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Newsflash: Twitter is just like real life


Just as I was starting to get a wee bit precious, wondering, “What the hell am I doing here? Has Twitter caught a bad case of bitch-itis this week?” …in swaggers punk rock blogger Johnny B Truant, and balance is restored to the Twittiverse.

If you’re a Mumbrella reader then you probably caught the storm in a teacup that ricocheted across Twitter early on in the week. If not, I won’t rehash it. Remember that episode of the Simpsons when all the advertising mascots come to life? Stop paying attention and these things have the habit of just fading away.

I only really mention it because at the time when I saw the tweets flying, as a Twitter newbie I thought to myself, ‘And these are the people leading the growth (and quality) of social media involvement in Australia?’ Last thing I want to do is make enemies in high places, but the incident raised some pretty pertinent questions for me.

Rightly or wrongly, we hold sports stars, politicians and other prominent figures to a high standard of behaviour because they enjoy a position of influence and leadership. So, if social media is considered in fact part of the media, and an actual form of publishing (which I believe is currently being debated), then should we hold leaders in the ‘social’ media to the same high standards of behaviour?

Granted, nobody’s perfect and obviously not everyone is going to get along online, just as in the offline world. I wonder, though: in a medium where shooting from ones fingertips in a moment of anger, frustration or even just as wind up becomes part of the permanent record — do we need to exercise a good measure of self-restraint?

Anyway, enough about that. It’s a touchy issue and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m neither equipped nor inclined to pass judgment. Questioning is, of course, another matter entirely.

On a lighter note, I’ve just concluded my third big week on Twitter and I’m happy to report that it finished much better than it started. After spending the first two weeks effectively only doing ‘recon’ and taking what’s technically termed the ‘starfish’ approach — hanging out and observing what happens — I gained a bit of confidence and spent last week talking to people and working through the six degrees of separation to find a few interesting folks to follow.

I followed a hilarious thread about a mash-up of Chris Brogan’s business card in the post “How I sucked at SXSW so that you don’t have to” from one of my favourite bloggers, Problogger co-author Chris Garrett. At the end of the thread I found the lovable punk rock blogging consultant Johnny B Truant [@johnnybtruant].

Now I have no idea if this guy is a student of Frank Kern’s Mass Control program but he’s a great character with a groovy message. I followed him, sent a tweet bonding over our mutual enjoyment of Black Flag, he then followed me back and now we’re ‘friends’. Well, you know what I mean. His tweets have been interesting and very amusing so far.

Here’s something else I’m learning about Twitter. You’ve gotta be a bit discerning when it comes to reciprocating when people start to follow you. Since starting to follow Johnny, I’ve had a few of the multi-level internet marketing folk start following me. I’m not all that interested in monetising my WordPress blog or pimping my Facebook page right now and I’m sure they’ll leave me alone in a few days when I haven’t reciprocated their follow.

The friendly reception I got from House Party PR’s Scott Rhodie when I sent him a little SOS via Twitter during the week also went a long way to restoring my faith in Twitter as a tool for not only communication but connection and research too.

You’re going to have to forgive me for stating the bleeding obvious here but I’ve had to remind myself again and again that if I don’t ask questions, don’t participate and don’t take more than a superficial glance around, I’ll never know what’s out there and I might just miss out on a great big opportunity. And, I certainly don’t want to be missing out on any opportunities.

Final lesson of the week for me. Just like life, Twitter ain’t all sunshine and rainbows, and neither should it be. It can only really mirror society – as, to varying degrees, do all other forms of media. Anything else wouldn’t really be authentic, would it?

Lesley-Ann Trow is a seasoned bootstrapping entrepreneur who loves to share what she learns with other SMEs. Her Consulting talents range from asking ‘why?’ roughly 17 consecutive times to assist clients develop their razor sharp cut-through WOM marketing message to helping SMEs protect their reputation and bank balance as they navigate the online world. Start following Lesley-Ann on Twitter @150dominos and please tell her if she makes a mistake.