I've been experimenting seriously with Twitter now for about two months. Truth is, I was highly skeptical of its benefits at first, partly because everyone seemed so irrationally ga-ga over it (I am inherently suspicious of fads). But also, puh-lease: 140 characters per tweet? To someone who's made a decent career out of writing 75,000-word books, and who has already written hundreds of articles and blog posts ranging from 300 to 3,000 words each, a 140-character tweet smacks of attention deficit disorder, pure and simple. Also, I've never been big on text messaging, which is where the 140-character limit comes from in the first place. Nevertheless, despite these reservations, I took a Twitter tutorial from one of our Peppers & Rogers Group consultants (thanks to @bcarroll7), I installed Tweetdeck on my laptop, and then I plodded awkwardly off into Twitterland, vowing to dedicate at least a few minutes each morning and evening to monitoring, reacting, and tweeting.
But guess what? Put a little effort into it, and this stuff is actually a whole lot of fun, and highly educational, as well. Part of the trick is to be careful whom you follow. I'm not too interested, personally, in tracking the comings and goings of people ("5 a.m., can't sleep, taking the dog out"). Nor do I want a bunch of self-help aphorisms, techie tips, or even sports commentary - but this is just my own taste. So when it seems to me that someone I'm following has a disproportionate number of uninteresting tweets, I just unfollow them, no slight intended.
On the other hand, I love reading the insights and posts that other people have on issues of interest to me, such as social CRM or employee engagement, or the drawbacks of short-termism. I also like to follow political discussions ranging from healthcare reform to economic policy, and I particularly enjoy tracking a few deeper, almost philosophical topics such as the implications of randomness, or the fallibility of human judgment, or (of course) behavioral economics. When someone I'm following has an interesting insight, or when they send a particularly intriguing tweet, I will often call up their profile to see whom they're following, and then I'll pick a few of the more interesting ones to start following, myself. I also do a lot of re-tweeting, to reinforce and spread the word on these interesting points of view.
As I write this now, I'm on a plane returning to the US from Turkey, after a 10-day trip visiting clients or making presentations in Johannesburg, Addis Ababa, Dubai, and Istanbul. This brings up another interesting aspect of Twitter:, because it is such a "real-time" communications vehicle, the tweets you see will change with the time of day, and when you travel through many different time zones, as I often do, you really notice this. My own favorite times of day for being online and getting things done is usually very early in the morning or early evening, but in Dubai, for example, early morning means I'm seeing midnight tweets from America. One thing I've noticed about the 24-hour clock is that different types of issues flow through different times of the day. Political discussions often get more traction in the early evening, while philosophical and scientific issues seem (to me) to be more popular in the early morning.
In any case, after just the first two months exploring Twitter, I feel more informed, more open-minded, and more "connected" on all these topics, and one of the most enjoyable things I do each morning is to open Tweetdeck and take my first peek at this rich, new world of thinking, collaboration, and interesting ideas. Sorry, does that sound corny? I'm trying to be serious, here.
During the last few months, I've also been involved as an official blogger at several conferences. Talk about getting a front-row seat at the business revolution! In May I blogged for the HSM World Innovation Forum in New York City. I covered a series of great speakers, including Clayton Christensen, Paul Saffo, and the up-and-coming Dan Ariely. I met some interesting attendees, and hung out with an eclectic group of "official bloggers," as well. My posts were prolific and (if I say so myself) quite insightful, but my tweets at this conference were anemic at best. This was my first real exposure to Twitter. I didn't know the important link between tweeting and blogging, using tweets to push more detailed content out to folks who are interested in it - content that can far exceed 140 characters. I didn't even remember to use the right hash-tag keyword to ensure my tweets joined the official Innovation Forum conversation. By the end of this conference, I had figured out that the other bloggers were getting a good deal more out of Twitter than I was.
In July, however, I blogged and tweeted at Fortune Magazine's Brainstormtech conference in Pasadena, and I was able to substantially improve my effectiveness. Pitney Bowes was the official sponsor of the "bloggers' nest" at this event, and I used both my blog, Strategy Speaks, and Pitney Bowes' blog to put out more detailed descriptions of some of the interesting sessions, adding my own opinions occasionally. But Pitney Bowes also had a giant, vertical "Twitterboard" just outside the conference's main doors, tracking tweets about #brainstormtech, and anyone could track the ebb and flow of the conference on this screen. I used Twitter both to provide real-time snippets of the points that speakers were making, as they were making them, and to push out URLs with my blog posts whenever 140 characters was not sufficient. And occasionally a speaker was so interesting that I found myself tweeting every other discussion point he or she made. During the 35-minute interview with Twitter's Biz Stone, for instance, I issued 30 tweets, following up later with a blog post about this "Twitterthon."
In October I'll be blogging at another HSM conference, the World Business Forum. As a frequent keynote speaker myself, I have come to appreciate HSM - with corporate HQ in South America, where I first encountered them - as one of the world's premier conference organizers. HSM has done for conference organizing what our consultants recommend to clients in all different categories: they've turned their operation into a genuinely effective manager of customer relationships, with everything from pre-airport baggage checking for attendees to left-handed as well as right-handed handouts for note-taking - but I digress.
I'd like to invite you to follow me (twitter.com/donpeppers) to the #wbf09, where you'll be able to "hear" some of the speakers I'll be hearing (including President Bill Clinton, Paul Krugman, Jack Welch, and even George Lucas), and who knows? You might even enjoy yourself, all from the comfort of your own keyboard.