Turning Twinformation Into Twaction

Tweet for action.
The other day I mentioned creating ways to make Twitter’s wealth of information more relevant to its users. In almost identical language that I have recently used in countless cover letters, Twitter Co-founder Biz Stone told CNN “Reliable Sources” host Howard Kurtz that Twitter’s biggest current challenge is relevancy: providing the right information at the right time to the right people so they can make better decisions.

But a recent post on the The Nieman Journalism Lab, and a story posted this week by Alexis Madrigal, senior editor for TheAtlantic.com, made me realize that creating tools for funneling the right information to interested parties isn‘t enough. We need to be able to push people toward action.

“The open exchange of information can have a positive impact on the world.”
Twitter Co-founder Biz Stone– Reliable Sources, 12 December 2010

Take this anecdote from Business Insider. It points out that while people are gaining information from Tweets, they can’t change the world unless they put that information to use. Sending a text to a number you saw on Twitter to help Haitian earthquake victims is one example. Helping connect two people who need each other is another. In both cases, Twitter was able to deliver crucial information at a time when individual decisions could create a greater impact than the information alone. Having data is one thing; acting on it is entirely another.

This is a valuable way in which Twitter is changing the world. It helps make connections. But even after the connections are made, I don’t think Twitter’s job is finished. We need tools to help put those connections into action. A Tweet leads you to read a blog post. You share your comment on that post through Twitter. The original author replies back to you. You start a public dialog. Others join in, enriching the conversation with their perspectives and expertise. Eventually a relationship is born, and idea takes shape, and a new initiative is undertaken. Which you can then share on a new, branded Twitter account. And the cycle continues.

Sure, spreading a conversation does not shape it. But by building tools that turn conversation into action, we can influence behavior. Like my behavior to constantly remind you that I’ll see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.
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Author  Stephen R. Fox