I’m not really very big on “social networking”. That might sounds strange for a blogger but when I started writing this blog it was really an easy way for me to store my notes and a few links on the web. In fact, had I known about del.icio.us back then, I’d probably never have started the blog and would just have posted links up there. Hang on… I do have an account at delicious… is that social networking? Ah. I do Flickr too. That’s another one. Sometimes I scrobble at last.fm – so that’s another. I’m also on LinkedIn and occasionally seen on Facebook (which I detest… so really it’s just a place where my Twitter feed gets republished as my status and friends comment on it – whereas once upon a time we might have had a con-ver-sa-tion) and ah… that means I do Twitter too (actually I have two Twitter accounts… the one that feeds Facebook and another other for the geeky stuff).
Thinking about it, maybe I am into social networking after all!
Twitter was the one that mystified me for the longest. I just didn’t “get” it. I’d heard people banging on about it on podcasts and it just seemed to be a way of blogging the minutiae of the day (“I had Muesli for breakfast”, etc.). Then I signed up and figured it was like a big public SMS service combined with a direct message capability (a bit like e-mail?)… I still didn’t see what the fuss was about.
I started to understand where Twitter could add some value just over a week ago, when I was enjoying a meal in a local cafÃ© and noticed that, in addition to free WiFi (I know where I will be going now when the kids are too noisy and I want to get some work done!), they were twittering their specials @muchadocafe. I guess the idea is that people can follow them, think “that sounds nice” and come over for a bite to eat at lunchtime. Nice idea. Shame they seem to have stopped posting updates.
The penny finally dropped last Monday when I was watching the live stream of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference keynote presentation and the site was showing Twitter updates with the #wpc09 hashtag. All of a sudden I realised that, in real time, I could see the comments (or “tweets”) that other people were creating and understand what they thought about the content. That was pretty cool. So cool in fact that I signed up for my second account (the one with the geeky stuff on it). Now I can tweet the little things that aren’t really worth blogging (if you visit the website you may notice that I have the 5 most recent tweets on display in the right-hand sidebar – thanks to Anders Ross’s article on 10 Twitter hacks for your WordPress blog). I also use Twitterfeed to tweet my new blog posts for people that don’t subscribe to the RSS… and that should drive some traffic to the website. No wonder Microsoft has got so into Twitter recently – it’s a great site for creating marketing buzz.
I can understand why no-one has really managed to adequately explain Twitter to me before (not even the video I linked to when I originally signed up) – it’s something you have to see in action to get your head around but, now I’ve “got it”, I think I might be hooked. Oh dear!
As for the rise in popularity for the plethora of social networking sites that exist today… I can see where they have their place in modern society but I have to disagree with Microsoft’s Viral Tapara, who tried to indicate the importance of such sites at a recent event by commenting that people used to wish one another happy birthday with a card and today they do it on Facebook. Absolutely not. In the same way that ending a relationship by text is insincere and socially unacceptable, there are still some social activities that have to take place in the real world. As my friends and colleagues know only to well from someone who has refused to embrace SMS and instant messaging as effective forms of communication, sometimes there is no substitute for picking up the phone or meeting face to face.