Posted by Joseph Peart 3 Dec '11

Hidden among the stats of a new analysis of a new analysis of how journalists use Twitter was a change that surprised me.  Launched in July 2006, Twitter was reported to have 200 million users by 2011.  But Fortune magazine recently noted research showing only about half those with Twitter addresses were using them.  I was therefore surprised to read the Pew Research Centre’s data, which showed online Americans using Twitter actually increased from 8% to 13% between November 2010 and June 2011.

  However, the real purpose of the Pew researchers was to examine the way in which mass media journalism is merging with what we still call social media.  They looked at 13 news outlets, from major newspapers to websites and cable channels.  Leading the way on Twitter in the week measured (Feb 14-20, 2011) were Washington Post (664 tweets) and Huffington Post (415 tweets).

Nearly all of the outlets used tweets to drive visitors to their home sites; three big newspapers devoted 98% of their Twitter stream to this purpose.  And the news agenda promoted on Twitter closely resembled that on their legacy platforms.  It was the news agenda that interested my colleague, AUT PhD student, Merja Myllylahti , who is looking at how ownership might influence the news agenda  Perhaps most intriguing was that Fox News was the only news organisation in the sample that used Twitter to actively encourage interactions.

A colleague, Helen Sissons, who is studying this behaviour tells of kiwi radio sports journalists who tweet each other during events, partly for their own amusement and what are currently small numbers of followers.  She also discusses media outlets imposing protocols to ensure that their journalists don’t report on Twitter what should be on the website or broadcast first.

All this implies that Twitter has currency beyond its social use in ways that maybe eluding Facebook and Google.

Yes, the big two in social media are still slugging it out after several false starts by Google, and despite some arrogant blunders by Facebook.

It seems that, after the embarrassments of Orkut, Wave and Buzz, Google has finally come up with a viable social network in the form of Google+.

It is such a well-designed offering that Facebook went into lockdown to try to find a counter punch, partly because Google+ had a strong range of better features.  Some similar options soon appeared in Facebook.

In social media, Facebook’s 800 million members dwarfs the 10 million on Google+, but the Google parent has a 2011 revenue of $US38 billion, compared with Facebook’s $US4.3 billion.  That means Google can invest a lot into this fight as it sees advertising migrating from search engine activity into social media.

Mind you, we humans can be digitally social without Facebook.  The Independent newspaper has been looking at text flirts and notes that more people are trying to be sexy by cellphone: But not all are successful.  One expert regarded text messages as too bland for romance, while another suggested texts are ideal for manipulation, as they are seen as intimate communication.  That also means texts can create disproportionate anxiety, as well as misunderstandings.

Most of us find that even emails can cause accidental meaning and misunderstanding, because they are so sparse in both content and context.  It seems to me that texts are even less suitable for the nuances of relationship building.  What do you think?