Twitter Twitter Little Star wished me Happy Second Anniversary this week, but I’ve actually been blogging for 32 months and tweeting for 56 months.
In my first post in March 2011 (, I explained how I chose the name of my blog from Hunter S. Thompson, the inventor of Gonzo journalism, and how I got into Twitter ( – via Joe Trippi, Howard Dean’s campaign manager, and author of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, which chronicled his use of the internet in Dean’s presidential election bid in 2003/4. Trippi is one of the original advocates of the social media, garnering supporters and funds, and creating a blog for the Dean campaign.
Trippi came to Australia on a Microsoft-sponsored trip and Helen Dalley interviewed him on the Sky News Sunday Agenda program in February 2009. As executive producer, I decided to do a bit of research on Joe, and John Bergin, the Sky News digital editor, said: “Why don’t you check him out on Twitter?” “What’s that,” I asked, and Bergin explained. It was easy to join, and track Trippi down. And voila, there was a tweet from Joe saying he was looking forward to his trip to Australia in a few days. My first tweet to Joe after the show was: “Thanks for coming on. You were great! And Helen said: “I’m going to master Twitter,” so you did talk her into it. Well done!” I don’t think she has mastered Twitter yet, but Helen, there’s still time!
Joe tweeted me, saying he liked to retweet, and I didn’t even know what that meant. It took me a few days to find out. “Retweeting” means you re-send a tweet from somebody else to all your followers if you like what they said, and if you want someone else to read it. If you check out his Twitter account, he “tweets important causes. Internet and Democracy. Social media and business.” Joe Trippi had about six thousand followers on @joetrippi in early 2009. As of Saturday, November 9, 2013 Sydney time, he has 991,413 – so when he retweets, it has a lot of impact. (In my first post, I said he had a million, so he must have lost a few since then, or maybe I got it wrong!)
I have a relatively modest 1,239 followers, but I’m not addicted to Twitter, as Trippi and others are, I suspect. But I have to admit I log in nearly every day. If you’re a journalist, you really should have a Twitter account, which I also mentioned in my first blog post. I would hope that every journalist in the newsroom pictured above would be on Twitter!
So it was with a great deal of interest when I heard that Twitter was going to become a public company. On its first day of trading on Thursday, the stock closed with a one-day gain of 73 per cent at $US44.90, from the initial public offering (IPO) price of $US26. That sounds good to me, though there was the usual analyst warning that the IPO success didn’t really mean anything – it was how the company performs – and the CEO Dick Costolo joining the cautionary brigade, saying “We have a lot of work ahead of us.” By day two, the stock had slipped 7 per cent, but analysts suggest such volatile trading is common for initial public offerings.
Still the company has 231.7 million monthly active users, up 39 per cent in September from last year. And wait for it, these users tweet about 500 million times a day. CEO Costolo was very excited when he told the media Twitter wants to be “the public, conversational, real-time, distributive platform.” Quite a mouthful, Mr Chief Executive!
I think what he was saying is that when a big story breaks anywhere in the world, the tweets multiply in the thousands, and journalists and news organisations can pick up valuable bits of information. In disasters like Fukushima in 2011, the recent Blue Mountains fires in Sydney and this weekend’s super cyclone in the Philippines, Twitter can save lives by alerting emergency services and residents to imminent dangers in their neighbourhoods. By clicking on the hashtag of the cyclone Haiyan (#Haiyan), those in the affected areas can also get details of the storm from Twitter accounts like The Weather Channel (@weatherchannel) and offers of help from relief organisations like World Vision (@WorldVision) and CARE (@CARE). I noticed that ABC South-East Asian reporter Zoe Daniel follows World Vision. She might discover Australians caught up in disasters and then check it out. Journalists can get someone’s name, for example, and follow it up on Facebook. Though, of course, it’s important for the journalist to check to make sure he or she has the right person. Or in one case this week, the politician. Vice President Joe Biden rang to congratulate Marty Walsh this week on his election as mayor of Boston. Unfortunately, he got the wrong Marty Walsh. A former aide to the late Senator Ted Kennedy, Marty Walsh gave him the right number. But the V-P outdid himself this time, by again calling a wrong number, leaving a message on voicemail, hollering his congratulations down the line to Marty Walsh! (Okay, it’s possible that Joe Biden didn’t get the first number from someone on Twitter, but it’s possible. The easiest way to get information from a fellow Tweep is to ask them on a Direct Message – DM – and that is kept private. The Vice-President probably asked his chief of staff to get the number, and managed to stuff it up. Joe’s good at that!)
The other thing Twitter does well is help to create conversations among its users, especially those watching television shows, from news and current affairs to drama and sports, of course. I have done a bit of guest tweeting, mostly on Network Ten’s Meet the Press in 2012 — the year after I produced the program in Sydney. I continued with The Observer Effect on SBS earlier this year. As series producer, I had the advantage since I knew what was going to be on the program, which was pre-recorded. And this week, I was guest tweeter on ABC’s Lateline, which is chock-a-block with news and current affairs, including at least one interview. All live with no commercials. I was exhausted by the end of the show, not helped by the late hour it goes to air. Viewers like to agree or disagree with tweeters, and part of your task is to tweet controversial comments, either your own, or someone on the show. If you’re really passionate about the issue being discussed, it can be fun, as well as educational!
For example, when I tweeted on #Lateline that the guest, Acting Opposition Leader, Tanya Plibersek, had admitted some MP study tours don’t pass the common sense test @plbrocks replied: “Simon Crean (and his wife) could probably assist with that – if he’s back from Italy yet.” See what I mean!
The downside of Twitter is that it does occasionally have trolls, who can send nasty messages, and even publish private details. The company has a Help Center (the American spelling!) where users can report violations and abusive behaviour. The Australian Communications and Media Authority advises people to ignore trolls at first, then block them and if it continues, report their behaviour to the police. They also have an ACMA Hotline, working with the NSW Police, where you can report offensive or illegal content online. The website link is:
I think now that Twitter is a public company they are likely to be more vigilant in fighting trolls and cleaning up abusive behaviour. If they don’t, they will remain unprofitable, and for a social media organisation that needs advertising, they can’t afford to keep losing money – since the start of 2010, they have lost nearly $409million, 47 per cent of the revenue they brought in during that time.
All that Twitters is not gold.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s