From strangers to neighbours on Twitter

Fred Rogers

Last week I was fortunate enough to hear a talk by CBC president Hubert Lacroix on the future of the public broadcaster. Unsurprisingly, much of the discussion was focused on digital platforms and social media, and how this has changed how we interact with each other.

To crudely paraphrase Mr. Lacroix, if you sat down beside a stranger at Starbucks and asked to see their baby photos, or questioned what they got up to Friday night, they’re likely to look at you funny and tell you to get lost. But once we hop onto Facebook, that type of behaviour is normalized.

One thing I love about Twitter is that such interaction with people you’ve never met is not only perfectly acceptable, it’s encouraged. For me, engaging those you don’t already know is what makes Twitter fascinating.

But listening to other people and interacting with them — rather than simply broadcasting tweets — is also what makes Twitter a valuable tool to spread your organization’s message and connect with a wider audience.

A few days ago, caught in the blizzard of tweets surrounding the Canadian electoral debate, I retweeted a comment by Norah Fountain, a communications specialist in Ontario that goes by the Twitter handle Muskokahn. Shortly thereafter, the following email landed in my inbox:

“Glad you retweeted one of my tweets because I just discovered your blog. Passed it to the Professor who runs the Cultural Studies and the Arts program at Nipissing University in Muskoka. Keep up the great work.”

This short and sweet email represents at least two people who never would have heard of Art Threat if I was simply tweeting out links to our latest blog posts instead of listening and engaging with those who may be interested in saying hello.

Image: Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (source).

April 17, 2011