Saturday, April 04, 2009

Tweet Spots

Those who try to figure out when certain trends reach a tipping point—who try to figure out when things have crested, the beginning of the end of the beginning—should note that we may have reached that point about three weeks ago—when I started “tweeting.”

And, no, I wasn’t commemorating the arrival of spring by making bird calls. “Tweeting,” if you haven’t heard, is reportedly now all the rage as a means of communication.

Well, sort of.

See, you “tweet” by establishing an account on twitter.com (it’s free). And, once there, you can keep everybody up to date on what you’re doing.

Well, sort of.

What you actually do is update everybody who has signed up for your updates (“followers”). And, by update, what I mean is that you can tell those following your activities what you’re doing…in 140 characters (or less). Not 140 words…140 CHARACTERS. About half the length of this paragraph….

Now, I’ve been aware of Twitter and its capabilities for some time now. But, for a guy who long ago eschewed putting up creative status messages on AOL’s Instant Messenger, and who still finds Facebook’s “what are you doing now” box an annoying reminder of unfinished business (not to mention a mundane existence), the notion of incessantly updating the world on the trivialities of one’s daily existence just seemed—well, trivial.

Having said that, over the past several weeks I have found Twitter to be an interesting way to keep up with breaking news from a wide variety of sources (including politicians, many of whom are now “tweeting,” apparently), has already helped me find a good book, allows you to connect with people you wouldn’t normally be able to even find, much less interact with (although that cuts both ways), won’t tie up your e-mail, and has the potential, believe it or not, to actually help you find information and promote your professional activities.

Well, sort of.

As long as you can do so in that 140 character space—and only, to state the obvious, if somebody’s “listening.”

In point of fact, while for the moment it’s “fun,” I’m not yet sure how effective tools like Twitter will be in the long run, nor how its “soundbytes” will work for complex areas such as retirement planning. Not that I’m not intrigued by how Newt Gingrich spent his Friday evening (I’m more intrigued that he’d be willing to share that information), or how a “professional Wal-Mart shopping cart” finds the time (or Internet connection) to keep up with my postings, but there’s a great deal of this medium’s “information” that really isn’t worthy of that name. Still, it’s been interesting to meet the challenge of creating a message that (literally) fits the medium, and one that I’m sure I will improve on over time.

There’s a reason good advisers have an “elevator speech”—a “reason I should be hired to help you” explanation that can be delivered in the space of time an elevator ride consumes. Ditto the ability to share the essentials of participation and investing in a group setting in what are frequently “less-than-optimal” settings. Sometimes, perhaps most times, you simply don’t have all the time you’d like to explain things the way you’d like to explain them.

There is a science to being heard amidst all the clutter, IMHO. It’s all about attracting followers, and, from what I have discerned on Twitter, at least initially, you must follow to be followed (unless, of course, you’ve already attracted a following). You also have a much better chance of being heard, IMHO, if you’ve been referred/followed by someone they are already listening to.

Success in this “new” medium (it’s about three years old) seems to be about listening at least as much as you talk, sharing timely information that is useful (and entertaining), and doing so at a time—and in a setting—that is convenient for those whom you want to reach.

And in my experience—regardless of medium, message, or audience demographic—that’s always been the best way.

—Nevin E. Adams, JD

You can follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/nevinesq

1 comment:

Ellie said...

An interesting look at how advisers fit into the Twitter movement. It does seem to fit into the business that they do, although there are many other considerations to keep in mind (compliance, the limits of Twitter as a communication tool). But it will be interesting to see where it goes.

I thought this consultant had some interesting points about using Twitter for employee benefits communication: http://www.benefitsbuzz.net/2009/03/is-twitter-a-viable-tool-for-employee-benefits-communication-.html