On Twitter, What Are You Doing Was Always The Wrong Question

What are you doing?

Perhaps, Twitter asked the wrong question all along.

In all honestly, who cares…it was really never about “what you were doing” that inspired your network to stay connected nor was it the siren for attracting new followers. We chose to follow you because you moved or encouraged us to do so – with every update.

For many of the users on Twitter, the question that engendered a response and also also aroused a cultural movement was, “what are you doing?” It was a prompt that, for the most part, was taken quite literally. Its answer served as the foundation for an entirely new form of communication, while also connecting people through ideas, interests, passions, and principles.

If we analyzed the most compelling tweets and then attempted to examine the question they were answering, I believe we would surface the nature of our aspirations and fascination.

Perhaps, now, potentially cognizant of the nature of intriguing dialogue on Twitter, we can or should officially concentrate our diversion and focus and answer to (regardless of stated question):

What excites or motivates you?

What has your attention right now?

What compels you to change something?

What did you learn today?

What are you thinking or feeling?

Twitter is a live wire, unraveling the “now” Web and surfacing the thoughts, events, breaking news, reactions and conversations that represent the focus of our attention.

Our updates on Twitter symbolize so much more than we may realize.

If, for but a moment, we can catch a fleeting glimpse of our personal significance right here, right now, we would recognize our instrumental role in the complete transformation in how information is reported, discovered, broadcast, and consumed.

Perhaps most significantly, Twitter represents a collective collaboration that manifests our ability to unconsciously connect kindred voices through the experiences that move us. As such, Twitter is a human seismograph. Through it, we feel everything that moves us.

At the very minimum, Twitter is a barometer for fascination, education, and obsession.

Twitter = what are we doing

Facebook = what we are sharing or reviewing

MySpace = what we are in to

LinkedIn = what’s in it for me…

Over time, Twitter itself, grasped that perhaps, the conversations fueling interaction on the 140-express stemmed from a question that many were no longer interested in answering nor following.

What are you doing eventually transformed into a more direct query, what’s happening. Like its predecessor however, it assumes too little for such a profound network that is nothing short of completely transforming media and communication.

Perhaps overdue for some and overly welcome for others, Twitter officially announced that it is changing its prompt to reflect the nature of events versus activity:

People, organizations, and businesses quickly began leveraging the open nature of the network to share anything they wanted, completely ignoring the original question, seemingly on a quest to both ask and answer a different, more immediate question, “What’s happening?” A simple text input field limited to 140 characters of text was all it took for creativity and ingenuity to thrive.

As the Twitter team observed…

The fundamentally open model of Twitter created a new kind of information network and it has long outgrown the concept of personal status updates. Twitter helps you share and discover what’s happening now among all the things, people, and events you care about. “What are you doing?” isn’t the right question anymore—starting today, we’ve shortened it by two characters. Twitter now asks, “What’s happening?”

Regardless of character count, the true revelation is that in order to inspire new insights from its community, the real question we should all answer is, “what do you think everyone is better off for knowing right here, right now.”

It’s the representation that the “me” in Social Media must evolve into the “we” in the Social Web in order to trigger progress.

Attention is a precious commodity and without recognizing or embracing this reality, we are doomed to succumb to it.

This is the real-time Web and as such, we have a prominent role in defining its relevance.

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research firm focused on disruptive technology. A digital analyst, anthropologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging technology on business, marketing, and culture. Solis is also globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. His new book, What's the Future of Business (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold and flourish in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. Prior to End of Business, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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