Unisys TweetChat grade: incomplete
These are heady Twitter days, no doubt. The company's worth a billion dollars even though I have no idea how they produce revenue. Everyone's talking about it and setting up accounts. Even the president tweets. Just look how useful Twitter is for those of us who couldn't attend the CSAA annual meeting in Athens (and no, that's not Athens, Georgia, home of R.E.M.). So, Unisys can be excused, lauded even, for attempting one of those TweetChat things where everyone agrees to use a specific "hash-tag" (basically, you put a hash sign in front of a topic indicator; today we used #securitychat) while posting on Twitter so that you can follow every post that uses that hash-tag and a sort of chat ensues, where people can respond to each other and the "leader" of the chat, etc., while information is given out. It can turn into a free for all, it can be constructive, it can be dull. For instance, it's dull when no one participates. Check out what happens when you collect all of the #securitychat posters. A total of six people used the hash tag: Unisys, leader of the TweetChat; Unisys' PR person; a guy named mvandermeuter, who is likely affiliated with the company; a KZ_McMaster, who seems to be a real person; Me; and kcaretta, who retweeted my tweet that the event was going on. Unisys had some interesting information to disseminate: Its semi-annual security index, a survey of the public's perceptions of security, which includes financial security, identity security, terrorism perceptions, biometrics perceptions, and lots of other interesting stuff. And they wanted to Tweet about it. Makes sense. Unfortunately, in the half hour period they put aside for the Tweeting, Unisys' Brad Bass, PR director for Unisys Federal Systems, Public Sector and Enterprise Security, and Mark Cohn, VP of Enterprise Security (who were likely sitting together in the same room) tweeted 33 times, and everyone else tweeted three times (me twice - I was trying to be helpful and encouraging more than anything, I wanted it to work). That's not much of a chat. So what happened? Well, my guess is that no one knew it was happening. How would they know? I sent out a tweet right as it started, but I only have 239 followers, and how many of them are just sitting there watching Twitter (other than Ari, I mean)? And Unisys only has 325 followers, so that's the most amount of people who would have been alerted to the chat via Unisys' posts. So, were they relying on media types like me to spread the word via "normal" media to alert people to search the #securitychat hash-tag? They're not unlike those porn bots who follow you on Twitter and you go look at their account and they're following 1,000 people and don't have a single follower. If you Tweet on Twitter and there's no one there to read it, have you really Tweeted? Also, no one thinks of Unisys as a "broadcaster" or media and information creator. We naturally seek out Twitter accounts from CNN and the Weather Channel and NPR because we know them as content creators and we expect to learn something from them. NPR news has 130,783 followers. If they were to host a chat, you can bet some people would be involved, but there would also be the problem of trying to sift out the chatter's posts from all the chaff of people weighing in and discussing. But they really just use it as a broadcast mechanism to point you back to their web site. I actually find it tremendously ironic that they have an rss feed for their Twitter feed, which only points you back to their web site. Why not just sign up for the web site's rss feed and stick it in the Google reader? I have no idea. Regardless, I think you see my point. CNN has 555,598 followers. They could do a chat. Unisys probably can't until it gets more of a following. However, instead of failing Unisys for their efforts, I've decided it's really more fair to grade the effort as incomplete. It's the first step in a move toward making the company more available to the general public, and, really, it's cool in the abstract that anyone in the world could have conversed with Mark about how people in the U.S. and other countries feel about their personal security and their fears of terrorism. It's just that no one actually did.