Twitter, the little blue bird icon that delivers a message in 140 characters, has upended the status quo in business, the news media and even diplomacy. With more than 200 million active users a month, over 500,000,000 messages per day, Twitter is allowing authentic, relevant exchanges instantly with people around the world.
President Barack Obama has almost 38 million followers and when he personally tweets leaves a BO at the end of his messages. Dr. Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran the latest leader to join Twitter this year now has over a 100,000 followers. Hundreds of Ambassadors in the know, tweet, with the former Mexican Ambassador the US Arturo Sarukhan claiming to be the “1st Amb accredited to Washington to tweet in official capacity”. Every member of the US Congress Tweets. Even the new Pope Francis joined Twitter delivering messages in eight languages including Arabic has sent out less than 200 messages to over 3 million followers.
Yet, still a few traditionalists remain, old newspaper men who insist on paper and do not understand the digital revolution and even a few intelligent yet insular global affairs experts.
Over the last few weeks, the traditionalists stood out. One ambassador, when asked if he used Twitter, expressed confusion with dismay,
“Twitter? Why would I (the ambassador) use Twitter?”
Ironically, he nostalgically followed with how he missed those days of being a junior officer with immediate access to anything he was researching and then contrasting to today as ambassador receiving information slower due to legacy channels of diplomacy.
Another evening a retired Cold War foreign service officer asked again about Twitter. This greying diplomat, now author, years ago proudly helped his son deliver the Washington Post newspaper at 5 a.m. every morning just so that he was the first in the neighborhood to read the news. He was even notorious for creating a competition with another paperboy whose father, a member of Congress, also helped his son deliver the paper yet was certainly not an early riser. Curious to know the interest and buzz surrounding Twitter, he asked for another demonstration.
Shocked at first and then delighted as the answer began to materialize. How do intelligent, intellectuals dive into the new world of Twitter?
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Several ambassadors in Washington, DC were asked Why do you use Twitter and would you recommend Twitter to another ambassador? Immediately, they responded
Ambassador of Greece to the United States Christos Panagopoulos immediately Tweeted back,
Absolutely! You can never talk with so many people at the same time in real life! Potential for interaction & engagement huge
Ambassador of Italy to the United States Claudio Bisogniero shared via Twitter,
Indeed! 140 characters are very powerful to reach ur audiences + nurture a dialogue. But
#innovation is the key and new ideas
Ambassador of Turkey to the United States Namik Tan sent a Direct Message (DM) with,
In one word: outreach. Twitter helps to engage a large but specific and interested audience with relevant and up to date messages
Twitter gives people access to breaking news, experts around the world and the opportunity to share opinions, expertise, human experiences that connect communities around the world. Authentic, relevant, sincere Tweets accelerate the connections. While insincere, stilted, overly scripted messages become obscure, ignored. Leading to the observation that when a public figure is not on Twitter, the question is “What do they have to hide?”
A public relations quandry – to hide or not hide, to be authentic or not, to be scripted or not, does engaging with the public really have any impact? Some may insist that it is far more civilized to engage through traditional diplomatic channels and cocktail parties where no one challenges the sincerity or authenticity of any comment. Or, far worse, the dread of appearing before an angered Congressional committee investigating your office. Ultimately, individuals and institutions have a choice, hide in a bureaucracy or engage, authentically, sincerely.
As a result, a new dynamic leader is emerging. One willing to engage publicly, boldly, sincerely with relevant, honest exchanges. The “room” is now global, allowing connections with people beyond the capacity of any physical conference room, convention center. This is the nature of self organization, as Harvard professor Dr. Joseph Cambry described the nature of slime mold or “crowd democracy” as described by Egyptian Co-founder of the Al Dostour Party, Wael Nawara. Disappearing are the ’emperors with no clothes’ and appearing are bold, refreshing leaders inspiring new innovation, collaboration and accountable governments to the people.
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So, for those intrigued dinosaurs willing to transform into the 21st century of crowd democracy, true global engagement and digital diplomacy, here are a few starters (after you set up your account).
Start by creating your own ‘wire service’ by following people, experts, influencers in your own world. To organize your information as it can become unruly, conversations unrecognizable and shorthand obnoxious to the perfectionist editor within, create list category of importance.
For instance, answer the question, if you were to create your own ‘news wire service’ what is important to you. Perhaps you list could include (in no particular order because in social media there really is no order):
- Media: international, national and local media
- Leaders: political leaders, president, representatives, senators, local leaders
- Government: government services, police department, fire department, public transportation
- Business: favorite businesses, hotels, restaurants, book stores,
- Financial: experts, journalists, analysts, services
- Inspiration: philosophers, religious leaders, quotes
- Art and Culture: artists, museums, special arts projects, authors, filmmakers, musicians
- Travel: favorite cities, hotels, airlines, cultural institutions
- Personalities: favorite writers, reporters, announcers
- Sports: athletes, sports teams
Fill in the lists with people and organizations you trust and who to you are authentic.
Then start reading. Go slow at first. The abbreviated words, the hashtags (#) and links can be confusing. But once you see “it”, it is phenomenal.
There are a couple of options in reading your Twitter ‘wire service’ – first, your scrolling Tweets including everyone you follow and their re-Tweets (RT) or by going to a specific list and reading Tweets exclusively by members you selected for that particular group.
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There is no longer a news deadline or 24 hour news cycle recycling the same news segments over and over again or even worse, waiting for a staff member to get you news and information.
Twitter is breaking news, fresh, dynamic, global and if you choose, engaging.