New media for new public

ReAnne Utemark

Twitter is one of the latest in a series of “social media” that is gradually increasing momentum in getting a message to the masses.

Barack Obama has a twitter (supposedly), but then again, so do Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey. While Obama has not “tweeted” since Inauguration, that is probably ok because he and whichever assistant is running his Twitter are working to pass the stimulus package. Fey “tweets” about entirely random things and Colbert warns the nation about Bears and other national security threats.

“Tweeps,” or participants of Twitter, do not put as much information as on Facebook, but update periodically in 140 characters or less. Some use Twitter for live blogging, blogging during an event, like the Inauguration, or class. Some use Twitter as a research tool, where someone will put out a question or issue and other Twitter users will post back with links and other information.

While I only have 250 tweets, I am still learning about what Twitter can do and what it is supposed to do. I am not sure Twitter is “supposed” to do anything. It can serve whatever purpose the tweep wants. (I never realized this before, but tweep sounds overwhelmingly like “creep”) Unlike Facebook, anyone in the world who searches for your name or username can find you and “follow” you.

This is sounding creepier as I write this, but really, it is not as creepy as it sounds.

There are applications for one’s computer, iPod and iPhone so you can constantly check your Twitterfeed.

Some use it for socializing. For example, letting people know which bar they are going to be at and what time. Or some folks just use it as a microblog to talk about their day, their experiences and to update their friends and family.

Twitter has been an interesting experience – it seems more serious than Facebook and even more useful. I made plans with people, learned about the Kansas political scene before the news covered it and also answered questions and did research for stories.

There aren’t as many people on Twitter, but I think it could still be beneficial for those who know how to use it.

A new company in Topeka called Mixed Media is using social media to help clients gain access to a new set of movers and shakers on the Internet. I think this is the direction that information sending and receiving is going. The folks who graduated from college last year and this year have been using Facebook for at least four years, MySpace for probably longer, Twitter, etc. These are the same people tentatively entering the workforce and coming up with new ways to reach people – new dogs and new tricks, so to speak.

I think this is a good way to network and a great new way to market to an Internet generation – a generation that will likely not have landline telephone numbers, check e-mail constantly from mobile devices and have more than one computer in the house.

It will be interesting to see where this goes and if media like this will shape culture like Facebook and MySpace have.