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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Steven Berlin Johnson at MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2009

Image courtesy of Leigh Bureau.
Steven Berlin JohnsonAccording to Steven Berlin Johnson -- who spoke during the 2009 MarketingProfs B2B Forum -- we are in the midst of a modern-day Enlightenment. You know, when the 18th century coffeehouse [and other public institutions like books, academies, journals and debating societies] made its mark, creating public spaces where conversation took place freely between people from all walks of life and multiple disciplines, amateurs and experts alike -- all sharing perspectives that generated change at an unprecedented pace.

[Note: my favorite aspect of the coffeehouse image is that it is dependent on then newly introduced caffeine which transformed an otherwise sedated [remember, these were the days when water killed, so best to drink mead, beer or wine] population into an ever-alert No-Doz one. I couldn't help but think about Marketing Effectively During An Information Revolution and was definitely ready to hear more.]

Not so different from the interactions taking place today through social networking tools like Twitter.

Steven B. Johnson's keynote presentation addressed many of the points from his just published Time article -- How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live [I strongly suggest you read it] and had me re-evaluating the various social tools I've become familiar with.

Twitter has "unsuspected depth." Not only does it offer 'social warmth' [i.e., all of those details about what one had for breakfast], but, thanks to user-created innovations ['jury-rigging the system' to do things never imagined by its creators], it has opened up conversations about otherwise closed or unknown events.

In the article, Steven refers to Hacking Education, a small, private event, which Twitter transformed. Tweets with the "#hackedu" identifier drew the attention of those outside the event, brought in valuable real-time new perspectives, created a public record as well as a platform for continued conversation on the topic.

Powerful stuff!

The room in which events take place becomes significantly bigger via virtual participation. Events, topics, and brands come alive with meaning. Those interested can share in common experiences regardless of geographic, intellectual, socio-economic or any other differences.

I found fascinating the realization that Twitter users invented how to deliver value to users. For example, the hashtag [#name] identifiers for specific events or topics and the @name to reply to specific Twitterers were invented by users. Search functionality developed outside of Twitter, although it has since been incorporated [acquired].

When I first describe Twitter, I immediately hear noise about the inane quality of so many Tweets. How can substance be conveyed in 140 characters? [Read A categorical imperative to twitter by Gideon Rachman.] And, yet, think of the role the platform has played in conveying information about recent 'unfolding events', and the pulse on shared national experiences [i.e., Twitter trending topics]. Furthermore, what Twitter does very well, via shortened URLs, is point followers to articles and blogposts of potential interest.

Johnson then spoke about the evolution of social searches - something that Twitter as a search platform epitomizes.

Unlike Google searches which are mostly anonymous, Twitter searches offer relevance with a human face! Your social network passes along news and links [something Facebook now does, too]. It helps filter relevance more effectively than an anonymous one. The fundamental element evolving in all of this is people, not pages or brands: social networks + live search + link sharing.

I'm experiencing Twitter differently as a result. I love how it allowed me to attend NeoCon virtually and am intrigued with how it integrates into overall marketing strategies.

What do you think these tools mean for your business?

Related Links:
+ Read Steve Woodruff's Goodbye Social Media - Hello Networked Communications.]

+ This YouTube interview of Steven B. Johnson at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum lets you hear Steven discuss firsthand Twitter, what it means for businesses, and why he thinks Twitter shouldn't be dismissed.

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