Thursday, March 11, 2010

Twitter aids communicators' needs

While some folks belittle Twitter and complain you don't want to know what we're eating for lunch, they may be missing a home truth: Twitter (now past 10 billion tweets) is a task-oriented tool for most users, and lately, I've observed communicators of various kinds expand its myriad uses. Here's a sampling what struck me as new in my Twitterstream:
  • Embedding tweets in a PDF annual report:  The German Marshall Fund of the United States is bridging its way from print to electronic annual reports. This year, its downloadable (and printable) PDF includes embedded tweets (see above), with active links to websites, as well as similarly embedded posts about videos, audio and other electronic files related to the text.  (A hat tip to the Communications Network blog, which shares more details on the project here.)  No reason you can't do this in other online documents, from news releases to white papers.
  • Sparking conversation in training sessions and classrooms:  Shaping how audiences tweet while you talk is a smart new way to manage the backchannel, and the Inside Tim's Head blog describes how he did this in the classroom to get students who'd be otherwise reluctant to talk into a conversation.  Consider this for your next in-house training session, a staff meeting or even a news conference.
  • Converting manuals and documentation to tweets:  That's what this TwiTip post urges technical communicators to do, playing into the streams of tweets that offer practical tips and "news you can use."  Helping remind your users of your product's features, fixes and fail-safe methods is a basic customer service.  Think of it as a way to replace or reduce your "Shell Answer Man" phone service.
  • Tempting foot traffic to exhibits and events:  Here's a set of webinar slides from the Web 2.0 expo, illustrating how IBM used a Twitter hashtag and prize offerings to tempt attendees to its booth--it's easy to adapt this set of tactics for your next exhibit, be it at an expo or a museum.
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