I am a bit of a technophobe, to be perfectly honest. I practically still have a Commodore 64, and despite having an iPhone, I write everything down in a diary, that’s how much IT impresses me.
I joined the Facebook clan years ago, finding it a brilliant way to stay in touch with my best friends, who had relocated to Sydney and New York to have families. I have been able to monitor their offspring’s progress and development without actually having to rock and coo, so that’s all pretty good. But it was about keeping in touch with pals, not with colleagues and contacts.
It was Marc Reeves, the editor of the Birmingham Post, who alerted me to Twitter. I’d been to a ‘The Future of Journalism’ seminar where Marc was speaking, and emailed him later to tell him how much I’d enjoyed it. He sent me a crib sheet with a view to starting to tweet, and I set about following the instructions to see what all the fuss was about.
It took me a couple of months to really get my head around it. I met a number of Twitterers at Birmingham Social Media Cafe and expanded my little circle, and slowly but surely started to make useful contacts and interact with people I shared interests with.
It was a bit of a strange one. I am dead against internet dating for example, having heard so many horror stories of date-rape, assault and murder, and I drive my young cousin loopy checking that he has every privacy box on Facebook checked to prevent paedophiles and bastards getting anywhere near him. So maybe it’s hypocritical of me to then start extolling the virtues of chatting and offering information to strangers…
But at the same time, for all the spam and obscene followers I have to routinely block, not only have I ‘met’ some truly fascinating characters and some useful press contacts, I’ve also been struck by the kindness of total strangers.
Take @plannersusanna, for example. I tweeted about being unable to find a harpist to play at my wedding reception. Susanna – a wedding planner, funnily enough – responded with names and numbers, and within days had made a tonne of suggestions about caterers, florists and jewellers. A professional interest for her turned into a daily exchange of long and rambling emails whereby we both discovered a shared passion for Marco Pierre White, Jack Bauer, shoes, handbags and selected city centre restaurants. We’re meeting up this weekend for the first time, and I am looking forward to finally seeing the person behind the spark, rather than the tiny photograph. Of course, if an appeal to find my murderer goes out on Sunday, you know who I was with 🙂
But the person who has really made me want to send @marcreeves flowers for introducing me to Twitter is @mennard. He’s a very busy and important lawyer who, when faced with a slightly desperate private message from me about a potential legal dispute, has given me thousands of pounds worth of advice and support, drafting paperwork and offering reassurance, all via email, and all without complaint or an invoice. I didn’t expect that – at best, I hoped for the number of a civil litigation specialist in the area! Lawyers have this reputation for being power-mad, ill-tempered, impatient ‘time is money’ types, but @mennard flies in the face of all that. I can’t discuss anything about the dispute here, not until it’s resolved, but I’ll have a lot to say once the process has been completed.
I’m more ashamed of the fact that I have probably talked via Twitter more with certain colleagues than I have in person; well, they’re on a different floor and I am lazy…
I’ve pitched PR stories to journalists via Twitter – it’s surprising how succinct you can be in 140 characters – and received job applications through it. I’ve shared jokes with clients whom I wouldn’t dream of joking with in the office, and helped them to spread the word of their successes to a whole new audience.
Even so, I really should make the effort to actually pick up the phone once in a while…