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Twitter is the impetus for a global rise in goodness

August 26, 2011

I was struck by that line from Amy Jo Martin (@AmyJoMartin) in a piece in Harvard Business Review entitled ‘Twitter: Technology for Scaling Good.’

Martin, a former advertising account manager, is the founder of Digital Royalty, which develops social media strategies for a variety of brands including DoubleTree by Hilton and Shaquille O’Neal. She’s a become a real force in the use of Twitter.

I’ve used Twitter for over three years. My goal throughout has been to help members of our legal profession understand how to use the Internet for professional and business development.

Having seen the Internet used so ineffectively by lawyers, I saw Twitter as my means to share helpful and entertaining articles and blog posts, while at the same time connecting with professionals in a real and meaningful way.

The feedback I’ve gotten has been incredible. So many people have thanked me for the things I share on Twitter. The connections I’ve made with small town lawyers to large corporate executives to founders of multi-billion dollar organizations have blown me away.

So I’m in total agreement with Martin that Twitter is a force for good.

This might strike some as counterintuitive, that Twitter, that channel for broadcasting narcissistic impulses, for branding and feeling good about yourself, might be the key to a global surge in kindness. In fact, Twitter creates a strange chemistry between the seemingly immiscible elements of self-centeredness and altruism. It turns out that people want to get noticed and they also want to do the right thing and Twitter uses the former to fuel the latter. And it scales. For the first time in history, we can do a lot of good, very fast, at a low cost.

Here’s five characteristics of Twitter that will make the act of good scalable in unprecedented ways per Martin.

  • Accountability and transparency spin narcissistic acts into selfless acts. You tend to be on your best behavior in public, and on Twitter, everything you say is public. Anyone in the world is invited to “follow” you. You may like to think of that word, follow, in the sense that one follows a leader, but follow also means trail, track, hunt, chase, go after, pursue. Twitter invites constant surveillance of your ideas. It’s the epitome of positive peer pressure, and leads to people using the channel to broadcast what they want the rest of the world to think of them.
  • The rate of committing acts of good is only bound by the speed of technology. In a race between the government, traditional media and Twitter to see who could disseminate important, useful information worldwide the quickest, Twitter wins.
  • The peer-to-peer nature of the open network pushes value to the top. Another difference between government or traditional media and Twitter is who determines value. Government agencies and media outlets use authority and gatekeeping functions, which are slow, and not always right. On Twitter, the users decide what’s valuable and how much any given message spreads. It’s a truly open market of ideas. Consensus is the only authority.
  • Participation is easily justifiable. Brevity reigns. Faster equals better (and therefore more valuable). Every decision we make about what we’re going to do takes into account how long it will take. The less time it takes, the more likely we’ll participate. Tweeting a 140-character message or re-tweeting one is a low-barrier, thoroughly acceptable act.
  • Accessibility and lack of boundaries create an equal opportunity space. Social media, especially Twitter, also democratizes access. Gatekeepers (editors, authority figures, governments) and physical boundaries (distance) have lost their relevancy to a network where, if you show value, you and your ideas are granted global access.

Most law firms want to contribute to the good of their community. Giving back feels good. And having your lawyers and other professionals involved in civic causes is good for business.

Practicing law in a small town in the Midwest for almost 20 years I saw the relationships we, as lawyers, built with community members through our civic participation. The more good we did, the more our business grew. I’m sure it’s the same for most of you.

What does this have to do with your use of Twitter? From Martin:

If large enterprises embrace social channels throughout every division of their company, then their community relations and charitable initiatives will gain momentum and naturally become part of this movement.

It’s not limited to large enterprises. Whether you are a large or small law firm, by learning how to use Twitter you can advance social good in your community. Doing so, you’ll connect with like minded people.

Good for people. And good for business.

All from Twitter. Who knew?

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