Home > Cause, Clients, Current Events, Digital, Inspiration, Marketing, Public Relations, Work > Sharing “Over the Fence” with Twitter

Sharing “Over the Fence” with Twitter

I had a great time attending the first-ever 140 Characters Twitter conference here in New York last week. It’s been recapped comprehensively elsewhere, so rather than lending my voice to that crowded chorus, I thought I’d hone in on two sections of the agenda which are particularly relevant to the work we do here at the agency. This is the first of a two-part post. 

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First up, my favorite speaker of the conference: Mike Koehler (@mkokc). Mike is an unassuming guy from Oklahoma, former multi-media editor at the Oklahoman and now a social media consultant at a Tulsa-based PR firm. He spoke about using Twitter for public safety, something he’s quite well-versed in. Mike learned first-hand the power of Twitter to connect people and provide real-time help in times of community crisis earlier this year, when Oklahoma City was beset with not one but three major disasters. In a freakish sequence of events, Mother Nature walloped Mike’s community with ice storms, tornadoes, then wildfires. By creating tailored Twitter hashtags (#OKice, #OKstorms, #OKfires) and housing the conversation streams alongside raw video from reporters in the field, Mike and his colleagues transformed the newspaper site into a one-stop safety resource for the community. It became a virtual town hall where a non-stop exchange between journalists and citizens helped keep neighbors informed and safe.

It was only a 10 minute talk but it was profound. Mike spoke from the heart, allowing himself to be moved before a sleepy digerati audience (it was 8 am on Day #2 of the conference, after all) about the power of a digital tool to unleash the best in all of us. Listening to Mike, I felt a surge of new energy to help clients understand all Twitter is capable of. I have to think that even the ones who’ve laughed it off as a flash in the pan or scoffed at its validity as a news-gathering tool would be willing to give Twitter a second look after listening to a guy like Mike Koehler talk. I was also inspired, not for the first time, at the vital role Twitter can play in cause marketing campaigns. This has been discussed in lots of other places; Beth Kanter and Scott Henderson are just two of the many people doing great work at the intersection of cause and social media. Suffice it to say that Twitter can be a powerful accelerant when put in service to the goal most cause marketers share: rallying and empowering people to make a difference. As Mike says, Twitter is a part of the toolbox that makes our world smaller. It’s Mayberry. It lets us swap information “over the fence” – whether we’re in Tehran or Oklahoma City — and in doing so, express our care and concern for one another.

I suppose it’s an overstatement to say that a micro-sharing tool could help unlock our inner angels. Or is it? Not a single fatality was reported in any of the three disasters that hit Oklahoma City earlier this year. Mike is cautious not to attribute that to Twitter but really – don’t you kind of wonder?

See Mike’s talk in its entirety here.

Image via.

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  1. June 24, 2009 at 5:53 am

    Social media has come a long way but it has been abused by marketeers. When I log on Twitter all I see is desperate tweets promoting the products nothing wrong in that but there has to be a fine line on what constitutes a meaningful message and marketing propaganda.

    • ssmirnov
      June 24, 2009 at 9:46 am

      I couldn’t agree more. Bad marketing is bad marketing, whether it’s done in 140 characters or through old-timey tactics. That said, if marketers want to use twitter in support of a charitable effort, and it’s done in an authentic way, I’ve got no beef with that. Thanks for reading, and for commenting!

  2. June 24, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Stephanie –

    That’s the first time I’ve heard Twitter described as “over the fence” conversations and I really like the imagery. It captures the fundamental spirit of Twitter and other social media – sharing ideas, news, thoughts, feelings, and other human expressions. It’s up to us to determine how we use them.

    @scottyhendo

  1. June 24, 2009 at 3:05 pm

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