Thursday, August 06, 2009

Social Web: This old dog finally gets it

I think there should be a "Get Out of Purgatory Early" card for folks my age who try to keep up with Social Media. I signed up for Twitter and Facebook a while back to see if I was missing anything. I must admit I was pretty baffled by it all for a bit.

Tweets like "Just turned the computer on, man am I tired," left me wondering why the tweeter felt that the world was waiting for that update. Facebook people were poking me and taking quizzes that told everyone what kind of Simpson character they would be.


A sliver of light

My first inkling that there could be something useful lurking here happened at the Atlanta STC Summit. As the host chapter, we arranged for the Atlanta Braves to have someone at our hospitality booth one morning to sell block tickets for a Braves game that night. The day he was to arrive, it occurred to me that we had not publicized this in any way. I asked Lisa Pappas, who is way cooler than I am when it comes to social networking, if she could tweet that the rep was coming on the #tag we were using for the Summit (I barely knew what a #tag was). She did. At one point I took a break from the board meeting to step out and apologize to the rep for the lack of advance publicity and found him packing up early. He had sold the allocated block!

Hmmm. That was useful.

More illumination

I then started to notice that I was using Twitter like a news aggregator because people I was following would recommend interesting Web articles they had just read. I recently noted the following pattern of tweets, going from great to lame:
  • Great: There an interesting article on such and such at http:...
  • Good: There comes a time in the lifecycle of a document you have to shoot the writer and publish the damn thing.
  • Lame: I had oatmeal for breakfast.
I had been judging the social Web based on the abundance of "oatmeal for breakfast" tweets and posts I had been seeing.

Let there be full light

Recently, however, the major light bulb went on for me. I was starting to feel a lot more connected with contacts I usually saw once a year at a conference. The odds that I would pick up a phone or shoot an email to someone like Phylise Banner or Brenda Huettner if I needed help on something was now an order of magnitude higher than if I were not following them on Twitter or friends on Facebook.

It's as if I were linked into a social network! [a Mikey major Duh! moment]

I also found that I could link with folks I was having somewhat adversarial relationships with in STC. As an officer, I've taken quite a bit of heat over some unpopular decisions and problems lately from well-meaning and articulate critics. Twitter and Facebook have given me the opportunity to interface with some of these critics at the level of home-brewed beer and love of musical instruments. Their confrontations have been reduced from my total perception of them to being just part of a broader understanding of who they are. Hopefully that has gone the other way as well.

Suddenly the faceless and voiceless critics have become people who brew beer and play music. Does that make me now more willing to listen to them? You know, I think it does! At least it makes it easier.

I've said it before, "Oh brave new world..."


Fred said...

OK Mike, who are you calling "old"? Some folks here at the lab think that I'm the social media expert. Ha! Not getting social media is not restricted to a particular age.

Michael Hughes said...

Top 5 hints you might be too old for Social Media:

5. You say dag-nabbit when Twitter goes down.
4. You think hashtag means "scattered covered and smothered" (it's a Waffle House thing).
3. You got excited about Flikr because you like horses.
2. You now comply with APA guidelines for two spaces after a period because you never stopped putting two spaces after a period.

And the top hint that you're too old for social media:

1. You think those ladies signing up to follow you on Twitter, the ones named HoneyBunns and HotStuf, are really into your insights on technical communication.

Melissa said...

Hi, Mike--I was surprised at the level of resistance to social media (especially Twitter) I encountered while running around the Summit this year. I expect it at get-togethers with non-techie friends, where I've long been the only mother who actively encourages her kids to figure out Facebook/MySpace, etc, but I was expecting a different level of engagement with STC. I find I use it in much the same way you've described here--loose communication with professional contacts, extended family, etc--and that it's made an overall positive impact on life in general.

Anne Gentle said...

Great post, Mike. You're living proof of the real demographics going on with social media. Check out how they are trending with this blog post: " a room of 20 people aged 62 or over, at least ONE posts content to the internet." :) Now, if I put a smiley between sentences does it hide the fact I only put one space after a period?

Linda said...

Nice post.
I also thought at first that it was mostly the "oatmeal for breakfast" bit (or the "buy my product/service"), and wasn't interested.

I got hooked after attending a conference in UK, in September. Twitter became a way to keep connection & continue conversations with people I'd met in person.

I like that I can "dip into the stream" as I have time.

And I find it takes me to posts (like this one) that I might never see if I wait until I think I have time to catch up on reading blogs...