The rise of micro-blogging

Much has been written about the power of blogging. We know that the beauty of the blog is that just about anyone can be a publisher. It’s cheap and easy to publish and distribute content on the net.

However, the point many commentators often miss: Not everyone is born to write.

Writing a piece for a blog or an article takes time. It also takes a reasonable amount of skill. You need to be able to construct a fairly decent piece of writing if you’re going to engage your readers. Not everyone has something interesting to say or the ability to craft it into prose, let alone the time to do it.

Enter the world of micro-blogging, the most famous of which is Twitter. The service allows you to write or “tweet” bite-sized posts of about 140 characters that are published to a network of people who have opted to follow you. It’s built for brevity, spontaneity and ease. It’s short, sharp, fast blogging. If you don’t have the time to construct award-winning prose, but want to get your point across then Twitter is the thing for you. In fact the service is so hot right now that it’s buckling under its own popularity.

Some dismiss the service as irreverent. But for those who believe in networks and the importance of being privy to information that eminate from them, Twitter is worthwhile. We live in the information economy and knowing things and knowing people translate into business. It’s a horrible feeling when everyone is talking around you like they know something you don’t. Maybe it’s because you missed the buzz this morning on Twitter? As they say, ignorance is bliss.

Some businesses and media companies are playing on Twitter. Standard Bank provided commentary via the service with mixed success during Pro20 cricket, but their effort was admirable. Accenture has a handful of followers on its Twitter stream. Some media companies are experimenting with delivering their headlines through Twitter, although the content can tend to come in floods and can be quite overwhelming.

If corporates want to penetrate these Twitter networks they have to do so subtly, offering something of interest to users. Social media is largely a private space, and crude advertising can be seen as intrusive. Relevance is key, and so too is a businesses’ or advertisers’ ability to enhance the user’s life.

Reporters could use micro-blogging sites like Twitter for reporting and news gathering. The service made headlines recently for purportedly breaking the news of the Chinese Earthquake: People were Tweeting it, as it happened. The other day I attended a talk by Jacob Maroga, CEO of local power utility ESKOM, and I decided to Tweet his salient points via my phone. I delivered about 20 tweets. Here are some of them:

matthewbuckland: maroga: eskom will ensure we never get there (black out situation) by managing power 04:53 AM May 29, 2008 from web

matthewbuckland: in new york in past…took 72 hours to recover from blackout 04:52 AM May 29, 2008 from web

matthewbuckland: maroga: if SA has a blackout…could take 2 weeks to recover… 04:51 AM May 29,
eskom to need R1.3 TRILLION in long term 04:51 AM May 29, 2008 from web

matthewbuckland: jacob maroga: load shedding and interruptions will be with us for a while 04:46 AM May 29, 2008 from web

matthewbuckland: jacob maroga: by 2025 eskom to double current capacity… all countries going through this 04:44 AM May 29, 2008 from web

matthewbuckland: jacob maroga speaking @ m&g bus breakfast….should be interesting! 04:39 AM May 29, 2008 from web

I wouldn’t have blogged what he had to say. I wouldn’t have written a story as my reporting days are long behind me. But I tweeted it because it was easy to do. I’ll bet this non-reporter was the first to get the news out, even though there were quite a few reporters at the event.

So, could this be a tool in every reporters armory? Should news hounds monitor Twitter and be part of Twitter networks? I think so.

Matthew Buckland: Publisher


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