To tweet or not to tweet…
Shakespeare would probably not have approved of the mangling of Hamlet’s famous speech, but I’m fairly sure that he would have approved of the mystery that is Social Networking (or as one of my friends referred to it recently – Social Notworking – in relation to his younger staff if he left them to their own devices!).
I was fortunate enough to be at the ALBUM conference last week and the single most pertinent thread that I took from the whole event; was the question of, ‘how do bus operators connect with the youth market and encourage them on to public transport?’. Norman Baker spoke about it during his whistle-stop visit to the conference – and it was a theme that was picked up in many of the subsequent presentations. We all know it’s the right thing to do, after all OAP concessionary pass holders are by definition an aging demographic and catching the next generation and energising them about the services that local bus operators run, has to be the way forward. So how do we do it?
The one thing that does appear to get teenagers interacting with others is the various social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Looking around the room I saw a predominantly male, 40 to 50 something audience, who if I take my close group of friends as being typical, know the square root of bugger all about ‘tweeting’ and ‘updating our status’. Sure, many of us go on to Facebook and post an odd comment or upload our holiday snaps, but it’s something that we do ‘out of hours’ and for a bit of fun. Watch most teenagers and you will see this almost psychic ability to hold a conversation whilst rapidly typing out a comment and ‘posting’ it to their virtual world. This is the new world, communication and information hungry, with millions of packets of data flying around constantly updating everyone on everyone else’s lives. This is a 24/7 phenomenon, which blurs the lines on where the individual is physically. Imagine a business world that runs through facebook or twitter, it is not some thing that Sid or Wendy, sitting in the corner of the office can handle as part of their normal job. The more users you get, the more dialogue you will need to respond to – scarily you actually might end up employing someone to respond to ‘tweets’ and ‘postings’. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not for me, in general I don’t think anyone is particularly interest in my rather humdrum life, but embracing this technology is becoming an almost essential business discipline.
30 years ago we sent telexes (remember the dots?), then we faxed (wow you can send pictures down the phone line), then we started to email, and boy do we seem to have got the hang of that! The only definite is that the world going forward will not look like it does now; email will come and go, and probably be replaced by some form of direct messaging service on informal networks via a cloud server (I made that bit up); but the fact remains that we all have to embrace new technology constantly – it really is a case of running to stand still with this.
So to come back to my opening question; yes, you absolutely do have to tweet, or your competitor down the road will be and will mop up the new clutch of teenagers making their first steps in to their wide independent world. To that end I have made it my mission to get our business sorted and up to speed with this technology and we are making good progress with our Facebook and Twitter feeds. How relevant these are to our customers I don’t really know, but what I am sure about is that if we don’t do it, then we will almost certainly fall behind our competitors.