Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Casey Talks Twitter

Social Media Guru Casey DeLorme follows this blog from San Diego and responded to my post about Twitter. His grasp of the subject dwarfs mine.

Wait, wait, wait, wait... wait!

You hit a bit on it in your throwaway on that last comment, X4MR... except the tools aren't being made by the NSA, but by kids, entrepreneurs, and hobbyists who know how to hack Twitter (which keeps an open programming interface specifically for this).

Twitter's really one of those you have to use for a while to get any sense of its rhyme or reason.

I'm currently ranked among the top 100 most-followed Twitterers in San Diego. That's after about a year of use with an intense focus on seeing what I could accomplish with it since Nov. I even landed mention in a front-page article in our major paper earlier this year by suggesting--via Twitter--that San Diego’s mayor do more to harness social media to reach constituents:

(Note: It helps that I'm an experienced public relations professional who focuses his work on Internet-based communications.)

I ghost-write a second Twitter for Volunteer San Diego ( We just passed 2,000 followers. They talk to us... asking questions, making suggestions, and spreading our message with the whole of the San Diego Twitter community. It's like having a conversation with the biggest, most receptive focus group you could imagine.

As you go, you begin to get a real feel for the platform:

1) It's different for everyone. On the surface, it appears to be 6 million people all text messaging at each other with nobody listening, that's akin to saying that blogging is 50 million bloggers writing nothing to each other and nobody reading. There's a lot more happening there.

2) Most begin by posting drivel. Like, when they're eating. For the first several months I tweeted lines like "Doing nothing." and "Thought I was doing something, but... nope." Then I caught on to the systems plethora of smart information.

Sound familiar? We all learned our way into the blogging world by jumping in and sorting things out until we knew where to look. But now we're participating on blogs like this one.

YouTube is similar... seems like a world of sophomoric humor or a place for posting stolen movies (i.e. until you realize the likes of Berkeley, MIT, and Yale are posting full courses. X4MR likes statistics, how about a full Yale course on game theory (

Think back further and email was the same way. Everyone first sent a few messages to figure it out. Then we spend some time forwarding stupid jokes that we think nobody else has received... hopefully we grow out of that. Now it's a tool for work. For keeping in touch with loved ones. You even subpoena emails when you've got a court case.

Someone once sent me a picture of "rules for the telephone" that were posted when phones were first installed in companies. There was a time limit, a suggestion that only business be discussed, and a reminder that you didn't have to yell. Each new technology goes through this kind of growth period before proving its real value. Great thing is, we catch on...

It appears, from your “baby-doll” Meghan McCain quotes here that she doesn’t really get it yet. Could she be a still-vacuous 24 year old that the Republican Party is using to project themselves as “not just fat old white guys”? (I hope not...)

Really want to get it? There's a fantastic article from the new York Time magazine on this learning your way onto Twitter, with the reporter stating up front that he thought it was stupid, then sharing his experience as he caught on to the Twitter ambiance in

3) Nobody who follows that many people is actually paying attention to them all (I follow 2,171 at the moment). With some practice, you learn to use twitter-based tools that allow you to pay attention to just certain people... or even specific keywords and topics. I'm also able to catch trending topics, many of which I can apply directly to my life or work.

4) It's a bit like having a service that watches the news for you and points the direction the stories are going. The swine flu was a good one, with a major twitter trend being to point out the real facts about the story (internationally, mind you) both outpacing traditional media AND calling traditional media on the carpet for fear-mongering. There are some genuinely intelligent individuals on twitter... posting unfiltered AND from everywhere in the world.

It's also breaking news faster... with reports from the scene. One of my favorites was when a plane ran off the runway at Denver International. The first news was from a passenger who tweeted "Holy Fucking Shit! I was just in a plane crash!" (I posted to my blog about that one: The first pictures and news about the plane that landed in the Hudson earlier this year... also sent via twitter (from someone on a ferry that diverted to help rescue the passengers).

5) People hold extensive and widely participated-in conversations. I've had blog posts go as far as 22,000 (yes, that's thousand) readers because twitterers shared what they viewed as worthwhile with overlapping circles of followers. (Serious network effect there.)

There are three basic ways to converse on twitter.

a) Talk to everybody (just send a tweet). You can also forward a tweet (it's called Re-Tweeting, or RT) that someone else sent.

b) Talk to everybody, but direct your tweet at a particular user. (done by using their twitter address with and @ symbol. i.e., to talk to me would be @getspine.)

c) Talk privately via direct message, the equivalent of an email.

5) Totally creative uses (as in, it's a new medium... and thinking about it in terms of an old medium--like text messaging or blogging--can be limiting).

During the Oct. 2007 wildfires in San Diego, whole communities were panicked about if/when they had to evacuate their homes. The American Red Cross set up twitter accounts by Zip Codes and sent regular updates. If you were being ordered to evacuate, you actually received a text message (a Twitter option) on your cell phone letting you know. Wow!

There are numerous instances of twitterers using their large followings to raise funds (called micro-fundraising) for good causes:

Or to make their voices heard with governments and corporations (again, the New York Times):

Last month I gave a presentation on the future of public relations at a Public Relations Society of America conference. Audience members LIVE tweeted my presentation via iPhone and Blackberry. I came back to find more than 100 comments, quips, and quotes from my presentation. Even had people following on Twitter ask questions through those in the live audience. Talk about interactive. I was everywhere at once. I also found out what they agreed with, argued with, and what they thought was particularly funny or pithy.

And, yes, sometimes I miss Tucson. However, between blogs (thanks, X4MR), my Facebook account (you're welcome to "friend" me), and Twitter ( or @getspine), it's a little like I never left. I even talk to city council members and local reporters this way.

Cool tools.

Oh, and though I'm definitely an omnivore in all other respects, I find video games really boring. But that is NOT to say someone couldn’t write a whole comment (or even a book) on how they’re useful tools, too. Where do you think they get the pilots for those drones?



Blogger Joe said...

x4mr (and Casey),

I too am trying to see the benefits of twitter (@wakeuptucson), I felt the same way about Facebook but after playing with the features I GET IT.

Thanks for the detailed analysis. I'm following Casey on FB and will start doing so on Twitter - it's the future kids.

5/06/2009 5:09 PM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

Thanks, Casey, for such a thorough and informative comment. Like Liza and x4mr, I am no omnivore. I do think I qualify as a connector now, thanks in some part to this blog, which is a seriously educational place to follow. I learn a ton here.

Unlike Joe, I do not yet "get" Facebook and certainly have no clue about Twitter. I'm a "social media" neophyte. I visited Casey's blog, and through no fault of his, I was pretty overwhelmed.

It's actually a pretty exciting time with all of this stuff coming out, and what I like most about what Casey wrote, which shows some real insight, is the way we initially flounder about with a new application (email, blogs, etc.) but then start to really learn the nuances and true utility of it, and we "stratify" (to use x4mr lingo) along a hierarchy of expertise and skill in using it.

I am low on the ladder, just using the main sites (CNN, MSNBC, etc.) that are online and reading a few blogs. I've hardly even visited youtube.

So far, this is really the only blog where I am comfortable submitting comments. I can not for the life me comprehend the guys at Sonoran Alliance. They think about stuff I've never even considered considering.

5/06/2009 6:33 PM  
Blogger Policon said...

x4mr- you mention that Carl Rove is following Meghan McCain’s twitting.. how do you know it's really Carl Rove. Is there some authenticity control built into the twitting system? Otherwise, wouldn't there be a few dozen alleged Carl Roves, a dozen John Kerrys, etc.?

5/06/2009 8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Twittering in Obamaland: The Social Network Administration.

5/06/2009 8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, Casey. Wow. Nothing like PRing yourself.

5/06/2009 9:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And, oh god it's the editor in me, it's Berkeley.

5/06/2009 9:26 PM  
Anonymous XS said...

His grasp of the subject dwarfs mine.Anyone read that at a blog before?

This captures what I admire about x4mr. He speaks with confidence up to his limit. Beyond his limit, he makes no pretense. Since the cloth is nothing but pretense, x4mr’s authenticity and genuineness must have driven them bat shit.

It takes a certain quality of character, after his naïve post on Twitter, to forward Casey’s far more advanced treatment of the subject.

X4mr has grown beyond the desire to impress. He serves “Something Else.”


5/06/2009 10:22 PM  
Blogger Sirocco said...

The point which most interests me, the real use for someone like Obama and the 700K he supposedly follows is the value doesn't lie so much in the twitters themselves, but in the data-mining which can be done with them.

A simple tool to log each twitter and a few simple algorithms to parse them looking for keywords, cross-links, etc., and you can very quickly spot trends/hot topics in near real-time. With more time and more complex analysis, you could get some real information out of it.

For all the instances Casey mentions of people using twitter to raise money for good causes, etc., it seems to me the real value of twitter is not for those creating and sending the messages, but rather for those receiving and amalgamting them.

5/07/2009 7:14 AM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Your point may be technically valid, but that Rove follows Meghan is well recognized and published. Scum crosses party lines. Rove and Eckstrom have more in common than different.

Typos happen. For Casey to provide some background for why his information is legit may also occur as PR, but so what?

I'm left with the awareness that I really don't get it. The light bulb that has flashed for Casey regarding Twitter remains dark for me. I'm still pondering the intentional programming interface.

5/07/2009 8:39 AM  
Blogger TexPatriate said...


Reread The Tipping Point. . . or Blink. . .(both by Gladwell).

I think you will garner a much sharper view of the social networking tools (Twitter, blogs, Facebook, etc.) that are currently being used and HOW they are being used.

Por ejemplo (*wink*), take a look at some of the Facebook "quizzes" that have sprung up lately. It took me about five of them to realize how much data could be collected and how easily it could be maintained and mined later. I don't take the quizzes much anymore, unless I see all the questions and deem them harmless.

That data lives somewhere.

And I can't see its brain.

5/07/2009 8:48 AM  
Anonymous Scarlett Letter said...

TexP -- I completely agree about the FB quizzes. In fact, I'm starting to hide feeds from my "friends" who spend their days proliferating them. I don't have the time nor the patience for that. It's kinda like a chain letter. Dangerous.

5/07/2009 9:50 AM  
Blogger Casey DeLorme, APR said...

Ah, Scarlett Letter is doin' it right. Learning her way in a customizing as it goes to make the system work the way she wants. Man, those quizzes are annoying.

As for typos... I see at least 7 more. Dashed that comment in 20 minutes, didn't proof. Had no idea X4MR would raise it to post level. (And told him via email, I'm honored that he considers it post-worthy.)

TexPatriate on data collection... great point. But, really, we're all in the system. I'd rather confuse "the brain" with lots of stuff that it has to sort through than navel-gaze about a tiny bit that they probably have anyway. At least I'll entertain... or at least occupy them for a while.

Gladwell's books were interesting, but I loved The Black Swan, which takes him to task on a number of loose ends. Also, Clary Shirky's "Here Comes Everybody" is about the best big-picture testament to what's happening with social media connecting us all. Highly recommended.

But the best PR ever... honest behavior (in both individuals and organizations) and a real desire to be part of the conversation. Which is what I do here... read pretty much every post and add where I can be interesting, useful, or bring additional light to a subject. Isn't that what we're ALL here for?

Really, the best PR happening on this blog is X4MR's. How many of us could take journaling something we're ticked off about, combine it with our personal musings on great films, completing a Ph.D., and random sharings of our personal growth... and gain a significant following (and inspire the newspaper to delve deeper into an important topic). Nice work.

Oh, and if you want to get a better grasp of what's possible with Twitter, take a look at (10 of the best Twitter tools).

5/07/2009 10:48 AM  

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