Friday, February 4, 2011

Keep it Real: Welcoming Friends and Family to Twitter with Open Arms and Retweets

As somewhat of a social media geek, Twitter has been a big part of my daily life for a while now. Recently, my social media social life has been overlapping with my good old fashioned social life more so than usual. My friends and family, who have perviously made fun of me for my love of Tweeting, are starting to sign up for accounts. I was thinking about why that is, and then I started noticing how much it's showing up in mainstream media, not just in my work and online circles.

When I say mainstream media, I don't mean celebrities Tweeting. I mean that Twitter is being talked about in venues that my friends will actually pay attention to - their TV shows. Two weeks ago Grey's Anatomy included Twitter as a main theme of the episode, as Dr. Miranda Bailey Tweeted her surgeries live. On the Big Bang Theory, it was a main theme when Sheldon Cooper's lecture became a trending topic. They even discussed supposedly well-known Twitter acronyms like KMN - for kill me now - to convey boredom. These were both main themes, but I've seen Twitter mentioned in many other shows as well, even if it's just a passing comment here or there.

Now, as a lover of Twitter, I get excited seeing these themes in a few of my favorite shows, and I even point it out to my roommate with a quick, "See, I told you Twitter isn't lame." But I had to step back for a minute and ask myself, are they setting the expectations too high?

In PR, of course we'd love to have all of our clients become a trending topic each day, but that's just not always plausible. These shows make it look simple, when it isn't always. Is it realistic that while live-Tweeting a surgery, a fellow surgeon would Tweet a recommendation that leads to saving a life? And would a boring lecture from a nerdy physicist really become such a trend on Twitter when there are so many exciting things going on? Isn't it more likely that a compelling human interest story or massively-engaging current event will trend?

It's certainly interesting to think about, and maybe it could be some day, but I think we're still a long way from these things becoming reality. Maybe I'm wrong though, maybe a Tweet can save a life. There is that case of the girls who updated their Facebook statuses and were thereby rescued from a storm drain in Australia. Of course, my thought was that if they had her phones, it probably would have been more efficient to dial 911, but maybe I'm just being old-fashioned that way.

Twitter's great - I love it for real-time updates on news, staying connected with friends and people in my industry and so much more. I welcome my friends and family to the social network with open arms and retweets. But when my friend has to ask why she doesn't have as many followers as me after only a week of Tweeting, I think it's important to keep our Twitter expectations realistic. That's my PR thought for the day.

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