“We as a pod will move on to something else – but it’s hard to imagine what that will be,” said panelist India Knight, getting right to the heart of the questions asked by the eiClub and London Press Club event Are we twitchy for a new Twitter? What’s next in social media.
The Sunday Times columnist, novelist and very popular tweeter was joined on the panel by Sky News executive editor John McAndrew, Editorial Intelligence’s Julia Hobsbawm and Colin Byrne, UK & Europe CEO for Weber Shandwick, who kindly hosted the event at their impressive Holborn offices.
In the chair was Charlie Beckett of the London Schools of Economics, who opened by noting that it was a really interesting moment to be talking about social media in general and Twitter in particular, as well as citing research that suggests around 40% of account holders are not tweeting.
Knight responded to Beckett’s introduction of her as the most-followed tweeter in the room by looking at how her use of the site had changed. “The more followers you have the more inhibited you feel,” she said, adding that her primary use when she started on Twitter in 2009 was “to talk to mates who work from home” but said that many were now back on Facebook instead, with its relative privacy inspiring a resurgence. “I’m uncomfortable with the anonymity – I don’t like the eggs!” she added, referring to those mysterious users without a profile picture, or indeed much of a profile at all. She now uses it mainly for jokes, breaking news and pointers on interesting reading.
“It’s not just the age of the selfie, it’s the age of the self,” said Hobswam. “We’ve moved from being on networks to being networks.” She cited three key ways in which Twitter was valuable: rolling news; sharing big moments in public and private life; and to navigate through the welter of information now available.
McAndrew said that for Sky News Twitter was now a source – and that it helps the broadcaster both gather and disseminate news. “On a major story, even a still of something to put up makes a big difference,” he said with reference to the fact that Sky and other news outlets effectively have potential sources everywhere, instantly.
Byrne said he was most excited about Twitter, describing it as “truly a social media” while Facebook was more like “a party where your friends come to your house to talk to each other”. He revealed that one of his employees present in the room had been hired via Twitter because of ideas she was sharing with him via the site.
When pushed as to what the next step in social media might be, increased levels of filters were mentioned, although as Knight pointed out: “The magnificent thing about Twitter is that you can already tailor it to your needs and interests.”