“Why should I want to have a conversation online when I can go and talk to someone face-to-face?”
Advocates of social media regularly encounter such views. While there is, of course, some truth in the reaction, it also overlooks some of the opportunities that might asking a question or airing an opinion on line. Face-to-face conversations tend to involve from two to a few people, but a conversation conducted via Twitter can involve numerous other individuals, adding a wider range of expertise and experience to the exchange, and sometimes forging new connections. I had two examples of this yesterday.
Expanding the exchange. At the Ecobuild show at London’s Earl’s Court, I attended a seminar on building information management (see post), and – as I have got into the habit of doing at recent conferences – posted some notes via Twitter. As a result, one of my followers, Paul Doherty, an American architect currently working in Shanghai, made some observations and posed some questions that I was able to raise with one of the presenters immediately afterwards – despite Paul being thousands of miles away.
Tweet and meet. In the run-up to Ecobuild, the idea of a “Tweet-up” was raised. Essentially, this is a meet-up arranged via Twitter, with details spread virally among one’s Twitter followers. As a result, with little effort, more than 20 people all met up for post-show drinks in a pub, The Pembroke, in Old Brompton Road. While I knew about half of those who turned up, there were also some new faces and I have now added a few new people to those I follow on Twitter. Lesson: Twitter is not just about online networking, it can also boost conventional networking.
(A postscript: Another ‘Tweet and meet’ example would be last year’s Be2camp 2008 event. The Be2camp network started as a Twitter exchange, then added a Ning site, and became a hybrid event, combining both face-to-face and online interaction. Many of the 50-60 people who physically attended had never previously met, but several collaborations arose as a result.)