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A Case For Twitter

My 7-month relationship with Twitter has nothing to do with Ashton, A-Rod or American Idol. (Come on, I follow the entertainment blogs for that stuff.) Instead, it has become a place for keeping up with the social change and sustainability movement, what Paul Hawken describes as the "largest social movement in history restoring grace, justice, and beauty to the world." My little Twitter-sphere gives me a daily connection to the groups I care about most.

Case for TwitterOver the holidays, I was at one of those gatherings where we were forced to go around the table and say one word we thought described 2009.

First thing that came to my mind: Twitter. (Actually, it was Michael Jackson. But that's two words, so I went with Twitter.)

Looking over "Twitter’s 2009 Top Trending Topics across several categories," I myself have to wonder why I feel so much fondness for this new social medium.

If you haven't had a chance to look at the list, here are the 2009 Top Trending Topics According to Twitter (say that three times fast):

Twitter Trends 2009

 

Harry Potter? New Moon? Teen Choice Awards? Super Bowl? How does a group like Groundwire fit into this landscape? Sure, a few news and technology topics are relevant, but mostly this list seems to come straight from the great American entertainment/media machine, yet another channel to follow the US Weekly-Hollywood news. Is Twitter one more distraction keeping us disengaged from the real issues of our time?

Maybe. But for me, my 7-month relationship with Twitter has nothing to do with Ashton, A-Rod or American Idol. (Come on, I follow the entertainment blogs for that stuff.) Instead, it has become a place for keeping up with the social change and sustainability movement, what Paul Hawken describes as the "largest social movement in history restoring grace, justice, and beauty to the world." My little Twitter-sphere gives me a daily connection to the groups I care about most.

As A Reader
Twitter is not the first aggregator nor will it be the last, and while much debate continues on the RSS v. Twitter front, how you like your filtered stream served up to you remains a personal preference. With Twitter, it's all about the real time along with that extra filter and framing from the human posting it. Yes, a lot of the time that means ignoring posts about the "best coffee in the world!" but I have to be completely honest here and say I don't mind an occasional personal tweet in the mix -- they are from my peers after all -- and hearing a writer you respect talk about his kid or learning a little bit more about what personally inspires an executive director brings a human touch to our increasingly animatronic lives.

Mostly, though, I'm following interesting thinkers and organizations involved in social change, the environmental movement, and online communications strategy -- so a quick scan lets me know what's on the agenda for the day. Do I take action from the Twitter feed? You bet I do. At Groundwire, we talk a lot about building relationships. Do not underestimate the relationship-building that can come from a reliable, intelligent, action-oriented Twitter feed.

As A Writer
Wow -- Twitter and Facebook have been revolutionary for writers. Instead of a monthly email blast, we can now push out a daily blog post, column, action alert, thought of the day, thought of the second, to our readers. Our content strategy is looking a little different now as we figure out how to make all of our content work together -- writing for the blog, website, email, Facebook, Twitter -- without overwhelming the reader as we work to accomplish our goals. And to craft that 140-character hook, that has been a fun challenge this year -- to stand out in a sea of tweets, to make readers click, to drive them back to our homeport for action, education, awareness, donation. If that hook is good, boom -- people are instantly at your website or blog and a great opportunity to engage is now yours.

As A Communications Director
Whether you like it or not, your Twitter feed helps craft the look, feel, and personality of your organization. Ask anybody with the daily responsibility of posting to their organization's Twitter feed and they'll tell you how carefully they consider those 140-character posts. As postmodern writers we are expected to be accessible, witty, valuable, hip, clickable -- as an editor friend said to me the other day, "Just managing Twitter seems to be a full-time job."  We have a great opportunity every day to tell people about our mission and the work we are doing to accomplish it. And while Twitter and Facebook are certainly just the beginning, they are good training for the quick, daily communication style of the next decade. Read, write, and post to the social medias every day. You will be amazed how this dedication will raise your profile and help in all aspects of your business -- attracting funders, clients, staff, partners. Flex those muscles: showcase your mission, offer your community value, and build your relationships.

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