Tweets Are Not Just For Birds Anymore – Explaining Mainstream Adoption of Twitter and Facebook in Real-World Terms

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Omar Atwal “thinks tweets are for birds, not men…”

I recently saw the above comment on the Facebook feed of a good friend of mine. Obviously he does not yet understand Twitter yet or simply has not chosen to use it. And that’s alright. There are many like him. The non-early adopters who don’t yet see the value of a resource until society as a whole deems it okay. Now since I have not written much about Twitter (or Facebook) in-depth since I published my Twitter Guide for Newbies back in February 2009, I thought this would be a good opportunity to update the world on why these networks have gained popularity and will become commonplace in the years to come.

In more recent article, Ashton Kutcher, CNN, Twitter’s Million Followers, and Why it’s all Relevant, I wrote about the @aplusk and @CNNbrk‘s race to be the first Twitter account to 1,000,000 followers. Well that exposure proved to be a landmark event in social media, breaking down a section of the proverbial Berlin Wall so to speak. To date, that race exposed Twitter to the masses on a scale previously unseen. Because of it, even Oprah, arguably the world’s most popular woman, joined Twitter and from there, the world started to take notice. And then it slowly started to happen, mainstream acceptance.

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So why have Twitter and Facebook gained so much traction recently? Well it’s easy enough to see. It’s because they provide a way to share and receive real-time information on the go. These networks ARE social media. They’re the new meeting place of the masses. Where AOL Messenger, and even IM, are the equivalent of a rotary phone, these social media networks are the latest in 3G I-phone technology. (and available on that device as well) As proven in the mainstream news with the Iran elections and more recently this past week with the celebrity deaths of Farrah Fawcett, BIlly Mays, and Michael Jackson, Facebook and Twitter allow for the fastest way for breaking news to go viral. Nothing else even comes close.

While traditional media channels like CNN and Reuters have to go through a series of approvals like a traditional corporate hierarchy before they are able to release information, Twitter takes news straight from the source and enables the population at large to inform each other without going through the “chain of command.” That’s why sites like Harvey Levin’s TMZ have largely become popular, because of the fact that their bloggers can report news straightaway. Streamlined. Flat. Immediate. Uncensored. Cutting out the middleman altogether.

The success of sites like TMZ and social networks like Twitter and Facebook can be likened to the same shift that corporate organizations have evangelized post-2000, the dawn of the age of globalization. In The World is Flat by Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman, the author travels to Bangalore, India to identify the forces that have leveled the playing field between industrial and emerging market countries. The gist of the whole book is that  in order for corporations to succeed in today’s globalized economy, companies are being forced to flatten their corporate structures and reduce chains of command in order to move quicker, become more streamlined, and respond to their markets in real-time. That’s 21st century management. It’s the implementation of that thought process that is going to enable these companies to survive. We’ve been taught this in our university lectures ever since I was a freshman in college, and I graduated in 2005. Companies who continue to do business “the old way” will inevitably die out, they say. Nonetheless, this flattening of structures is a hard pill to swallow for many traditionalists who don’t seem to grasp concepts as quickly as the techie web 2.0 first-adopter types.

Even now, I almost can’t believe that I referred to CNN and Reuters as “traditional” media channels. Just a few years ago, weren’t we calling these websites “new media” and your local newspapers like The Houston Chronicle traditional media? Well now when you want news, do you go pull out the newspaper or do you go online? Folks, you’ve witnessed a changing of the guard in the past few years, and you barely even noticed it.

So what do these facts about globalization and news organizations have to do with Twitter and Facebook? It’s rather simple if you think about it.  If these types of changes are happening in big business and changing the way we receive our news now versus ten years ago, don’t you think the process will filter down to the fundamental basis of how we communicate as a society? Like I said, it can be tough to swallow if you’re used to doing things the old way. As human beings, we are naturally resistant to change. Yet the fact remains evident that this is where society is going on a whole, viral and real-time. Gone are the days where you had to wait for a friend to call a friend who called a friend who told you about something. That’s all happening now. And its all happening instantly on Twitter and Facebook.

An example: Earlier this very morning, I tweeted that I was at Firestone getting some auto maintenance done. No less than two minutes later, @ricardotalavera responds to me that 2 tires of his own vehicle had just blown out, he and his wife were stranded, and needed to find out whether Discount Tire by our gym was open. Within another minute, I responded back with the info on Discount Tire and an offer for picking them up. @xtalx chimed in around the same time offering Ricardo a ride as well. I found out an hour later that they were okay, doing some shopping at Babies-R-Us.

me: Getting car serviced on day off. Why are guys in auto shops always named Jerry??? Yer bringin’ out the southern accent ah never had Jerry!about 3 hours ago from TwitterRide

Ricardo: @mikecalimbas dude try getting both passenger seat tires blow. Front and back at same time. Oh yeah Liz and I are stranded about 3 hours ago from Twitterrific in reply to mikecalimbas

me: @ricardotalavera you want me to call around and try to send someone???about 3 hours ago from TwitterRide in reply to ricardotalavera

Tal: @ricardotalavera yeah where yall at?if ur near me I’ll come give you guys a ride.about 3 hours ago from Twitterrific in reply to ricardotalavera

Ricardo: @xtalx thanks dude an also @mikecalimbas. Cop came and got us tow truck. Car at discount tire now while @liztalavera and I at Babies R Usabout 2 hours ago from Twitterrific in reply to xtalx

So how would I explain Facebook and Twitter to the Average Joe? I’d tell him these sites are IM and E-Mail on steroids. Not just encompassing a small subsection of his friends, but everyone he could possibly network with and an even larger segment of the population if he wanted that. They allow Joe to communicate with anyone in the world he desired to connect with, should they choose to listen. Twitter is the new Instant Messenger and Facebook is the new Myspace – which was the new usernet message board, which was the new after-school club that met only on Wednesday nights. And the last thing I’d tell Joe? he’d better adopt sooner rather than later because I promise, eventually, he’s going to have to do it anyway.

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Follow author @mikecalimbas on Twitter!

BONUS – A funny text message conversation from Ricardo & Darkness on the same subject of Twitter and his car.

July 3rd @ 10:22am

Darkness: You training today?

Me : I was planning to. But I am now at discount tire. Just got 2 blown tires on my Audi.

Darkness: No way really I know the feeling.

Me: But Of course if you were Twitting you already knew that.

Darkness: I told you I will not join that I am going to resist as much as I can.

Me: You so selfish.

Darkness: No I just don’t want to follow I want to be a leader.

Me: Exactly then you step it up and get people to follow YOU.

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