Tuesday, June 09, 2009

West Michigan and Twitter

I enjoyed Candace Beeke's Business Review blog post about West Michigan being "Twitterilliterate." 

I think the experiences she recounts are typical. They're not necessarily unique to West Michigan or to Twitter as the latest tech trend.

From the days when a CEO was quoted as saying "this personal computer thing is just a fad" (actual quote, though I can't locate the source just now), there has been a pattern of new technology acceptance: early adaptors with frenzied excitement, skeptics wondering what the big deal is, moderate acceptance and use, and then, eventually, near ubiquity at least in professional circles. I can still picture colleagues retired not that long ago who resisted having a computer or had a secretary receive and print out their emails til their last day in the office.

New innovations either die on the vine (we forget those) or they gradually take root, blossom and spread. See Diffusion of Innovations Theory for more on this (and note that Everett Rogers taught at Michigan State for many years). I think with Twitter we are seeing the characteristics of innovations Rogers laid out. Before people embrace Twitter, they need to: see its relative advantage to other forms of communication, understand and overcome its complexity, see its compatibility with their way of working, and be able to observe it and try it before fully adopting it.

It's also always striking to me how new technology, particularly social media, seems to make a distinction between public relations (relationship building) and marketing (a forum for financial exchange). People asking for an immediate and financial ROI on Twitter may not "get" the conversational, interpersonal, long-horizon benefit of Twitter. The communication may be immediate, but the new customer, brand loyalty, support for a non-profit, political public opinion change or other metric is not always instantaneously visible (though it has been in some cases).

My sense is that here in West Michigan there are many early adaptors to Twitter and other social networking platforms who truly understand the technology now as well as its future potential for personal and professional improvement.  That was evident at the social media slam I attended recently (see previous post). Ours is a region with a history of innovative individuals in the business, non-profit, and government sectors. I already follow a good number of them on Twitter. 

1 comment:

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