Friday, 25 May 2012
Reflections on Twitter and timing
Earlier this year I overcame my remaining technophobia and launched Relu into the Twittersphere. I had been putting it off, conscious of the time commitment. But as everyone now seems to have this kind of virtual presence it seemed that we could no longer avoid joining in. I was right of course, it has the potential to take up most of one's time, scrolling through other people's messages, clicking onto the funny pictures and even reading relevant articles from time to time. Research programmes, organisations and government departments are generally making good use of Twitter to get their messages out with an immediacy that could never have been achieved just a few years ago. But I have also been struck by the numbers of individuals who have taken to using Twitter to generate discussion and to build networks around topics that interest them. I even have individual farmers "following" us at Relu. This does seem to be a tool that allows us to communicate directly with stakeholders in a way that would otherwise be almost impossible. It also means of course that we have to be prepared for more direct feedback, both good and bad. Twitter has become notorious for spats, generally involving celebrities. I don't think any of our Twitter exchanges will make it in to the headlines but I can see that this kind of two-way open communication makes it much easier for disagreements to arise. As we have always taken the view that feedback is good, whether positive or negative in tone, I don't think this should be seen as a problem. It may be worth remembering however, that an immediate response isn't always the best response. Also, I'm conscious that I'm less likely to read contributions from those who tweet constantly and unremittingly about everything. The world of communication is changing and tools like Twitter form just one element of that. When we email press releases out now or post them on news sites they pop up almost immediately on a huge range of web news feeds across the world. I know, because I can search for our news using Google. As I am old enough to remember the effort that used to go into stuffing hundreds of printed releases into envelopes to catch the last post of the day, and then the hours spent scouring all the printed media to see who had used them, this seems rather miraculous. But some rules do still apply. Constant communication can become no more than a background hum that is ignored by the target audience, so there's a lot to be said for keeping one's power dry until there is something worth communicating. Timing is important too, and now may not always be the best time. Most of all, whatever tools we use to convey the messages, the content of our communication has to be right.