Human nature and social media

It’s been a rather Twitter-tastic couple of weeks here at PN towers. First there was all the brouhaha over the PR Week Twitter article for which we’d done the number crunching. It  made for a rather exciting Thursday as well as providing a nice opportunity to practise some online crisis skills, not that we actually regarded it as a crisis, more of an anusing playground spat. Anyway part of the afternoon was devoted to  tracking mentions and then gently pointing out wherethe fuller side of the story could be found. Personally, the most amusing part is how some of those comments haven’t yet made  it past the moderation finger of some our esteemed industry colleagues, so much for the PR industry changing and being more open to dialogue hey chaps…;-)

Then there was our Twiter event yesterday. Those of us inside the bubble do tend to forget that while Twitter has crept into the mainstream conciousness, a lot of ppl still have no idea what it is or how to use is, either personally or for a brand. So being nice ppl we tried to help out – Mr Nee has posted a lovely overview over at Silent in Flames that I need add little too. Apart from that I did indeed do a geeky squeee at the back of the room when I realised we’d trended and a reminder that  you can get the slides here  and there’s also the Porter Novelli guide to everything Twitter for your reading and critiquing pleasure. 

There’s also a couple of Twitter related client projects going on, more of which at some point soon I hope.

Anyway to the point, the final question at the session yesterday was a doozey. Forgive the paraphrase but it was along the lines of – is it a change in how humans wish to communicate that is driving the development of applications such as Twitter, or are the applications changing the way in which we communicate?  

The feeling of the panel was no, it isn’t. People have been interacting with each other and the media for as long as both have existed – think about the popularity of letters to the editor and radio phone-ins, as we have developed new ways to share they’ve been adopted and pushed to their limits. Did you know that during the 19th century, after the introduction of the penny post, there were between nine and 12 deliveries a day in London, making it perfectly possible to arrange to meet a friend for lunch purely through the exchange of letters. Obviously the Royal Mail has slowed somewhat but we’ve developed more ways in which to communicate which fill the gap. 

So if it’s not the need to communicat that is changing, what is? I think it is people’s expectation levels – apparently the youth of today* get frustrated by the slowness of email, far preferring instant messaging.  Even some of us older folk get annoyed by not being able to get hold of someone, especially after you’ve tried their work number, email (at least two accounts), IM, twitter, mobile number (VM and text messages left) and even left a message on theirFacebook  wall. We feel the need to apologise or to explain if we are not availble for the majority of the time, something which has changed in my lifetime when you never called anyone at home before six in evening or much after half eight.

I guess the major question is what next? How could we possibly be more connected than we already are?  Although the more interesting question might be, if civilisation is only two meals from anarchy, are we also one major outage from a return to letter writing?



*I would check this with my nephew but it’s still daylight so he’s not awake yet.

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