The world on 140 characters a day

“It must have been simple,” someone told me, “to have lived 300-400 years ago, when things didn’t change this fast.”

Yes, but the person that invented the wheel probably would have enjoyed riding in a Ferrari, even if he couldn’t have driven it. The aforementioned quote came after yet another networking session on social media in Atlanta on 2/26/09 at, of all places, HQ of Cox Enterprises, parent company of the beleaguered Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB TV/Radio in Atlanta.

The discussion leader was Michael Pranikoff, director of emerging media for PR Newswire, a respected organization that distributes media releases online. His purpose was to show how to adapt the traditional 400-word release to media outlets to the modern world, which is becoming infatuated with such info-sharing Web sites as Twitter and Facebook. Estimates say Facebook has 175 million users, Twitter 5-6 million.

Yours truly has “drank the Kool-Aid,” so to speak, by purchasing an iPhone and regularly sending out simultaneous social-network messages on I even “live blogged” the Pranikoff/PRSA event on Twitter (I’m “bsteve76”), sending out regular “tweets,” some with pictures, including this one of a slide featuring Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Hey, if members of Congress use YouTube and Twitter, something’s obviously up.

One of Pranikoff’s most interesting observations was how to use social media to “continue the message to multiple audiences.” Obviously, news releases get a lot of attention right after their debut. But through blogging and other forms of info-sharing, the originator can keep the message alive for much longer, and perhaps highlight other angles.

He also invoked another version of the 80-20 rule. For customer-service types, he noted that about 80% of a company’s customers won’t say anything online about a product or service, but they will base decisions on the 20% who do. So it’s critical for a company and its message handlers to influence the vocal minority online. Many companies are hiring “Twitter cops” to devote full attention to the online buzz.

(The recent uproar over Facebook’s terms of service changes illustrates how social media sites themselves are affected by user opinions. Now FB is opening governance to users.)

Making me feel good, Pranikoff also said “mobile is the wave of the future,” advising people to make Web content “accessible.” In other words, don’t make a site too graphics-heavy, or it will be ignored by smartphone users or time-starved workers away from their base.

Some other tidbits: “Search is the great equalizer.” Everyone on earth will search for something every day, usually using 2-3 words. Include key words and phrases high in those releases, folks.

–Use multimedia (videos, pictures) in releases, linking back to the original release or the company’s home page.

–Social media is penetrating the older set. Women 50-55 are the fastest growing user group online, known as the “silver surfers.”

There are many pluses to all this. When I refereed a pro wrestling match years ago for a newspaper story, only a couple of thousand people in attendance and readers of the Macon Telegraph knew it. Now, through this link to a picture from the event, the whole world can know. And the whole world can also know that one of the up-and-comers in that match went on to become world champion Randy “Macho Man” Savage of WWF fame. No foolin.’ (New photo added 3/2/09.)

So, back to the world whose communication is being shaped by software developers. It’s the only world we’ve got.


About Steve Burns

I live in the Atlanta area. I also lived for many years in Southern California. I'm into mainstream media, social media, sports, business and politics. I worked for AOL's Patch, but this is my personal blog. I'm on Twitter (@bsteve76), Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. See ya 'round!
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One Response to The world on 140 characters a day

  1. maggiebuerger says:

    Steve, it was great meeting you yesterday. ‘Glad you also enjoyed Michael Pranikoff’s presentation. One small correction, Silver Surfers, the fastest growing user demographic on the Internet, are women OVER age 55. Women between the ages of 50 – 54 are still considered babes. 🙂


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