from the desk of Patrick Ward ...
Orenstein’s insightful piece in the New York Times Magazine yesterday (I Tweet
Therefore I Am) examined the narcissism of Twitter from a
psychological perspective. In the piece, she recounts her struggle to
refrain from tweeting while enjoying a quiet family moment and extrapolates
that anecdote into a full reflection on one’s desire to create personas in
modern life and how Twitter is a near-perfect medium for perfecting one’s
assumed presence in the world.
She also reflects on the issues with creating these masks as potentially negative, wondering aloud if Twitter is in fact adversely affecting some coping mechanism by further shrouding our true selves in a 140-character spurts of who we want to be.
Ironically, it seems to us that Orenstein’s concerns about Twitter’s ability to offer neat affectations is what we see as the actual benefit for businesses. We often talk to clients about the issue of controlling market reputation, as I am sure most PR and communications firms do. We talk about defining that reputation before it gets defined for you; simple but important ideas. Before Twitter or other social media, the idea of persistent contact with core audiences or communities was real work. You picked your spots in news releases, ads, publicity, speeches, etc. Find the message. Craft the delivery. And then hope you had enough opportunity to make it stick.
Twitter turns that on its head. Orenstein’s observations have legitimate insight for individuals, but Twitter’s ability to communicate often and directly isn’t all bad. What she suggests are masks and personas, we contend are brands. If pre-Twitter marketing was about well orchestrated and periodic blasts, then Twitter collapses the interim. A series of messages can follow each other so closely that it’s now a stream. For a person to fill that stream would almost by definition require some embellishment which can easily lead to Orenstein’s premise that your Twitter-self and true self are diverging. But the wealth of Twitter-able information about a brand is much richer, and brands almost by their definition are embellishment.
We continue to advise our clients to think about new ways to look at Twitter and all social media. We are inviting them this week to read Orenstein’s piece with their brand as the protagonist and the piece now starts to read like an opportunity instead of potential admonition.