The Five People You Meet on Twitter (#4)

This li’l Twitter series of mine began with The Celebrity

The Bore

The temptation to call this category “The Spammer” is great, but that’s really too narrow a definition. Yes, it’s in this group that you’ll find the hot babes pitching their hot sites and the arguably creepier crowd promising that we can all work from home and yield millions in a year or two. But there’s also the people who only ever tweet out their own site links, conduct searches using keywords to “market” their product to specific users, use trending topics inappropriately to drive traffic to their site, or only use Twitter to find new targets for their diatribes and ramblings. Oh, and then there’s the folks that tweet the minutiae of their days.

Sub-category: People who habitually hit “update” too many times on the same tweet, whiners

Word to the Wise: Unfollow or block ’em. Or, if you’re feeling generous and know them personally to be otherwise decent folks, try to point out the error of their ways. Whatever you do, don’t feed the worst offenders by chatting about their presence or linking to their profile in your own tweeted rant. They like that.

Update: I should have mentioned that if it’s true spam you’ve encountered, you can report it to Twitter HQ Spam (@spam) via DM. You’ll need to follow ’em first.

Next in the series: The Marketer

The Five People You Meet on Twitter (#3)

Other people in my li’l Twitter taxonomy began with The Celebrity

The Crusader 

They spring up from the political spectrum’s left, right and middle, chomping at the bit to promote their respective messages.* Go green! Shut down the McDonalds! Stop Sascha Baron Cohen’s bizarre brand of humor!  

When Crusaders are good at what they do, they can advance their case with dignity. When they’re ham-fisted and rant-cid or get spammy or pugilistic with their tweets, they fall… flat.  And by that I mean they only really ever succeed at reaching the proverbial choir and supplying, to the rest of Twitterville, nothing but a steady stream of stridency.

The best of the lot know that to pitch their platform, they have to mind their manners just like the rest of us and share something more than a 140-character plea or rant with regularity. I’ll show you two examples in a sec.

Subcategories: charities, supporters of specific parties/candidates

Word to the Wise: In my experience, Crusaders have the easiest time keeping a favorable image if they are willing to dialogue with the converted and non-believers alike. That can be tricky on Twitter, but creating a hashtag and dedicating a specific time weekly to chat up the cause is a good place to start.

The best individual Crusaders are those who blur the line with another group in my Twitter taxonomy, the Real Deals. Take, for instance, Rob Smart (@jambutter).  He’s created the new sustainability-themed #profood hashtag (explanation on his blog). He’s thoughtful, respectable in his tweets and is willing to “agree to disagree” gracefully. But don’t try to bully him, either–he will push back. In short, he’s an honest broker and he advances his cause because of it.

If you’ve got some money to spend on your message, then groovy graphics, contests and giveaways can be useful to raise awareness. Just like with traditional fundraising letters, connecting your cause to the lives of real people can lend a compelling human touch on Twitter. Along these lines is another good role model from the charity subcategory: the Livestrong Foundation (@Livestrong) which has been known to tweet messages of goodwill and support to individual cancer survivors. Earlier this week they introduce a great little yellow Livestrong bracelet that you can superimpose over your Twitter avatar.** 

Those are some do’s.

Now for the don’ts.

Don’t call people that believe differently than you stupid or any synonym thereof. D’oh!  You can, of course, question the rationality of your opposition’s argument. And you can point out when someone’s arguing for argument’s sake (a quick glance at their feed will offer a good clue if your hunch is right) and then politely disengage.

Don’t forget that your potential supporters may be on Twitter after work and at weekends. If you’re tweeting on the clock, then this is an instance when something like Tweetlater might be worthwhile.

• Don’t try to route your followers daily to your other online resources (blog, website, Facebook) unless you’re freshening the content regularly. Your profile should be enough bait.

Know a great Crusader on Twitter? Do tell!

Next in the series: The Bore

*Disclosure:  Yours truly started out on to promote my bipartisan, pro-victory garden themed blog, hence the patriotic moniker (@redwhiteandgrew). I’ve evolved with how I use my account a bit, but I still choose to follow a diverse array of opinionated people because I find it interesting and, yes, inspiring. 

**The avatar gimmick is effective now. I do wonder that if everyone jumps on the bandwagon with this kind of freebie that it might become overdone.

The Five People You Meet on Twitter (No. 1)

The Celebrity

Whether they’re promoting a flick/show, a cause, a campaign, a product/career or just trying to save face, these  tend to be the tweeple that provide fodder for the tired theory that Twitter’s an exercise in narcissism. Politicians, talk show hosts, novelists, sports figures, celebrity chefs and garden gurus, moviestars*… with a few noteworthy exceptions**  their tweeting is driven more by a desire “to control the message” than to actually share connect.

Never mind the fact that in the age of micro-sharing/blogging or whatever we’re saying Twitter is this week, being authentic matters more than being a spinmeister. So if good spin is your sole motivation, you’re in trouble from the get-go. And, oh lordy, if it’s a staffer writing your tweets and you’re not upfront about it, start praying now that it never gets out. Because you will be mocked and, gasp,  unfollowed. 

Subcategories: Famous bloggers and minor local celebrities, including preachers, newspaper columnists, metro-area lifestyle show hosts. 

Word to the Wise: Remember: everyone is “famous” to their own Twitter flock o’ followers. So if you want us mere mortals to pay attention to your feed (and “your message”) with regularity and respect, consider employing the occasional retweet or response to a direct question. For the time-strapped, you can set aside a specific day or time to correspond with followers in real time. Alyssa Milano  (@Alyssa_Milano) did this just last night, as one of my followers (@starbreiz) notified me this morning. Whoa… did you catch that? People will keep talking about your tweets for a day or two if you play right. Do that kind of thing once or twice a month and you can legitimately claim that you “use Twitter”–as opposed to just employing it to send out teeny-tiny press releases. Yay, you!

Got a fave celebrity worth following? Tell us why.

Next in the Five People series: The Real Deal

*No, I’m not naming names of ne’er do-wells. Besides if you use Twitter, then you already know of whom I speak. And if you don’t, then you likely don’t care.

**Example: Lance Armstrong ( @lancearmstrong) blends his personal and professional tweets exceptionally well. I don’t follow him daily, but I do pop in to read his feed regularly.

My Twitter Wish List (Then Again, Maybe It’s More of A Rant)

Ever heard of “Christmas in July?” Well, if Santa’s listening on this last day of June, how about:

• An End to Spam Followers. Seriously, I will PAY for Twitter if it means I can review new followers without fearing my kid will see full-frontal naked people. I mean, c’mon. (A conspiracy theorist might even suggest that this is all a cunning plan on behalf of the Twitter masterminds to get us to surrender our credit card information, but I won’t go there.)

Rational RTs. Is there anything worse than someone retweeting misinformation? Yes, people who do it repeatedly. Sure, we all make a mistake now and then (guilty!), but just because information is zipping past or pops up as a link in Trending Topics does not mean it’s accurate.

And as for the dreadful Jeff Goldblum/George Clooney/Natalie Portman death rumors, one didn’t even need to check first to see that the site where two of the the stories originated were fake. The tip-off? The big ol’ disclaimer at the bottom of the “breaking news story” page that it was… a fake news site. (More)

Look at it this way: if we want Twitter to be a credible source on par with traditional news organizations (and I still think that’s a bit of a stretch), then we need to try to tweet as responsibly as we can. Sure, the potential is there as the Iran Election story has shown, but it’s like my 8th grade computer literacy teacher taught us in the ’80s: Garbage In/Garbage Out. For the youngsters, that means that the end-product of technology (including social media) is only as good as what we regurgitate, er, contribute

• Secret Twitter Police. Am usually not a fan of tattle-telling, but the above situations merit some sort of underground network capable of putting out fires left to build while the folks at Twitter HQ plot the next round of upgrades. I’m not saying we need to censor people’s freedom of speech, but a measure of decorum can keep Twitter from becoming passe, as more of us seem to be burrowing behind Facebook’s privacy screen. 

Got a wish? Feel free to share. Unless, of course, you’re a spammer. Then kindly go away.

Memphis Manifesto in New Orleans


This article appeared in the 28 July 2003 issue of New Orleans City Business. A lot of changes have taken place to the city since I wrote the column. Just this year, it was named one of Fast Company’s Fast Cities 2009. Meanwhile, Richard Florida has written a few more books and switched universities.

Memphis Manifesto Offers N.O. Roadmap to Business Excellence

Guest columnist: Pamela Price

The Memphis Manifesto holds delightful news for New Orleans. Unfortunately, not too many people have heard about it.

In May, 100 professionals from 48 states, Puerto Rico and Canada gathered in Tennessee to craft the “Memphis Manifesto.” It’s a document billed as “the definitive report on transforming cities that want to compete for the creative class–young, mobile professionals–whose presence, or lack thereof… determines the future of American cities.”

Essentially, the manifesto is a call to action for cities such as New Orleans, cities hoping to replicate the sexy appeal of Austin and Boston, cities with robust economies and a high concentration of young professionals.

Richard Florida, a Carnegie Mellon University professor and author of “The Rise of the Creative Class: How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life,” delivered the keynote address.

Delegates included educators, arts professionals, writers and venture capitalists. An equally eclectic cadre of professionals, from the director of an arts center in Portland, Oregon, to a senior Newsweek writer, served on panels facilitated by Carol Coletta, host of National Public Radio’s new show, “Smart City Radio.”

Florida’s research on young, creative professionals and the increasing importance of environmental factors play in their location decisions was the the foundation for the conference. In his book, New Orleans and Baton Rouge ranked No. 102 and No. 48 overall respectively among cities with an intact creative class. The Crescent City scored 42 out of 49 cities with populations of more than 1 million, and Baton Rouge scored a surprising seventh out of 32 regions with populations between 500,000 and 1 million.

The presence of a diverse populace, an authentic sense of place evident in the architecture and natural environment, cultural tolerance, and thriving, street-level arts and music scenes are all referenced within the manifesto as being attractive features capable of luring creative class members.

Obviously, these are the very attributes that have made New Orleans famous for tourism. The trick is to translate those tourists into local residents and business owners and, of course, taxpayers.

“(In New Orleans), you’ve got lifestyle and (cultural) tolerance out the wazoo,” Florida said. “The key is to build a technology and an economic base. Then you will have no trouble attracting people, because you are a great, fun city. Austin for a long time was a great place to hang out, get a slacker service job, and then the technology thing happened.”

During the summit, there was much talk about how cities should focus on cultivating a homegrown creative class. After all, the tangibles and intangibles that attract newcomers (good schools, receptiveness to outsiders, openness to cultural diversity, a distinctive sense of place) are the same things that stem outmigration.

“Job one is to make New Orleans an easy place to start and grow a business,” Coletta said.

She cites a recent on-air interview with branding expert Mike Moser, author of “United We Brand.”

“I asked him about the nickname, ‘The Big Easy.’ He thinks it has legs and can be stretched to fit business needs. For instance, ‘It’s easy to do business in New Orleans,” she said. “I think Mike has the right idea. New Orleans has such a great funky vibe. Capitalize on it.”

“In my view, southern Louisiana and Rhode Island are two of the only real places left in America,” said Kip Bergstrom, a regional economic expert and popular summit panelist.

By nurturing its resident creative class, New Orleans is capable of transforming itself. First, however, a premium must be placed on professionals for which creativity and innovation are essential.

“Design-based businesses, playing off of whatever pockets of excellence exist at area colleges, are a good to start [cultivating the creative class],” said Bergstrom. “In general, figure out what Tulane and your other institutions are good at and build from there. Get the students more involved in the city so that they stay there and start companies after they graduate. Get more artists. They are the pioneers of the creative class who draw the rest.”

“The number of tourists to New Orleans give the city a tremendous opportunity to expose its artists and musicians to a wider market,” Coletta said.

Ultimately, the experts agree: if New Orleans is to be transformed from a tourist destination dependent on service sector jobs to a hip community known for innovation and excellence, then the capacity and demand for creativity must be nurtured. Now.