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An Emotional Case for Twitter

A few people have asked me why should they care about a person eating soup or someone buying new shoes on Twitter or Facebook status updates?

Good questions!

I had searched my mind for good answers.

Then I read a New York Times Magazine article a few months ago about Twitter and Facebook updates in which some people had the very same questions. The article explains a concept called “ambient awareness.” Ambient awareness tells us that yes, individual little updates about soup or shoes make little sense to many people by themselves, but on Twitter and Facebook, all of the updates over time paint a picture of someone’s life, their mood, their experiences, etc.

This argument can easily be adapted for governments/organizations/businesses. Take the American Red Cross and its Twitter page:


The Red Cross uses Twitter for a variety of communication purposes including sharing key links, preparedness facts, disaster recovery information, photos and seasonal tips. The “ambient awareness” gives followers a sense of connection with the Red Cross, which in turn leads to a more general awareness about the Red Cross’ mission, purpose and business functions (and, perhaps, leads to donations).

Twitter’s not for everyone, but neither are our government Web sites for everyone. It’s simply taking existing content, business purposes, mission, etc., and using a new channel. The same arguments being proffered about Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., were delivered about computers and E-mail — are they really worth it or are they just geewiz, fancy, trendy things?

Just thought I’d add my $0.03 (adjusted for inflation) in case you’re in need of another (emotional, make the connection with citizens) case for using Twitter.

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Gabriela Dow

I agree about the ambient observation and that Twitter is just another venue to share information for folks that like to receive it in that way (I enjoy updating my husband about our friends reading Facebook posts on my blackberry when we’re driving places…) I just added GovPartner to Twitter and will see how this develops but already we found some clients on there, connected with some former pals from my DC days via the site.

And I am having great conversations with our client’s IT Directors and PIOs about trying out as an added way to get the word out about their e-Gov offerings for the public and as a way to build a reservoir of good faith and friends which will have to be called upon during the tougher times all public agencies will face in the years to come. Great topic – thanks!

Adriel Hampton

Greg – nice post! I’m a big believe in the value of Twitter. The only draw back is it can be a big time suck and hard to pull out of. Your Red Cross example is great – I’m always hearing good things about that handle, which I haven’t followed yet. Going where the people are means understanding and engaging with these tools.
Of course, you still have to do all the more traditional outreach as well! The new media world take a lot more work than stock press releases.
I’m not evening going to read the Post article. As a former journalist, I know that the press is dying not because of the economy, but because of a lack of empathy and an elitist attitude. Journalists who don’t want to change …

Sandy Ressler

I’m still “on the fence” with Twitter…but I’ve recently stuck up Twhirl on my desktop and started following a few more people. One of the more interesting uses is I just follow “Tim Oreilly” who seems to constantly blast out links of interest…and I’ve discovered several things I’d have never heard of via his editorial twits. Since Oreilly knows what he’s talking about, he is useful, so the trick for this type of editorial information flow is to find knowledgeable people who twit useful stuff a lot. It’s almost a news aggregation type service…but with an editor. I can easily envision someone gathering up a collection of these twitterati and selling the collection as a filtering service.

Denise Hill

I still do not have a Twitter account. Thanks for answering the guestion. It does provide clarity. In thinking through your rational, I do not have many folks to have “ambient observation” with on a regular basis. Right now, I do not see a use. I have facebook.