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colobar_bigger (Read time = 4-5 minutes)  Twitter’s role in exposing the Iran election underbelly, and a separate report detailing the passing of American journalist, retired CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite, oddly connected for me this week – prompting this curious question:  Will Twitter’s instant “trusted community” potential parallel Cronkite ability to shape public perception?

OK, I’ll confess – I can’t quite yet wrap my head around the possibility that Bin Laden and the boys might jonesing for a TweetUp! two canyons over , but Twitter’s role (or a yet-to-be invented Twitter look-alike) has the potential to unite community as television media one did but can no longer hope to accomplish.

What’s the risk that this everyman keyboard collective and the unfiltered tweets will be perceived by B2B marketers as more than just a moment in time?

 “Trusted community” wasn’t discovered by Gen X or Y, the concept has simply morf’d decade-to-decade as media evolved.  For many Boomers, “global community” was born at the knee of those news anchors as world events woke to the power of television imagery.  In Cronkite’s day, three networks (ABC, CBS, NBC), shaped the community experience, driven by on-screen personalities.  For a generation earlier, “community” was forged by WWII radiocasts and the keystrokes of Murrow and Ernie Pyle, and the fireside chats of FDR. 

cronkite1Consider Cronkite… he was the galvanizing voice creating at the time what was likely the largest “trusted network” of its day. His nightly broadcasts defined “community” and became a singular link for conditions and events otherwise largely cloaked.  Cronkite’s mealtime “posts” largely shaped American perception for over two decades (’62 – ’81).   My passion for news, for journalism and the larger value of storytelling and communications was fired in the evening glow of living room TV as America’s most trusted voice urged “Go, Baby, Go” during NASA’s Apollo XI launch… as he shed on-screen tears while reporting the Kennedy assassination… and as the Vietnam war made real for his viewers. 

twitter iconConsider Twitter… Iran closed off traditional media yet election protestors made use of the medium to spread alerts, photos and dialogue about conditions otherwise hidden.  The Twitter hive provided a stream of awareness that fed traditional news coverage.  the same for more recent unrest in China…

Following #Iranelections, #Iran and/or #Tehran pages brought back the cell phone text message and video cam image experience from 1989 became the voice of China’s Tiananmen Square protests.  Twitter elevated itself well beyond social gossip as Tehran streets filled… beyond being just the latest political campaign shiny-new-toy for fundraising.  Iran election postings both augmented journalist reports and by-passed them.  Commentary was raw – no editors sitting in NY studios, no fact-checking staffs, no second-source requirements prior to publication The feed real-time and at fire hose volume. 

Certainly prior to Iran, users had on smaller scales demonstrated such ability.  But here it was happening on the world stage with an event of global significance. Use of the social media networking tool, showed its potential for becoming a powerful, unifying force that can forge real-time trusted networks and a shared community experience.  

As a self-professed news junkie, I was riveted to the Twitter reportage and attribution subsequently used… fascinated at the explosion of this latest collective surge.  June’s Wired magazine and Kevin Kelly (kkk@kk.org) this month takes onthe idea of  “The New Socialism”, a coming global collective: the vanguard born of Wikipedia, Flickr and Twitter.  A thoughtful exploration and well worth the read.  

UK Perspective from Richard Merrin, Managing Director for Spreckley Partners – an EMEA independent PR consultancy serving B2B, IT and Consumer markets:

It is amazing how new forms of communication can drive real change and dare I say it revolution – it would be the ultimate irony that mass access technology platforms from the west could topple this regime.  And in that sense it is no different from other forms of mass popular communications through time, from the Romans through to the downfall of the French monarchy where propaganda cartoons were the twitter of the day.

This does leave a number of serious questions

  • the rise of the citizen journalist and as a result the question of bias, objectivity
  • the growth of online campaigning and the impact on business and how it communicates and responds to this new paradigm
  • the impact on traditional media

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Observation:  Twitter is less about 140 characters than about a means to aggregate a stream of collective consciousness which permits early observation of trends, emotional glue and macro-interests.

Observation: I invited tweets to my (digital) home, much as Cronkite was invited into living rooms nightly all those decades ago. Others from my network were invited in, side conversations grew.  I trusted the dialogue as useful, although unfiltered. 

Observation:  The hunger for community and collective behavior is simply human.  Media for the interaction will evolve.  It was once print, then radio, then television, now digital in many forms.  Twitter and social media tools may be a revolutionary pre-cursor, or just an evolutionary ripple.  What great fun to be watching it unfold, real-time.

Your thoughts/takes?

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