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Screaming at Each Other

Every time I attend a conference, the Twitter traffic about said conference is obviously higher.  It starts a couple weeks or even months before, builds steadily as the conference approaches, and then hits a crescendo during the conference.  For the past few conferences, I’ve started my sessions by asking who in the audience uses Twitter.  Time and time again, I only get about 10-20% of the participants say that they do.  That means that up to 90% of the participants don’t.  That’s a lot of people.  My informal surveys also indicate a clear generation gap.  Of those that do use Twitter, they tend to be around 40 years old or younger.  There are of course exceptions to this rule, but by and large this is the evidence that I have seen.

I actually took about 10 minutes before my session today to attempt to find out why most people don’t care about Twitter.  The answer was very clear and consistent: there’s too much crap on there.  And they are correct.  I’d guess that almost 100% of all Tweets are useless or at least irrelevant to an Oracle professional.

I then took a few minutes to explain the basics of how it worked - hash tags, followers, re-tweets and the like.  Lots of questions and even more misconceptions.  “So does someone own a hash tag?” and “Can I block someone that I don’t care for” were some of the questions that I addressed.  

After a few more questions, I started to explain how it could benefit them as Oracle professionals.  I showed them that most of the Oracle APEX team had accounts.  I also highlighted some of the Oracle ACEs.  I even showed them the RMOUG hash tag and all of the tweets associated with it.  Light bulbs were starting to turn on.

But enough talking.  It was time for a demo.  To prove that people are actually listening, I simply tweeted this:
Over the next 30 minutes, I had 10 people reply. At the end of the session, I went through the replies, and said what I knew about those who did reply.  Oracle Product Manager, Oracle Evangelist, Oracle ACE, APEX expert, etc.  The crowd was stunned.  This proved that Twitter as a medium to communicate with Oracle experts was in fact, real.  

More questions.  “Can I Tweet to my power company if I have an issue with them?” and “Do people use profanity on Twitter?” were some of the others.  People were clearly engaged and interested.  Mission accomplished.

The bigger issue here is that I strongly feel that the vast majority of the Oracle community is NOT on Twitter.  And that is a problem, because so much energy is spent tweeting about user groups and conferences.  It's like we’re just screaming at each other, and not at those who need to listen.  

We can fix this.  I encourage everyone who presents at a conference to take 5 minutes at the beginning or end of their session to talk about the benefits of Twitter.  Demonstrate that if you follow Oracle experts, the content that will be displayed is not about Katy Perry, but rather about new features, blog posts or other useful tidbits that can help people with their jobs. Take the time to show them how to sign up, how to search for content, and who to follow.  I think that if we all put forth a bit of effort, we can recruit many of those to join the ranks of Twitter for all the right reasons, and greatly increase the size of the Oracle community that’s connected via this medium.

Comments

Jeff Smith said…
But that's what I said - said someone who is already on Twitter :)
Richard Reader said…
Scott,

Your post prompted my to start using Twitter at long last. (Also, Joel chided me a year or so ago for missing one of his tweets.). Hasn't changed my life / career yet, but I'm ever hopeful. ;)

Richard @rbreader
Excellent post, Scott. I like how you worked the crowd to both understand them and change the way some of them saw twitter. I continue to have very mixed feelings about it, but no doubt "we" have to be there.

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