In the very early days when Twitter began, I was living abroad, freelancing and had more time on my hands than I do these days. I found it opened up a whole new world.
One of my first experiences was reading about how a favourite US actor had just found Twitter. It did not take long to find his Twitter handle, which back in those innocent early days, was not his celebrity, verified with a “blue tick”, account. For several months, a group of us engaged with him and enjoyed spontaneous twitter discussions and responses. It was a lot of fun and we talked about politics, film, music and shared inspirational sayings and jokes. During this time, I connected with people who became friends although I had never met them and we still keep in touch via social media. It was my first experience of being able to find kindred souls online who were interested in the same things as I am and I enjoyed talking (in 140 characters or less per tweet) to a film music composer in California, two writers in Canada, a blogger in the Mid-West and a woman who rescued dogs in New Orleans. One person in Michigan, I found I had a lot in common with and we have become great friends and email each other several times a week, sharing thoughts about books we have read, films we have seen, antidotes about life etc.
However, it did not take long even back in 2009 for the storm clouds to gather online. Once word spread about the actor’s Twitter account, trolls appeared and took pleasure in being offensive and he could not resist reacting and arguing back before he blocked people. They reappeared with new accounts and redoubled their efforts. One of my online friends was badly bullied online and ended up feeling traumatised and went offline for several months. Shortly after this, the actor promoted a new film and his Twitter account morphed into an account in his name, all verified with a blue tick. Now he has a million and a half followers and all of us from those early, more personal days are long gone.
Since 2009, Twitter, the actor and I have all moved on and evolved and developed. Twitter has grown into a world leading marketing and communications tool, the actor and his representatives recognised the potential and moved his personal account to his public one which still reflects his views but also publicises his upcoming work and I use Twitter every day in my business life.
Twitter continues to evolve with every media organisation and business of a certain size tweeting to let the world know what it is doing. As a result, it is one of the easiest ways to learn what is happening close to home or further afield. In a world which moves ever faster, it is a great way to skim information and gather the main points of what you need to know, whether it’s to get a pick of the Festival or the latest reaction to world events. The real trick going forward, however, is to get back that sense of personal interaction enjoyed at the start of my Twitter journey. Establishing meaningful conversations across the twitter-sphere involves a new set of rules and etiquette that perhaps many still need to conquer. When is a good time to engage, when to respond, how and how quickly, and what is the acceptable language, or tone? But when this is achieved, there is no doubt that Twitter can open up business relationships, proving its worth as an invaluable form of communication in 2015.