Tweeters Come Together To Talk Twitter
Peter Robert Casey is one of the first Twitter bloggers to be credentialed for a
collegiate sports team. He'll be covering the St. John's University men's basketball
team from Madison Square Garden during its upcoming season.
(Creative Commons Licensed)
Peter Robert Casey loves basketball. He also loves social networking.
So how could he turn down a front row seat at one of the world's greatest basketball arenas, free food, and insider access to a Big East basketball team, all while using the micro-blogging platform Twitter?
Even though he lacks any formal journalistic training, Casey will join other New York media on press row this season at Madison Square Garden and Carnesecca Arena for St. John's Red Storm men's basketball.
With his tweets to his 51,800-plus Twitter followers, Casey is writing as one of the first credentialed primarily Twitter-based bloggers (@Peter_R_Casey) to report on major collegiate or professional sports teams.
What will Casey bring to the press area that's different from any other journalist?
"Three first names. We're a rarity in basketball," he joked. "Seriously, there's nothing that I do online or offline that someone else can't benchmark. At the same time, my passions for both basketball and social media are genuine and intense."
Casey said he hopes the venture opens up the doors for others and "awakens other sports organizations to embrace the power of new media."
If not all sports organizations are warming to new media, and Twitter in particular, then they are quickly falling behind. On display at 140 - The Twitter Conference L.A. (140tc) at the Skirball Cultural Center this week were individuals, groups, and corporations that have taken the leap into the social media phenomenon of Twitter, which launched only three years ago.
There were a wide range of users in attendance, from celebrities with nearly 1.5 million followers like addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky (@drdrew), down to users who had yet to fully grasp the concept like psychologist Dr. Vincent Caimano (@vincephd), who has 17 followers.
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone gave the keynote address Tuesday morning, explaining how the idea for what would become Twitter went from a sketch drawing to one of the fastest growing networks in the world. Stone also talked about his hopes for Twitter to be more than just a platform for people to post about brushing their teeth. He said he liked the idea of collaborating with reading programs because "if kids can't read, how would they ever use Twitter?"
Stone also discussed how Twitter had been used to quickly inform others about events like the 2008 wildfires, Californian earthquakes -- he joked, "Twitter reads faster than seismic" -- about stations that had gasoline during the Atlanta gas shortages last summer, and use of Twitter to organize protests in Iran after last summer's elections.
One of the first traumatic events to display Twitter's utility was the terrorist attack in Mumbai, India last November. A slide from this section of Stone's presentation read, "Twitter is about the triumph of humanity, not the triumph of technology."
While some people attended the conference primarily as a chance to meet some of the people they regularly engage via Twitter, others came to learn how to use the site better.
Caimano, who specializes in helping depression and anxiety disorders, launched a brand new web site, Live Depression Support Group, on Tuesday. He came to the conference to learn the best ways to use Twitter for promotion and how to reach out to those that might be in need of the site's assistance. After just a few early conference sessions, Caimano was enthused and ready to get active in the Twitter world.
"I'm really inspired by what they've been talking about helping others. I hope I am able to inspire and motivate with my daily tweets and eventually be able to help people through conferencing in the Live Depression Support Group."
Comedian Loni Love (@LoniLove) also tries to provide inspirational tweets along with links to interesting news articles and announcements about events she will be participating in or shows where she will perform. She said she also tries to make a concerted effort to reply to fans.
"I try to let [my followers] know I appreciate them," said Love, "even if it's just a quick response back. When I'm at an event like the Emmys, I like tweeting background stuff. I like for my fans to feel like they are getting a special look."
Love said since she has been using Twitter, she has definitely seen an increase in attendance at her stand-up comedic performances.
"I sold out six shows in Cleveland and then three shows in Houston. With the economy the way it is right now, I'm humbled. It's kind of overwhelming that you put it out there and people come and support you."
Another celebrity that has found Twitter allows for a connection with fans is rapper Chamillionaire (@chamillionaire). The Grammy award-winning artist said the key to Twitter is having a conversation with fans rather than having the most followers or only promoting oneself.
"The more engaging I am with the fans, the more I see my followers rise. There are programs where you can buy followers and stuff like that, but I want every follower to be a real person."
On a panel of musicians at 140tc, Chamillionaire said he tries to engage his fans first by talking about everything but music. But he acknowledged that fans do eventually ask about the music. He also noted how important it is to cultivate an active audience through conversation before trying to promote himself and his music with links to a mixtape or info about an upcoming show.
"People underestimate the intelligence of fans. They'll tell you what they like. They're not stupid," he said.
Mike Prasad (@mikeprasad), co-founder and CEO of Girl Gamer, said it just takes a great product and some ingenuity to build a decent following on Twitter. Prasad is most well known as the social media maven behind Kogi BBQ, the famous Los Angeles-based Korean taco truck that Twitters (@KogiBBQ) the location of where each of the company's trucks will be on a given day.
"We started [using] Twitter right when we came up with Kogi. Fundamentally, the food is amazing; the experience is really cool, but Twitter gives it an aspect that has resulted in the massive amount of growth we have had that otherwise would not have happened."
Prasad said he believes "using Twitter fundamentally changed the business model. Instead of having to be on the same corner every single day, so the people that go to [the food truck] know that you will be there, with Twitter we can actually move around and have many, many more customers."
Sara Friedman, the vice president of the Pennsylvania-based internet market and web design firm Pams Press, felt she had received a lot of benefits from using the micro-blogging platform that go beyond business successes.
"I have made a lot of new friends all over the country that are just as rabid of an NBA fan as I am. I have gotten the opportunity to meet some of my favorite NBA players by getting to know them on Twitter first," Friedman said.
Her favorite Twitter experience came when she picked up the business of a client in San Diego from her desk in Lancaster, Pennsylvania through no other means than Twitter.
Friedman (@Gilamuffin_STC) said she built a friendship and trust with a man from San Diego by tweeting about everything under the sun for a few months. One day he began complaining about his web designer on Twitter, which prompted Friedman to send a message asking if there was anything she could do to help.
Twitter has not been for everyone.
"It's self-indulgent fidder-fodder that does nothing but convince ourselves of our own grossly over-estimated self worth," said Matt Herbert, an animator living in Sherman Oaks. He said he tried Twitter (@funnygood) but never found any worth in the platform.
He said the creators had a good idea in theory, but it has ended up producing the reverse.
"It does very little in the way of bringing people closer together; it does the opposite of what it is intended to do. People stop being present and with the people they are around and instead are constantly worried about their social web of Twitter, Facebook, and texting."