Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The One with the Twitterview

Writing in Ad Age last week, Pete Blackshaw reported on his first “Twitterview.” The content was fascinating; I’ve reproduced one segment below in case it has gone subscription-only by the time you read this. Can you believe the federal government, aka HHS, is replying to concerns about peanut butter and salmonella via Twitter? That responsiveness alone is grounds for total shock.

How it came about is also interesting. Pete Blackshaw wrote a post on his blog in January suggesting that the government should use social media to respond to the entirely valid concerns of citizens about the outbreak. According to Blackshaw, “Shortly thereafter, some ostensibly random dude named Andrew P. Wilson pinged me on Twitter with a heads-up that the Department of Health and Human Services is making headway on that very issue. Not only that, he said that on that very day, HHS started a social-media team.”
Then he goes on to report the Twitterview he conducted with Wilson a few days later. Here’s a snippet. He has another piece of the interview on a succeeding blog post, so you can get the idea. (Note that on that post there’s also a good chart on brand credibility, which ties into yesterday’s post.)

This is clearly a new subject—Twitterview, I mean. Even Google didn’t recognize it; kept asking me if I was looking for “twitter view.” But in spite of that, I found an interesting post from Dennis Stevenson who conducted his first Twitterview back in the summer. His process was interesting. He wanted to interview an artist about creativity. He sent out a tweet to his network; he knew some artists were members. One replied in short order, they set up the parameters of the interview by email and phone, and the interview was conducted and transcribed. There are lots of links on the blog post if you want to follow in more detail.

However, the basic point is clear. Andrew P. Wilson was following something that uncovered Pete Blackshaw’s blog post—a Google Alert on some key words perhaps? I’d like to have learned more, but the one dead end I ran into was looking for Wilson’s personal blog. Searching by blog owner is pretty unproductive, unfortunately. But Blackshaw blogged, Wilson was alerted to his interest in social media in government, got in touch, and the rest is Twitterview history.

Stevenson’s process was different. He looked within his own Twitter network for someone to interview on a particular subject. He got together with an appropriate person and communicated via Twitter.

So this is another productivity tool—a useful interview without travel, conducted on a free platform. It may not be appropriate in all circumstances but it looks like it could be useful in many cases.

Does it also bring up a broader issue? What other existing platforms can we—we being primarily business people—use to create new productivity tools? Creativity in the use of existing platforms—and perhaps the creation of new ones—is in order. Watch for--and share--bulletins from that front!

1 comment:

Dennis Stevenson said...

Mary Lou,

Thanks for digging up that old post. :) The "twitterview" was an experiment for me. I found it pretty difficult to execute. Not because of the character limitation of twitter, but owing to the time lag between question and answer.

Just listening to my tweetstream, twitter feels very real time. But the reality is that the tool imposes limits (or did back then) on the API, so we were waiting 5-10 minutes to get notice of either a question or answer.

Timing inconvenience aside, it was fun and felt a bit edgy. I don't think it's the best use of twitter... but twitter is definitely still finding its place in the world. I'm sure there will be many interesting uses ahead.

Dennis Stevenson