Controlling the blast from the digital fire hydrant

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Fire hydrant. mikbor/FlickrLast night I attended my second Birmingham, AL mayoral forum in two days at WorkPlay, a venue on the city’s Southside. For the second night in a row, I used the website’s @bhamterminal Twitter account to live tweet the event because I hadn’t relocated its Cover It Live! account login information.

Now, I had two things going through my mind at this point:

Did I warn people often enough of the pending excess of tweets flooding their streams? We did once at the beginning of each effort.

Were these events important enough to try to make the campaign a more relevant issue to our followers on Twitter and – hopefully – the city and the region? Considering recent voter turnout numbers in local elections, I thought it warranted some attention.

We received a positive response from the first evening’s coverage, including a mention from one of the city’s alternative weeklies since they couldn’t cover it themselves.

Last night’s event drew more support, but only after one of our stream followers made the following comment:

@bhamterminal guys. seriously. Twitter is not a chat room. I don’t need play by play of local city council meetings. unfollow in 3, 2, 1…

While I’m grateful for the encouraging words that I saw the account receive involving the use of Twitter in this instance, I started to wonder about the fact that even though folks don’t like to think of social media tools in marketing terms, it definitely behaves like one since its essentially an opt-in process.

I’d have to say that it’s better than a chat room – it’s a conversational engagement tool.

As a result, some folks use Twitter as a chat room (including the wildly popular #journchat on Monday nights and #blogchat on Sunday nights) while some use it as an informational stream – a fire hose of knowledge if you will.

The great thing about it is you can choose to drink from the hose whenever you want to. There have been additional tools out there to help shut off portions of the stream, including Twittersnooze (though it’s currently sleeping itself) and third party applications like Tweetdeck and Seesmic that allow the creation of groups. Twitter’s new Lists functionality even provides help with reducing the force of the flow. Of course, you can always choose to block, unfollow or unfriend a stream if it becomes too much for you. It will not be the end of the world and you may even figure out a way to re-engage in the conversation later on.

As for how we deal with moving the conversation off of Twitter and somewhere where it feels less like broadcasting… I have a few ideas, but I’ll wait to hear your suggestions down below first and then share them and mine later this week.

By the way – don’t be afraid of making mistakes when using Twitter or any digital communications tools.

It’s not failing – it’ll just help you in the long run.

Photo: Fire hydrant. mikbor/Flickr.

6 comments
Andre Natta
Andre Natta

They could, especially now that folks know about the tool! :)

Thanks for the assist David...

Andre Natta
Andre Natta

Preaching to the choir... try being the one manning one of those two accounts. But then I think of what Birmingham Weekly does for the weekly City Council meetings here in town and I don't feel so crazy ;)

T Adams
T Adams

Yesterday at 8:19pm, I felt "Trying to simultaneously follow the Birmingham Mayoral candidates @bhamterminal and President Obama @whitehouse on Twitter will whack your brain!!!" -on Facebook.

Andre Natta
Andre Natta

Preaching to the choir... try being the one manning one of those two accounts. But then I think of what Birmingham Weekly does for the weekly City Council meetings here in town and I don't feel so crazy ;)

T Adams
T Adams

Yesterday at 8:19pm, I felt "Trying to simultaneously follow the Birmingham Mayoral candidates @bhamterminal and President Obama @whitehouse on Twitter will whack your brain!!!" -on Facebook.