Twitter is my favourite social network. I love its simplicity, restriction on characters and ability to connect people to each other, and them to news and information from all over the world so quickly and easily and at no cost!
I have come across examples recently in Norfolk where Twitter is being used as more than a marketing tool or news feed though, and actually enabling communities to engage with each other in real discussion and provide a sense of community cohesion.
My first insight into this was when Norfolk Tweetup was invited to Swaffham by Cllr Ian Sherwood. He promised that Swaffham was very active on Twitter and that there would be a good turnout, and he was not wrong, it was the best attended Norfolk Tweetup to date! Whilst there I got talking to Ian and also Town Clerk, Richard Bishop, and they explained to me how they, as town council representatives, had taken it upon themselves to enlighten Swaffham as to the virtues of Twitter. They had held training sessions where, once sceptical local businesses, had learnt the ropes and at the same event those businesses told me how they now loved Twitter now and found it incredibly useful to share news about their business and keep up-to-date with their industry.
“Twitter adds greater depth to any community, reaching some people previously uninterested in what is going on in their parish or town…” Richard Bishop, Swaffham Town Clerk.
I then did an interview with Martin George from the EDP who told me that he was actually tweeting from the Swaffham town council meetings and that the discussion on Twitter with local residents and businesses before, during and after the meetings was a real sign that Swaffham had taken to Twitter to share ideas and opinions, sometimes strong ones!, about their local town.
“Twitter has a real role in community cohesion. It is a great leveller, with anyone able to easily and instantly communicate with anyone else, no matter what their position. The conversations are conducted in the open – great for spreading information and seeing elected representatives held to account. It lowers the barriers to participation – I’ve been to town council meetings with three people in public gallery but many times that following and joining the debate on Twitter. The debate can happen at any time, and does not have to be tied down to specific venue and date. And I have seen what started on Twitter spill out into the physical world, and lead to new friendships and relationships.” Martin George.
Shortly after this I was invited to Watton to meet with Iain Cockburn, centre manager of the Wayland Business Centre, and Julian of the Breckland View. They told me that they had also been running free Twitter and social media training sessions for local residents and businesses and felt strongly that as a community, Watton could benefit from being more proactive on Twitter and use it to communicate with residents and share local and business news.
‘We have set-up the Wayland Twitter Network to bring together the community to the benefit of all those who work and live in Wayland. We want to build an online community where people who care about the Wayland area can meet with others who share the same belief. We offer a place where individuals, organisations, groups, clubs and businesses can share what’s important to them in the local area.’ Iain Cockburn, Centre Manager at the Wayland Business Centre in Watton.
I am now seeing a upsurge in Twitter accounts and people tweeting in Fakenham and understand that Fakenham Town Council are looking into using Twitter as a tool for communication.
If used well Twitter is an excellent tool to quickly communicate and share information on a local level. It is designed to be viral and one tweet has the potential to be seen and read by many people. It is also a free way for a local community to engage and talk to each other and share opinions.
If you would like to understand more about Twitter come along to a ‘Get to Grips with Twitter’ workshop on 15th May.
I have been using Twitter for many years now and currently manage multiple accounts for clients. I have witnessed a huge surge recently in fake accounts, spamming and people having their Twitter account hacked. Which I suppose was inevitable, but will sadden me greatly if it turns Twitter into an environment where users don’t feel safe to communicate and share.
Image via The Redhead Riter
Hacking and spamming is not unique to Twitter, and the same rules that apply in other on-line communication apply on this platform.
The first you will probably know of it if your Twitter account is hacked is that a nice follower of yours will Direct Message (DM) you (please don’t Tweet the poor person that has been hacked and @ tag them – they will be embarrassed enough as it is!) to say that they think you have been hacked. This will be because you have unwittingly sent them a DM along the lines of:
wow your busted in the video [dodgy link]
what are you doing in this video [dodgy link]
Now to me these scream of being SPAM – but for those new to Twitter they may not. I can tell you it is so DO NOT click on the link! Please just DM your poor Twitter friend back and let them know.
What they need to do is immediately change their password and check that nothing else has been changed on their account. Delete any spam messages they have unwittingly sent and check their PC security software is up-to-date. Twitter provide some useful advice.
In general follow these rules to try and keep Twitter a safe, spam free environment for us all:
- Regularly change your Twitter password and try to make it something a bit complex and complicated (combination of letters and numbers usually works well).
- Do not follow accounts that have ‘eggs’ as their profile picture and no bio about who they are. As a general rule a genuine Twitter account will have about the same amount of followers to following (unless they are celebrities, then they will usually be verified by Twitter if they are genuine). Genuine Tweeters will also be tweeting regularly and involved in conversations with other
- If you are tagged in a Tweet from what appears to be a person that you don’t know with just a link DO NOT click on the link or follow them. Click on their profile and go to the drop down arrow which should give you an option to ‘Report spam’ and ‘Block’. Generally these accounts will have tweeted a lot but have no followers or people they are following.
- If a profile, message or link looks dodgy then it probably is so just ignore or delete it (as you would a SPAM email).
Update: Since writing this Paul Chambers has won his case in the High Court that challenged his conviction BBC News
Court cases around Twitter seem to be fairly commonplace these days. Paul Chambers is in court again today (Wednesday 27th June), being supported by Twitter celebrities Al Murray and Stephen Fry, to try and get his conviction for ‘sending a message of a menacing character’ overturned – more info here
#twitterjoketrial has been trending all day as, rightly so, all those on Twitter are interested in the outcome.
Twitter is the most fast moving, information sharing, opinion feed that exists and that’s what makes it so attractive to its 500 million plus users. This freedom and ability to share information quickly has been attributed, amongst other things, to aiding civil unrest and social revolution.
As of yet, governments and individuals have been unable to censor Twitter – and rightly so. Although it came close when Ryan Gigs got ousted on Twitter for having an extra-marital affair, despite taking out a court injunction that covered traditional media. Lawyers threatened to subpoena the first Tweeter who let the cat out of the bag, but when hundreds of thousands more Tweeters sprang to his defence by tweeting and re-tweeting the same information, they were onto a losing battle.
This week there has been an arrest over alleged racists tweets aimed at members of the England football team. In this instance (as is often the case) Twitter policed itself as another Tweeter informed the police of the alleged racist tweets and the sender.
Twitter will delete tweets and users if it feels that they are against Twitter rules. It also has very comprehensive terms of service, that make it very clear that any content posted is the responsibility of the user.
Twitter operates outside of the ‘nanny state’ as is one of very few places where opinion and comment is free. It is refreshing to be part of a real social network that allows users the freedom to express their opinions, within reason, and take responsibility for them.
In the case of Paul Chambers, it is a classic situation of the receiver (Robin Hood Airport) not receiving the message in the vain to which it was sent. If he had said the same thing out loud in the airport security queue would he have been detained, probably. It was meant to be a joke, but unfortunately backfired. Perhaps it is a lesson to all of us to think before we Tweet?
In the words of Twitter:
‘What you say on Twitter may be viewed all around the world instantly. You are what you Tweet!’