I was recently interviewed by a journalist on the issue of Twitter and social media, and how it might impact traditional media. It was a fairly focused interview – not broad ranging – but you might be interested in some of the thoughts that emerged.

Q1. How has Twitter changed the landscape of social networking?

A1. No, I don’t think so. Twitter is to online communication what text messages (SMSs) did to email. Because you’re only allowed 140 characters, you’re forced to be short, sharp and to the point (or, in many people’s cases: vague, confusing and silly). I think Twitter has added to an already growing trend towards social networking.

Q2. What are the main differences between Facebook and Twitter?

If Facebook were a country, it would be the 10th biggest country (by population) in the world. It also now gets more daily hits than Google does. Twitter is much smaller, but growing just as quickly. The best way to describe the different between FB and Twitter is that Facebook is about who you know, and Twitter is about what you know (or who you are, if you’re a celebrity). The people getting the most out of Twitter know what sort of information their followers are interested in getting from them. It is the perfect example of “Brand Me” in that sense.

Q3. Is Twitter just a toy or is it a socially important tool? Please expand.

It can be used as a toy. But it’s much more than that. I think the change began with the blogs on the day of 26 December 2004 – the day of the south east Asia Tsunami. The world’s news media were not able to cover the event as quickly as people with blogs. Untrained, unpaid, private individuals who used their blogs to share the scale of the tragedy with the world. We still watch their videos. Then, earlier this year, when the Iranian elections ended in violence and protests, the only way in which the world got information from Tehran was via Twitter (the Iranian government shut down the cellphone networks and most of the Internet, but could not block the social network sites). I was actually in Iran two weeks after the elections, and the only way to communicate back to the UK was to send Twitter messages to my wife. Many, many people (including the BBC, CNN and others) quoted Twitter feeds from Tehran in their news reports.

So, it can be used as a toy – and some people do. But it is growing in its importance as a real business tool.

See also a TIME magazine article on How Twitter will change our lives.

Q4. In your opinion, will a social networking tool like Twitter ever replace the role of journalism?

I think it already has. Read an interesting insight here.

Q5. Does Twitter have the power to influence / shape the future? If so, why and how?

It changes the way people share information, and connects more people to more information in new and exciting ways. Since ideas shape our perceptions, and these shape the world, I have no doubt that Twitter will change the world. It is still in its infancy, and we need to learn how to use it better. But it is already connecting more people than ever, and helping them think differently. To be honest, it will probably not be Twitter as such. These social networking sites continue to evolve, and new ones will come along to replace them. But the concept of connecting people is here to stay.

Q6. Should corporates pay attention to this trend?

Absolutely. It will change the way businesses run their teams, for example. Read more on this from one of my UK colleagues, Julie Surycz.

It is also essential to manage your brand on Twitter. You must know who’s talking about you, and what they’re saying. Look at http://twitter.com/standardblank for a scary example of what’s happening (yes, that’s Standard BLank).

You can use Twitter to promote your brand – but the rules are very different.

Finally, it is the future of most industries – to create networks. See an example here.

TomorrowToday Global