At RIT University News, we do our best to stay current on trends in social media (and between all of us, I think we do pretty well). RIT News was an early adopter of Facebook and Twitter, produced news podcasts before most universities and launched a YouTube channel early on. Plus, this blog was one of the first-in-the-nation higher-ed news blogs.
Efforts are ongoing: Soon, our ever-evolving news website will be 100-percent mobile-friendly and an iPad-compatible version of our alumni magazine will be rolled out. Our e-newsletter, News & Events Daily, is being redesigned and, with the help of a university-wide social-media task force, an RIT “mobile app” is under development.
It’s a team effort. When it comes to the constantly and rapidly changing social-media landscape, no one is the expert. But as we all try to keep pace and figure it out along the way, opinions abound. Following are some of mine about a few of today’s more prominent social-media tools—starting today with Twitter. (Disclaimer: The opinions expressed—always direct and occasionally contrarian, my trademark—are mine, not necessarily RIT’s.)
Twitter: ‘Oh Lord! Please don’t let me be misunderstood’
When they sang that line, the rock band The Animals didn’t have Twitter in mind. But Twitter, launched in 2006, is still possibly the most misunderstood of today’s social-media tools—among both seasoned users and non-users alike.
Growing in popularity daily, Twitter remains to some an enigma. “NBC Nightly News” anchorman Brian Williams, for example, was quoted in Time magazine as saying about Twitter: “I see it as kind of a time suck…. Just too much ‘I got the most awesome new pair of sweatpants.’”
It’s a common misperception: Twitter is filled with nothing but trivia. And it explains why some people—like Williams—shun Twitter. But those who are under the impression that tweets are only about quotidian activities—what someone ate for breakfast, for instance—are misinformed. To be sure, there’s no shortage of mundane tweets. But I’ve become a fan of Twitter’s efficacy as a news feed.
Twitter’s value comes largely from whom one chooses to follow. My best advice to naifs: Find and follow people and organizations that interest you (and don’t worry initially about tweeting). You’ll discover that those concise 140-character-maximum tweets serve nicely as news headlines. For even greater efficiency, create lists of users that truly interest you and use “saved searches.”
A final bit of advice to new users: Once you do tweet, try not to make your initial one: “My first tweet.”
Explaining Twitter to the uninitiated is the easy part. Explaining it to users who think they know what they’re doing, but who may be missing the mark, could prove dicier—because the truth sometimes hurts.
Inflicting a little pain to the ego—and almost certainly “rattling a few cages” in the process—next time.