You are William Loeb (and Jon Stewart)
As Twitter exploded into our cultural consciousness over the past year I heard, more times than I can count, friends and colleagues tell me that they hadn’t joined Twitter because “they don’t care what I had for breakfast.”Some of these people also tell me they didn’t join Facebook, or don’t use the application frequently, because they don’t want to “be bothered by someone they went to elementary school with.” Invariably, at the end of each of these explanations, comes the admission that they “just don’t get it.” Given the increasing frequency of this type of conversation, I thought I would use this column, the first of what will be a monthly effort to discuss topics of particular interest to young professionals, to provide a more productive perspective on the value of these technologies.At heart, my premise is that because of these technologies we all have more in common with William Loeb (the late publisher of the Union Leader) and Jon Stewart (host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show”) than we used to. Essentially, instead of thinking of these technologies as a way to passively consume information (i.e., learn what someone had for breakfast), these technologies must be thought of as a personal communication platform. Each person’s Twitter feed is one of Loeb’s famous front-page editorials. Each person’s Facebook status page is Stewart’s evening show.However, just because we all have access to the possibilities of these technologies doesn’t mean that we are all smart and talented enough to take advantage of them. Indeed, many people quickly squander their opportunity by consistently pushing uninteresting things into other people’s lives.Post an ironic line about the vagaries of modern life, not just a line about how you are late to work. Post a link to story about a development in your field, not just a note that you are “busy busy busy.” The people who fail to “post this, not that” are quickly un-friended, un-followed or simply ignored. A matter of trustMy acid test acronym for pushing content into the stream is “WWW” – all posts must be Witty, Wise or Wistful. To be valuable to the reader, and thus to me, updates and tweets must make the reader laugh, think or feel. The posts that are “WWW” are the ones that are read and those that post them are more highly thought of and more likely to influence their reader’s opinions in the future.Indeed, in some ways, updates and tweets today are even more potent than an editorial or a newscast. The source of this potency is that these content streams are “trusted.” many times even more “trusted” than a Loeb editorial was or a Stewart show is.Now, “trusted’” doesn’t mean that people believe every update or tweet or follow every link — rather, it means that, because the content was asked for (or allowed in), it is far more likely to get past the cacophony of unwanted information that now bombards us.I may not believe the bad review of “Avatar” I got from my co-worker in the break room, for instance, but his review got more attention than the reviews from many other prominent sources.In ways other media platforms simply cannot, Facebook and Twitter cut through the noise and busyness of life, pushing the posters’ content to our new “front page.”Lastly, for the Luddites who dismiss as lightweight Facebook and Twitter, I would note that that the opportunity cost of intransigence will only increase as time passes. No less an authority on important trends than John Batelle (co-founder of Wired magazine) predicted that 2010 will be the year when Internet search results begin to significantly deteriorate in value, in large part because the current system is getting gamed more and more effectively. This decline in the utility of Google/Yahoo/Bing searches will make the “trusted” content we produce (and consume) via Twitter and Facebook all the more important.The power of Loeb and Stewart is in our hands, if we are only smart enough to use it.Graham H. Chynoweth is general counsel and vice president of human resources for Manchester-based Dynamic Network Services Inc.