Be Prepared, the Mainstream is Coming

As is typical on the weekends I talked to my oldest brother. We are very different people with very different interests. I am a fairly liberal democrat and he is slowly becoming more of a conservative republican. I am a software developer and he is in sales and marketing. I am mostly an introvert, and as a salesman, he tends to be highly extroverted.

Why do I tell you this? Well, today our conversation converged on technology and he is not really tech savvy. He uses email and surfs the web a little bit, but not much more than that. Specifically, we talked about social networking and other social tools like Twitter and FriendFeed. My brother joined LinkedIn this summer as he had heard some things about it. Being in sales and marketing, he figured it would be a decent tool to use. Of course he asked me how to use it, and I forwarded an appropriate post from Chris Brogan. We had more talk about LinkedIn, as he was not sure how he should be using it. I am a big believer that there is no “right” way to use tools. If the tool exists, see if you can find a way to use it. After I told him the same thing, he mentioned that he had an email conversation with a woman regarding LinkedIn and specifically that the only contact information he found for her was for a LinkedIn profile. This is a person who works for a local newspaper as a journalist and blogger.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

That is when the conversation changed, and I was not ready to answer. He asked, what is this Twitter thing? Obviously, my first thought was that he saw something on CNN. No, he said that this blogger had mentioned it in her post about getting started in social networking for small businesses. Personally, I was shocked that a local paper was starting to talk about Twitter. So, we started talking about Twitter. Disappointingly, I can not tell him how to use Twitter, as I have asked the same question myself to various people. Because he knows that I use various sites, he asked what I specifically use often and what benefit he could get from them. I told him about FriendFeed. The general concept behind FriendFeed was generally too much for him. I agreed, saying that it is really for people like myself who are information addicts. For someone just getting started with social tools, FriendFeed is definitely too much. I find it to be an “advanced” social tool. Twitter is definitely something that someone new can just jump into.

So, we have seen CNN using Twitter. Now we have a local paper and people like my “non-tech” brother talking about Twitter. So, be prepared the mainstream is coming. My question to you is how do you explain what Twitter is and how do you use it? What benefits can a small business get by using Twitter? We need to be prepared with this information, because the masses are coming and they will have a lot of questions.

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12 thoughts on “Be Prepared, the Mainstream is Coming

  1. I would not go to either extreme (barring or partying), but I would be prepared. I think the new users could use some guidance so that it does not get out of hand.


  2. Why exactly is Friendfeed harder to use than Twitter? You didn’t seem to properly argue this in your post.

    I would say that Twitter is far harder to get into because of the “how am I supposed to use this” question, whereas Friendfeed is simple to start discussions around content that’s already being brought in.

    What are your thoughts and reasons to recommend starting on Twitter vs Friendfeed?


  3. I have seen the Twitter Bandwagon pick up pace aswell. I sense that sites like Twitter and other Social Media sites will pick up like wildfire, can’t wait to see what happens next 🙂


  4. Another point for Friendfeed over Twitter as a starting point: it’s quite likely that people new to the game have at least one or two accounts at sites which could be imported to Friendfeed (Facebook is the most likely in my mind). That’s a quick way to give your account some content vs. having to post links manually on Twitter (likely requiring you to first learn to use something like TinyURL).

    Also if you opt for Twitter first you need to learn how to compose your thoughts in 144 characters which some might consider frustrating.

    I know I sometimes feel like I’m talking to nobody when I write @replies on Twitter because you can’t always expect a response. On Friendfeed if you encounter any topic you’re interested in, you’re free to comment and you can count on more that just the author reading it in most cases. I think, in general, Twitter is more about broadcasting where Friendfeed is more about content discussion which gives the latter the edge in engaging new users.

    Maybe I haven’t been as caught up in the Twitter community as you, Rob, but I think that Friendfeed offers many fewer barriers to entry. Either way, they’re both very interesting to read.


  5. Mitch,

    Let me start by saying that I am addicted to FriendFeed. I am very active there, especially compared to Twitter. In this post I did not want to compare Twitter and FriendFeed, but they were conversation points. The main issue that people see with FriendFeed is the quantity of information. You need to work with it in order to find the way you want to use it.

    Twitter will be more comfortable for many people because they are familiar with IM and text messaging. So, something like Twitter is similar, just more public. I do agree that conversation on Twitter is harder, and FriendFeed is built for promoting conversation.

    The other problem is that I do not believe the mainstream wants as much information as is available on FriendFeed. Most people watch 1 or 2 television stations and read one newspaper. FriendFeed is the equivalent of having almost every TV station and newspaper funneled into one stream of information. Maybe I am wrong, but my brother did not want to know anything more about FriendFeed than I told him.


  6. Justin,

    My hope is that as the attention increases, that the early adopters like ourselves can act as guides. We can help people get integrated into the site, and promote good usage of the site. We all saw the number of arguments on FriendFeed due to the political information. Imagine if traffic was 10x what it is now. If we guide people into the services, then we can also promote good behavior.


  7. My answer to what Twitter is: it is the virtual “water cooler”, and yes there is a use for anybody who cares about staying in touch with others, whoever that it.
    Twitter is convenient because you can use it from your phone or from your PC.
    You can go there to see what people are talking about when you have a minute to spare.
    OR you can use, which allows you to search on specific keywords to see who talks about what you are interested in. This can be any topic, or it can be a tag for a conference, in which case you have access to the “backchannel” = what people are discussing while somebody is talking. Very useful to complement any presentation.
    Twitter is clearly something you should have in your social networking toolbox…


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