Friday, July 23, 2010

140 characters...

...but not for the four of the most important years of a young person's life.

Twitter remains a bit like the iPad -- strange name and a less-than-certain "why I need this" idea.

You know I am a "tweeter" but for me it is the least important social media tool in my toolkit. I once asked a group of students if they had to give up two of the three -- their blog, their Facebook page or their Twitter account -- then which would they be. The almost unanimous answer was Facebook would stay.

When asked why, they noted the ability to provide links to stories, insert photographs or videos, and the ability to comment about something a friend had done. When I told them they could do all those on their blog, they reminded me that a blog was often too serious or demanded too much attention. Facebook, on the other hand, was fun.

Earlier this week I read a research paper about television news organizations and their use of Twitter that will be presented at a journalism and mass communication convention I will soon be attending. One of the findings was that news stations continue to struggle with how to use their Twitter page. In many cases, those pages have become nothing more than headline-like services that call attention to a story. Clutter can easily develop in that kind of environment.

What do we make of Twitter? It can inform. It can entertain. It can provide links. But the microblogging site must find a way to become distinct and relevant in a social media system that appears to roll out a new "you've got to have this" service each month.

If it can't find a place, then it is destined to be a kind of cool, kind of hip (for some) tool for people. But nothing more than that.

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