TP11: The Twitter Effect: 140-Characters or Less

I am a closet nerd. I wear glasses and enjoy the dusty musk of old, bound leather between the stacks at the Toronto Reference Library and could spend hours contently reading. I don’t retain as much as I would like to, but I always recall the most educating and entertaining parts of books and literature that stand out to me. From a young age, I’ve devoured books but I’ve realized that if you can remember parts of a story or phrases from an article – days, months, even years after you’ve read it – it was worth your time and energy. The term nerd is often associated with negative connotations (think comics of Archie and Moose) but I have embraced it as I’m certain that the term is not a bad thing whatsoever. When the internet grew and was viewed as a tool it acted as a digital archive which housed global information. With that the minds of the curious grew greater and the hunt for more knowledge continued. Not only did the internet allow constant access to information but it provided a platform to share new found knowledge and interact with people with the same interests. One of the best assets of the internet (for all of you forgetful folks) is that even if you failed to remember something, information posted online remains accessible forever, enhancing the archival properties of the internet.

Information is crucial to the people who create and further develop the knowledge of those searching, therefore the archival properties of the internet are extremely useful to writers. It allows access to information required to enhance arguments or gain more information on specific topics to better writing. With the internet making social media what it is these days, a lot of professional writers turn up their noses at the idea of blogging. Many writers even consider it amateur writing because of it’s honest and conversational nature and so be it. I grew up with the internet and spent countless sleepless nights on MSN and ICQ through dial-up internet, which led to a life that has relied on instant information and communication. I expect responses to emails and text messages within minutes and when there is breaking news, I expect information to be online almost immediately. That being said, I feel I have a good idea of the way this generation – the one which communicates through social media and relies on instant reaction and response – is different from that of previous generations. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a book reading, glasses wearing, baseball loving nerd but social media is opening the doors to so much more information which influences those things, than some ever thought possible. With the use of Twitter, instant messaging, and the internet, news travels as it happens instead of discovering recent events after the fact. Gone are the days when the evening news, the newspaper or a couple blogs on the internet were the only sources for the latest transactions or team and player reports. Social media has allowed a global network to interact and connect while sharing information instantly.

The Twitter Effect – sharing news or communicating in 140-Characters or less – has allowed news consumers to become news sources and formal news sources now rely on the interaction of consumers within social media to remain relevant and well-informed. With Twitter, for example, the average-everyday-person can tweet about news as it happens, sharing to followers and Re-Tweeted and so on. Not only has this had an effect on the way information in shared and the way people communicate but it bridges the gaps between formal and informal writing and allows concise news, antidotes, or facts to be written. It also allows news to travel instantly which eliminates the middle-man, assuming sources are factual and trusted. From strictly a communication perspective, Twitter allows users who have common interests engage in small-talk from anywhere around the world, in turn making friends and creating a larger stage for news to be broadcast.

Have you ever had someone come up to you, point and tell you who you are? I did, except that it wasn’t my name (my given name that is) it was my Twitter username. “You’re @thestoryofagirl,” I was told yesterday upon meeting a Tweeter during the first ever, Tweeting Tuesday – a social media initiative that the Blue Jays (@bluejays) have begun to engage fans and become an active part of social media. Last night @bluejays gained over 200 new followers and had over 1,200 mentions throughout the game, which is a good indication of how many people can be reached during a few hours. The Blue Jays are the first team in the league to do anything of this kind using a social media platform. Tweeting Tuesdays for example allowed social media savvy Jays fans to interact with us here at Rogers Centre as well as fans at the game and those watching home. With three people operating the same Twitter account you can only imagine how much interaction the fans had with the Jays. Not only was there interaction with fans online but Twitter was the theme of the game and the entire night. Even the Ceremonial First Pitch was a Jays Follower who was selected and surprised pre-game with the opportunity. To say the first Tweeting Tuesday was successful is an understatement; the positive feedback from fans poured in and the Blue Jays were a trending topic for the first time in Ontario and both Eastern and Western Canada, thanks to the televised broadcasts of the game. The Jays will continue Tweeting Tuesdays on every Tuesday home game throughout the season.

Other dominant social media initiatives in professional baseball is minimal. On every website in the MLB, each team has a section to “Connect with…” the team’s front office staff and writers, which was an initiative that began early in pre-season. I sat down and reviewed every Twitter page and feed of all thirty teams to see what their primary usage of the Networking Site was and if they took advantage of it’s characteristics to engage fans. On a daily basis, clubs use Twitter to relay information such as game day lineups, player injuries and transactions, current promotions and giveaways but for the most part, clubs only use Twitter to drive traffic to their website and the latest news. Rather than merely post RSS feeds to the team website, which is the case for the majority of teams across the league, Twitter could be used to remain relevant through the changing times that social media brings forth. Think of what Twitter has done for professional clubs and organizations, not to mention the way sports media is being forced to adapt and provide news faster than ever before. I feel sometimes that people in sports media are running around like chicken’s with their heads cut-off trying to keep up with the demand for information, blogging, tweeting, and posting news as soon as it happens. There is an unspoken battle to be the first source to report breaking news as media outlets now use Twitter as a credible source. I was speaking with a good friend of mine in sports media the other day and he made a great point about sports news and using social media as a platform. The key point he made clear was how time sensitive every bit of information has become. “Four minutes is too long,” he said. “In forty-eight hours, news is almost obsolete.” Sports news is no longer just your Sports Centre at night or your Sports section in the morning newspaper; sports news is Twitter and blogging, which has blurred the line between informal and formal, giving a voice to fans and people who may not have previously had one.

The downside to social media is that it allows users to hide behind their computer screens not necessarily using the medium for the most positive purposes. Granted, there will always be users of any media who take to writing or ranting to be heard, calling on anyone who will listen. Negative users and ranters aside, Twitter and social media is a good thing. In my opinion, more organizations on a global level should adapt to it to remain relevant and become an active part of the shift in information sharing. As I mentione
d previously, news is now instantaneous and the way news is provided and consumed will most likely never return to the previous ways. Social Media “Experts” have their fair share of opinions on how everything in sports has altered through this shift in communication but in my opinion, social media is continuing to change daily. It has become a part of the daily tasks of every MLB club, which should be embraced rather than criticized. After all, the more information available to fans and media, the more fans can find reason to relate to a team or player. It can only enhance the way baseball is consumed and allow information to be spread on a local, provincial, and national platform.

1 Comment

Great post. And I think the Jays are on to something with Twitter Tuesdays. Kudos to them for even trying it. I know the woman who won the comfort zone seats last night; and by “know” I mean solely through Twitter.

Twitter has and continues to change the game.

Cheers,
Navin

http://www.twitter.com/eyebleaf
http://www.sportsandthecity.com

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