the person you are following having to follow you back. This partially explains the growth in celebrity tweeters. This gives huge amounts of flexibility in the nature of the relationships that participants in the Twitter community can enjoy.
The permission choices above allow participants to also have much greater control over the relevance of the information and relationships they have. If I decide that someone I have been following is irrelevant to me I can just stop following them. If I see that someone is talking about a topic that is relevant to me, e.g. a search in Twitter for my company name, I can choose to start following them and listen to what they say and finally I can potentially start a conversation with them about that topic if they want to talk back to me.
But again the other participants also have all of these choices so we are all able to decide who is relevant to us. It is this choice, our own personal relevance filter, which makes for a more efficient dialogue.
What do others think? What characteristic/s of Twitter do others think explain its adoption?