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Why I Tweet? Amplifying Messages & Obtaining Results

Disclaimer: The post below was originally sent to a mailing list of people that are less familiar with social media tools, hence the basic explanatory nature of how Twitter works throughout the post.

Lately there have been many articles and interviews, mostly from senior
leaders, explaining why they use social media tools. Most of those stories are from the top-down perspective, focused on why someone in a leadership or influential position would use Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Here’s an example from another perspective. This morning I watched
the GEN Petraeus interview on Meet the Press. During his interview he talked about it taking a network to defeat a network, a reference to the topic covered in the “Starfish and the Spider” book by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom.

After hearing that, I put out a quick note on Twitter that read:

CENTCOM CG on Meet the Press said “it takes a network to defeat a network” re: Al Qaeda – Me: we’re stuck in hierarchy!

I’m a “little guy” on Twitter – not much of a voice, not a big audience (507 followers)(***) – so just over 500 people MAY see what I wrote. I say “may” because there’s a low signal to noise ratio. It’s a Sunday morning, many people only check Twitter during the week, so it’s unlikely they’ll see something written on a Sunday morning.

(***) Correction: Originally listed 594 (how many people I follow) vs. number of followers.

However, I appended @RodBeckstrom to the end of my note, so the full Tweet read:

CENTCOM CG on Meet the Press said “it takes a network to defeat a network” re: Al Qaeda – Me: we’re stuck in hierarchy! @RodBeckstrom

In “Twitter speak” that’s loosely the equivalent of CC’ing that individual user, but actually it’s more than that. Rod is already following me, so he’d see my note anyway – unless he missed it in the noise. By appending his ID on my note, it shows up in a separate list of replies (or mentions) which can be checked separately.

So, if he’s already following me, why do that? It does not not automatically mean anyone else will see it.

in this case, he Retweeted (RT) my note:

RodBeckstrom RT @subbob: CENTCOM CG Meet the Press “it takes a network to defeat a network” re: Al Qaeda – Me: we’re stuck in hierarchy! @RodBeckstrom

He has 7724 followers. So now my message was relayed to an audience well over 10x larger than my own. Among those followers, there are others that may repeat what he wrote, passing it on even further, so there’s a multiplicative effect.

Already, just as I started writing this, Craig Newmark (founder of Craig’s List) has RT Rod’s note:

craignewmark RT @RodBeckstrom: RT @subbob: CENTCOM CG Meet the Press “it takes a network to defeat a network” re: Al Qaeda-Me:we’re stuck in hierarchy!

Craig has almost 20,000 followers.

So, in a span of a few hours, this “little guy” – with no positional power, no referent power – managed to have his short message shared with close to 30,000 people.

If that’s not enough, here’s another example. Last week, during
our workshop [in DC] about the Army’s milWiki project, we addressed many legal issues and concerns, both statutory and regulatory.

One of the
issues has to do with the publishing of draft information. Specifically, in an information paper addressing their concerns, OGC [Office of the General Counsel] wrote:

Publishing policy in AR 25-30 [Army Publishing Program] follows Army Information Management policy in
AR 25-1 [Army Information Management] (pursuant to Title 40) in
prohibiting draft information from being posted on Web sites.

So, what exactly does AR 25-1 say related to that prohibition?

In Section 9-2(c) it states:

Draft publications will not be displayed on public access Web sites.

Therefore, it comes down to answering the question: What is a “public access Web site?” Many at the meeting, including the senior person there, believed that even if behind a firewall (AKO/DKO login or CAC login) the above prohibition still applied; that “public access” does not only mean the general public, but includes general purpose access by those within the organization. Such an interpretation is counter to the entire point of this milWiki project.

Unable to convince them otherwise, I solicited an answer from the
proponent for AR 25-1, in the following Tweet on Thursday afternoon:

What is a “public access Web site?” [AR 25-1, 9-2.a] 1) acccessible by general public?; 2) AKO; 3) something else? @USARMY @ArmyCIOG6

The next day I received the following response from LTG Sorenson, the Army CIO/G-6:

ArmyCIOG6 @subbob In AR 25-1, 9-2, “public access Web sites” are sites other than AKO or websites behind .mil/.gov firewall.

In traditional form, using a hierarchical approach, obtaining that answer would have required staffing a memo, routing through many layers and waiting weeks, if not months, for an answer.

How do I
know that? Well, it’s February 21st and we’re still awaiting an official response from the DA Staff on an Exception to Policy memo that GEN Dempsey (TRADOC CG) sent to the Secretary of the Army on December
22nd. 🙁

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Bob King

Any recommendations for a tool or app that tracks re-tweets and compiles the results? I just recently returned to using Twitter after a six-month hiatus and still catching up with the changes. I was working in a contractor job where my company and direct sponsor did not understand, and thus discouraged, the use of social media.

Dan Taylor

Thanks for sharing that story Bob. Great example of showing how you can reduce the “time to answer” or “time to decision.” I shudder to think of the staff time it would have taken to answer the question otherwise. It’s also fantastic that LTG Sorenson saw the question and answered it. It’s great when leaders keep the simple stuff simple.

Adriel Hampton

Bob, great examples. Using the @ as a cc is a great practical for increasing the reach of key tweets. If you target them at the right people (relevance) it is very likely that they will share. For tracking retweets, check out http://tweetreach.com/ As you point out, not everybody is reading, but it is a cool look at the potential.

Bob King

Charlene & Adriel – Thanks for the feedback and links to other analytical tools. Using TweetReach the analysis of the example in this post potentially reached over 30,000 users.

Dan – Appreciate the support and encouraging words.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Wow – great post, Bob. I actually was looking at top blogs from this past week and finally got to reading this one. Love the example of how tweets go viral via guys like Rod Beckstrom and Craig Newmark. Perfect demo of the power of Twitter (and other social media tools) for disseminating key messages.