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Summary:

I was inspired to write this post because of something that just happened on Twitter. The Twitterstream of one of my Twitter friends, @markdavidson, went awry. Instead of his typical tweets, there were random bursts of symbols such as “JJJJ,” “[[[‘ and the like. At first, […]

I was inspired to write this post because of something that just happened on Twitter. The Twitterstream of one of my Twitter friends, @markdavidson, went awry. Instead of his typical tweets, there were random bursts of symbols such as “JJJJ,” “[[[‘ and the like. At first, I tweeted a joke. But then I remembered a video I recently watched about a doctor describing a stroke. I swung into action, tweeting to ask if he was OK, and tweeting to my followers to see if anyone knew him or had a direct way of reaching him.

Within about 10 minutes, we learned that someone had hijacked his account and was posting gobbledygook to it. With a change of his password and a few chuckles, he told us all he was fine. Potential disaster averted.

This got me thinking about the real-time impacts of Twitter and social media communications in general. What does this immediacy do for us? In some cases, such rapid response time can be negative. Remember the spread of the “Jeff Goldblum is dead” tweets?

In other cases, a tweet (or tweets) have been cited as life-saving tools. Think of the guy who tweeted “Arrested” back in 2008 and got out of an Egyptian jail, or actress Demi Moore’s intervention in a potential suicide attempt tweeted one night.

So what does this type of urgency, attentiveness, connectivity and response mean to me, to you, and to our work? Here are some of my thoughts about ways such “intimate immediacy” impacts us from a work standpoint.

1. Fast feedback. Looking for near-instantaneous feedback on your web project? I find that Twitter gives me access to an ad hoc, in-the-moment focus group style response to requests for feedback on anything from a page design to a blog post to a photograph to an idea. If you have attentive and responsive followers on Twitter or friends or fans on Facebook, the speed of response can be mind-boggling, so make sure you are prepared for the response. I often use Twtpoll to “check the pulse” of my followers on Twitter when I need some feedback in a timely manner. I’m also discovering the joys of using Google forms as a way to capture responses.

2. Swift solutions.Who needs tech support when you have brilliant friends, fans and followers who don’t mind taking a moment to give a tip that could help solve a technical meltdown in minutes. I’m not knocking tech support, and I’m certainly not advising that experts should be giving their knowledge away for free, but there is nothing more rapid than crowd-sourcing solutions to problems. It’s faster than most email tech support mechanisms and much faster than being on hold for 25 minutes waiting for the next tech support line to open up.

3. Accelerated crisis management. While trying to do something too speedily without considering all of the details could create a crisis, not responding quickly enough when a crisis does occur or is poised to occur can be the kiss of death. Twitter, and social media in general, give you the monitoring tools to identify a problem before it starts to happen. Or if you are in the middle of crisis control, using social media tools to help spread your messages could mean the difference between days of fallout and a mere few minutes or hours. In addition to Google Alerts, I’ve been using SocialMention (with fair results) and Tweettronics to see what people are saying about client brands, and to start trying to gauge sentiment, but there are so many social listening tools out there now to try.

4. Rapid deployment. Need to run a last-minute campaign? When you’re faced with what would typically be an unrealistic communications deadline, social media tools can turn things around for you. Recently, a client brought us in to help bolster awareness of an event. We were given four days to get the word out to the right local audience. In the “old days,” we could probably have never turned around an ad for the local paper, a radio spot and a TV spot in that timeframe, and hope to get some traction. But with social media, we were able to create a buzz in mere days using Twitter, Facebook and Facebook social ads.

Speed isn’t always a good thing, as anyone who has screwed something up because they moved too quickly can attest. But when you feel the need for speed (I couldn’t resist that one), Twitter, Facebook and active socially-networked communities can provide just the boost you need to put the proverbial pedal to the metal.

How do you feel about the fast pace we’re facing in social media?

  1. I have mixed feelings on the speed with which social media is traveling. While on the one hand I think speed and reaction time can be a good thing for life saving matters, or for clients: the fact that when you see a negative review on twitter you have the ability to respond quickly enough that it doesn’t get blown out of proportion (much like the United Airlines broken guitar fiasco). On the otherhand, there are draw backs: the speed with which it’s traveling doesn’t allow us to ‘stop and smell the roses’. I have to remind myself sometimes to do just that, or else I miss out on something completely obvious.

    Great post btw. A lot of great food for thought. :)

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  2. I love the speed. Bring it on.
    There is a certain amount of bogus garbage that goes around but the system is self repairing. Twitter is in effect one huge wikipedia system that way.

    Some folks dislike the speed because it’s too easy to let something bad loose on the system. It’s too easy to say something stupid and have it hit you in the face in just minutes. I don’t see that as a system problem so much as a thoughtfulness problem.

    People today must realize it is harder to hide, and much easier for folks to peer into their lives. That means you and I need to think before we act and not be so casual about how we treat others, or speak out.

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