Twitter 140 Characters Conference Highlights

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Earlier this week I was lucky enough to be able to attend the 140 Characters Conference in NYC. It was one of the more interesting events I’ve been to. In twitter style, each speaker was limited to 10 to 20 minutes presentations, so there was a tremendous amount to absorb over a short period of time. I did walk away from the conference, more sure than ever, of the growing value of Twitter.

The highlights of the 140 Character Conference for me were (I will not be writing about every session, my apologies to anyone that I have left out):

Jeff Pulver (@jeffpulver), the organizer of the conference, spoke first about the State of Now. The advent of twitter has democratized access to information for everyone.

JackDorsay (@jack), the cofounder and chairman of twitter spoke of twitter’s approachability, transparency and immediacy. We can now read the thoughts of all types of people from all over the world. What is happening in Iran seems closer and more approachable due to twitter. He applied the quote, “Expect the unexpected and whenever possible be the unexpected” to twitter.

Time O’Reilly (@timoreilly), founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media spoke about the roots of media. Media is about serving a community. Being a publisher means finding interesting people and amplifying their voices. On twitter he likes to share chunks of what he learns each day through reading, talking, etc. When you do this you become an aggregator and distributor of content. He RTs to build community and share topics that he can’t cover himself. Think to yourself, “How can I add value to the community?”. Follow people that care about the same things as you.

Fred Wilson (@fredwilson), of Union Square Ventures spoke about the power of passed links. Links are the currency of the Internet. Most links to websites come from Google, but the traffic that twitter is referring is growing daily. He thinks that the combined power of twitter and Facebook will eventually pass Google for many websites.

John Borthwick, CEO of betaworks, spoke about the twitter ecosystem. The ecosystem will function better with authentication; thinking about the world on real time access; streams are a new form of representing data; and how will twitter make money?

David Saranga (@DavidSaranga), of the Israeli Consulate in New York was a very entertaining speaker. He spoke of how the media always portrays Israel as just tanks and conflict. He is using twitter to shows all sides of this country that has culture, science, technology, etc. The fact that we can bring our messages directly to the people, and bypass the mainstream media, is a revolution. For the first time we can all see what people are thinking on our own, without needing public opinion polls. It is easier, now, to reach people that you might not have been able to before. Government can now bypass the media to get their word out.

The effect of twitter on newspapers panel was moderated by Erick Schonfeld (@erickschonfeld) of TechCrunch. The line is breaking between people that disseminate text and people that use it. News people can now stay connected to people they’ve interviewed through twitter. Twitter also makes it possible to use RSS feeds less often, because if you follow the right people, they will stream what is important to you. When you report news that you’ve actually seen, put yourself in the story.

I was definitely looking forward to the panel on twitter:TV moderated by Shelly Palmer (@shelly_palmer) the host of MediaBytes. Caissie St.Onge (@Caissie) of Best Week Ever (being cancelled), Craig Engler (@Craigatscifi) of Sci Fi digital (channel renamed to SyFy) and Gavin Purcell (@gavinpurcell) coproducer of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon were on the panel. Craig mentioned that public opinion is not always the best because very often people don’t know what they want. Before the updated Battlestar Galactica was made, most people were against the remake. Gavin said that you have to know that twitter is a conversation. People seem nicer on twitter than when making comments on blogs, possibly because they are less anonymous. Often twitter will be used to gain interest in a new show before it premieres, i.e. Jimmy Fallon. Twitter is great for connecting strangers.

Liz Strauss (@lizstrauss) spoke on marketing. Twitter is something like a TV show where the characters are aware there is an audience. You may talk to your friends but know that your talking for eavesdroppers also. There is a difference in promoting yourself and promoting your product. You should talk to friends about what you do in conversation. Don’t push. Use @ sign as much as possible to keep everything a conversation. Listen for other perspectives to challenge your own assumption. “My blog lets me go deep, twitter lets me go wide”. Her advice on how to get RTs: Make your message short and fun; one that somebody would be proud to pass on; and say Thank you.

Stowe Boyd (@stowebody) spoke about the evolution of microsyntax on twitter. Over time, people that used twitter developed their own methods of structuring syntax. It was users that created the RT, @, $, # and more.

Panel on the effects ot twitter on my business moderated by Brian Solis (@briansolis) of FutureWorks. Line up for your customers instead of forcing them to line up for you. Listen to what relates to your brand, people express needs on twitter, answer their needs. There were difference in how the different companies on the panel (Someecards, Radian6, Zappos) handle aspects of twittering such as should employees be themselves or the brand.

Maegan Carberry (@maegancarberry), blogger for the Huffington Post spoke about politics and twitter. Our social contract has changed. Congressman now tweet to constituents. You can quantify your sphere of influence by how many active twitter followers you have. We should tweet our best selves and put ourselves forward. What would the 60s protests have been like had we had twitter? Would the Berlin wall have come down sooner? We are making statements on twitter, sometimes just by changing the color of your picture.

The number one highlight of the conference was the panel on TV newsers. Robert Scoble (@Scobleizer) was the moderator and Ann Curry (@AnnCurry) and her producer were there as well as Rick Sanchez (@ricksanchezcnn) and his colleague from CNN. What a heated and intelligent discussion. CNN had been criticized over the past weekend for not covering the Iran election protests enough. Twitter took the lead in this coverage, so much so that the U.S. State Department asked twitter to postpone a scheduled shutdown for maintenace. Rick Sanchez was very loud and persistent in his defence of CNN. Scoble said that twitter won’t take over the news media but will force it into a smaller role. Ann Curry has become my new idol. Every word out of her mouth was gold. Some of her highlights:

  • It is difficult to do as many stories as she would like to about what is happening in other countries, because the American Public are not as interested. We need to globalize the world.
  • She did an hour story on Iran the week before the election because she realized that this was something we needed to know about.
  • We have these ideas about Iran that plays into the demonization of the enemy. Ann saw, while in Iran, that we are very much alike.
  • When covering foreign countries the mistake often made is not being able to empathize. Make it your mandate, whether in Iran, Darfur, etc. to do the story like it is your family you are writing about. It is the road to clarity, truth and understanding; to fully becoming more global.
  • It is important to make sure that the story is true, on twitter as elsewhere. There is an obligation to tell the truth.
  • Guard against misinterpretation constantly. Understand your reader.
  • Judgment is not taught, it is gained over time.
  • Reporting is a service job, not a business.
  • Twitter is whatever you make of it, but for news, it is 2-way broadcasting.
  • Money plays too big a part in the news. There are reruns of Larry King even during big news times, because it is cheaper.
  • What people want to know (celebrity gossip), needs to be overcome by what they need to know (what is happening in the world).

John Byrne (@JohnAByrne) – of Business Week said that 80% of what journalists do can be opensourced. Twitter is a way to bring the outside in and the inside out. Tell people what you are working on in advance.

James Cox (@imajes) of CNNBRK – People wanted bitesize news throughout the day, which is what we have now on twitter. People want trust in their source of news. Stop trying to tell the news, tell stories instead.

Moeed Ahmad (@moeed) of the Al Jazeera Network spoke about how twitter is transforming reporting in crisis situations. #Gaza was a trending topic for awhile but it was just discussion and no facts, so Al Jazeera set up a twitter account to report on the story. “Telling the truth is hard. Not telling it is even harder”.

Jeremy Epstein (@jer979) a marketing navigator spoke of the signal to noise ratio on twitter. He feels the rules of marketing are to share quality links and don’t tweet too often. Build relationships.

Christopher Weingarten (@1000TimesYes), very funny music writer for Rolling Stone and the Village Voice spoke about magazines going away and the need for critics becoming nonexistent. Now, everyone has a music blog. Also, promo CDs are online immediately so that everyone can review new music as quickly as critics can and you can hear it yourself and make up your own mind. Music has become more diverse because of this. However, on twitter, most people say what music they like, but not why. That is why we need critics, to discuss the because.

Kevin Slavin, founder of area/code spoke about “things” that twitter. Plants with sensors in them twitter that they need water. Nike has sneakers that can tweet to you. College laundry rooms will tweet to students when machines are available. Food trucks tweet when they are in your area. These are just a small example of things that tweet.

Moms and twitter panel @AudreyMcClellan @JessicaGottlieb @rockandrollmama – Audrey started using twitter by talking about how to lost baby weight. Since stuck in with 4 little kids, twitter gave her a way to connect and share online. It is like a Webmd for mothers. Get more info on kids sickness, etc. from twitter. Lindsey Maines, got into twitter to promote her website and musical identity. She uses it mostly during 10pm – 1am, kids are in bed. Jessica found a community within twitter – when someone shares pictures of events she connects and writes the dialog for it. Lindsey said that twitter removes geographic limitations on community. Lower barrier of entry than blogging.

Laura fitton (@pistachiofounder) of 140inc and co author of twitter for dummies spoke of her love for twitter. With twitter I’m never without my people – never alone. When you are not alone incredible things can happen. When isolated she became stronger through connections on twitter.

Twitter and Mad Men was a fun time with CarriBugbee (@peggyolson) and Helen Klein Ross (@bettydraper) talking about playing characters on twitter. They do this on their own but work hard at it. AMC originally took down their profiles but changed their mind the next day. More character profiles were created even for tiny characters and objects. Won shorty award for tweeting as Peggy Olsen.

Twitter Celebrities does not refer to celebrities on Twitter. The twitter celebs panel was made up of people that are extremely popular on twitter: @adventuregirl, @chrisbrogan, @juliaroy and @ijustine. Justine gained popularity by sharing her own videos on twitter. How do they do it – on all day, uses dms. Can use this power for good by promoting charities.

Eric Peterson (@erictpeterson) – spoke on the topic of twitter stats. 10% of people use twitter. Less than half tweet more than 10 times a week. You can use twitalyzer to check twitter statistics.

Steve Rubel (@steverubel) from Edelman Digital spoke about twitter and PR. People need to hear something 3-5 times before they trust it and from multiple sources. Companies that identify their all-stars and activate them in a meaningful way will win. But don’t get too attached to twitter. No online community has ever had a staying power of more than 5 years – people are fickle. He thinks next big thing will be open social, Facebook will be an ecosystem not a destination.

Twitter book publishing panel: The publishing model is broken, but not the industry. New methods are needed.

Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) said you should build relationships on Twitter, then leverage them. (It’s OK to do that!). The Web is a network. The more you act like it is a network, the more you realize and leverage the power of it. You want to do business with people you like so be human and intimate on twitter.

Panel on twitter as the GPS for the Greater Social Media Mesh: What shouldn’t you do? When to not use twitter? Don’t use auto bots. Use relevance and timing. If you are not adding value you are spam. Square space ? made noise didn’t add value. Commitment – know that you are in this for the long haul, and converse. Twitter helps you to be discovered.

Video on twitter panel: When you put video on twitter, people will get to know you. Video is the next moment before you actually meet people in real life. Video is different than photos because of mannerisms and voice.

Bronwen Clune (@bronwen) of Norg media said that as remote as you live, twitter helps you overcome geographical handicap. Control media is any media that seeks to take control of news media – newspapers, tv and radio and some websites. Twitter is almost the opposite of control media.

Panel on Brands on twitter: Listen and learn what people want from you. Many will have customer service questions even though the people that are twittering from the company are usually not customer service people.

Marlooz (@marlooz) spoke about finding relationships on twitter. Can you find love? Will this take over from Internet dating services. She has dated people she has met on twitter more than once.

Twitter and publishing panel: The way that books are marketed needs to be completely changed. Publishers must turn to social media.

Hjortur Smarason (hjortur) spoke on how he became a twitter character. Followers that you get with automated responses are worthless. “You want to go where everyone knows your name”. Replace volume with character. Hjortur live tweeted the birth of his son and the earthquake in Iceland (where he lives).

Scott Porad (@scottporad) from the “I Can Has Cheezburger” website spoke about community. Twitter is going to get more centered around events. Tweet in the context of community.

Jeffery Sass (@sass) gave a talk called “Everything I know about twitter I learned in grade school.” Share and show that you respect the community. Find out who the cool kids are. Ease your way in. Listen. Make friends by sharing. You also need to participate. Help answer peoples questions. Don’t be a tattle tale, don’t embarrass someone on twitter. Your homework is to read something before you share or RT it. Show up, attendance counts and Ignore bullies.

Mellisa Pierce (@melissapierce) is producing a documentary on twitter. A planned life isn’t worth living because tech makes everything immediate. If you are impassioned then the people around you become impassioned too. Your integrity is only as good as the people you interact with. Her followers made it so much easier for her to make her film “Life in Perpetual Beta”.

Congratulations for making it through the longest post I’ve ever written. I didn’t cover the wonderful talk by @howardgr and @DeanLand on the “Wisdom of Twitter” because I am leaving that for another post. I will also write future posts on many of the exhibitors that attended the 140 Character Conference on Twitter.

Updated to add: 25 Most Popular Twitter Entertainment Users

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  1. That is so cool! I had no idea it existed!

  2. thanks for taking the time to summarize and post, was not there but enjoyed reading about your experience.

  3. Thanks for the post. I wanted to be there but after this post i am feeling little better.

  4. A long post – but definitely worth the effort. Thanks for the great summary.

  5. Thank you for a great roundup of the event!

  6. Twitter is like a breath of fresh air on the Social Media scene. I have been on it for just a few weeks now and I have met several interesting people. It is a platform to network with people you would like to meet in real life.

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  7. thanks so much for this post. i was disappointed that I did not attend the conference and your post gave me a great overview.

  8. I am a big fan of Twitter. Unlike Facebook, everyone can see your posts and you can get 100s of new followers a day. Very addictive.

  9. very interesting. I am growing to embrace twitter and use but lets face it. How could you possibly follow all those people.

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