I was on a plane to Madrid and had sat down next to a very courteous 24 year-old Portuguese girl. Her name was Andreia.
The way strangers on planes many times do, we got to chatting and from small talk ended up having great conversations about different world cultures among many other topics. As Edward Norton’s character on Fight Club would have said it, we became single-serving friends.
After a while I handed her my business card. Since this was more of a personal connection than a business contact, on the back of the card I wrote down my personal e-mail address. She excused herself for not returning the courtesy since she does not have business cards yet (she’s about to graduate) and then offered to write down her contact info on my notepad. She volunteered her name and email address and then she asked “do you have Facebook?,” a question I had not heard for a LONG time.
It got me thinking about how widespread social media is, to the point where I usually assume that anyone under 40 would have a Facebook account. I told her how to find me on FB but decided to dig a little deeper on this subject of use of social media. I asked her for my biz card back in order to write down my Twitter handle, to which she said “thanks but I don’t have Twitter.” THAT was unexpected. Here was a 24-year old world traveler from Europe who had just spent over a week in the Mexican Mayan Riviera, a daughter of globalization… and she did not have Twitter.
How do you sell an idea as great as Twitter to someone who already has all the tools and exposure to understand it, to grasp its benefits and you would have a natural attraction to it but still sees no point in joining in the conversation via this media? For a second my mind went blank.
But then I realized that the power of Twitter actually comes from a relative minority, by far smaller than the number of registered users. Also, you have to acknowledge that in Twitter there are users and there are USERS. You see it’s not that the people signed up to Twitter “get it” because there is a key difference between people getting a lot out of Facebook and those who have actually understood the nuances of unleashing the power of the 140-character bird: whereas FB is built around the idea of closed community (maxing out at about 5000 if I remember correctly), Twitter is a broadcasting soundboard for users talking to the World (and part of it is actually listening).
Twitter opens dialogue among complete strangers and creates communication channels never before thought possible. Facebook is a place for people to show photos and videos and for us to be reminded about people’s birthdays.
In sum, it takes a different mental model to get and exploit Twitter and the days of lumping up “computer geeks” into one big pile no longer applies. Sort of like when Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soul Asylum couldn’t be called rock anymore and the “alternative” genre was temporarily coined as a repository to pile up everything that no longer fit, I believe a new set of subgroups of “computer geeks” is dawning upon us and the ones who don’t understand it first, will have much to gain by appealing to their audiences in VERY custom-made forms.
I’m excited about this. I guess that makes me (if at least temporarily) some form of a computer geek.
Thanks to Andreia and a 9-hour flight to Madrid.