I had a great phone call last week with Sarah Milstein – NYTimes.com writer, O’Reilly Radar blogger, @tweetreport geek, speaker and organizer of Web2Open, our official on-site (free) unconference. I took some notes and decided to creatively transcribe it for the blog. Please note that this is not word for word how this call went down. It’s after hours and I’m adlibbing some of this for your reading pleasure.

Me: Hi Sarah, long time no talk. How’s it going?…

(To which extremely intelligent chit chat ensues)

Me: So you’ll be speaking at Web 2.0 Expo San Francisco. I’m excited! What’s your talk about?

Sarah: Well, my talk is all about Twitter

(I actually knew this. Her title “Effective Twitter for Communication & Product Integration” kinda said it all)

The two questions I’m focusing the session on is: 1. What is Twitter? and 2. How do we use it, particularly in a business or professional setting. This is relevant because people are wondering IF this is a tool they should use, and more importantly, HOW it can be integrated into a bigger communications strategy.
I’ll present several examples of companies using Twitter and how that is evolving. I’ll give practical advice on what kinds of things to post, case studies of the good, bad, and better. I’ll show how companies are using Twitter to for better engagement and interactions – making customers happier, appeasing the angry ones.

Also, a lot of customers have integrated their products with Twitter. I’m still doing some research but I’ve already found great examples: Wesabe, a personal finance site, has a feature where you can tweet expenses directly to your account. Travel social site Dopplr allows you to tweet your trip updates to your network.

I’m showing these examples to inspire some thinking, to make people consider how to use Twitter as an effective and authentic communications channel.

(Sarah, I just learned that Icanhascheeseburger also integrated Twitter. Now when you favorite a LOLcat it gets tweeted out through your account. Does that count? I hope that counts, I love that site.)

ME: Conference chair Jen Pahlka mentions Twitter in her opening when we launched our spring theme The Power of Less. What are your thoughts about the power of Twitter in this era of less?

SARAH: By its form Twitter is about less. It’s about the economy of words for conveying powerful ideas.

It’s interesting that twitter is emerging as a valuable, fun and inspiring tool, at a time when people are looking at major economic and environmental issue – almost certainly where we are going – is using and spending less.

In a way it’s an interesting forerunner in that trend.

The most effective way to provide value in your Twitter stream is to not talk about yourself but rather issues in your sector and industry. And provide links to this information. As more industries are learning to be more environmentally and economically sustainable, they realize they can share useful and meaningful information through this channel. It’s a great tool for sharing insights on living better, working with less.

Tim tells us to work on things that matter – Twitter is a way to find people, issues, organizations. Twitter is a way to help companies connect to resources and to each other.

ME: Twitter is credited with starting a micro-blogging revolution but people forget that the 140 character limitation originated because of the SMS function. So I say part of Twitter’s success is luck and timing.

SARAH: Ok, true. Interestingly I’ve read research (which I can’t find anymore) that headlines are in the vein of 140-160 characters. It’s a good amount of space for people to absorb information. There is something deep about that and it’s not totally coincidental.

Twitter is an awesome example of how contraints can foster creativity.

(Amen sista! That’s exactly what Jen’s been since Web 2.0 Summit)

We are all drowning in our email due to the length and volume of messages. Twitter provides a great alternative to exchanging information in a compact and efficient way that makes it easier for other people absorb.

ME: Any ideas for the future of Twitter?

SARAH: I think Twitter is the frontrunner in what is a whole new medium – micro-messaging.
Facebook launched their status the same time that Twitter came out in beta. Twitter created a new category in messaging. But as we progress, Twitter will be one of many in this medium, in the way that there are lots of players in the ecosystem of email.

There are companies that create all kinds of layers of routing, and micro-messaging will be the same – personal accounts, work accounts, behind and inside the firewall, public or private systems, etc. Hopefully it will be more like email than IM.

Twitter as a company has an opportunity to define the space and be a huge player but there’s no guarentee it will be. There are many examples of companies that created categories but couldn’t figure out how to stay relevant and succeed in them.

They’ve launched something greater than themselves.

A lot of companies will create pieces of the ecosystem to thrive in. Twitter won’t own the whole picture… but I’m hopeful that Twitter will stay successful.

Sarah, thanks so much for that really thoughtful interview. 

Sarah Milstein is author of “Twitter and the Micromessaging Revolution,” an O’Reilly research report. She is currently founding 20Slides.

For those who want to hear more, attend her session on Wednesday, April 1st @ 10:50am.

~ ~ ~
NOTE: I had originally intended this interview to be about organizing Web2Open but we got sidetracked. Thankfully Sarah has offered to become an author on this blog to provide information and updates about Web2Open as they happen.

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4 Responses to “Sarah Milstein on Twitter, Web2Open and Self.”

  1. [...] CTD Weblog added an interesting post today on Sarah Milstein on Twitter, Web2Open and Self.Here’s a small readingI’m still doing some research but I’ve already found great examples: Wesabe [8], a Bpersonal/B Bfinance/B site, has a feature where you can… [...]

  2. Salvatore Saievaon 26 Feb 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Great dialog Janetti.

    People can find a lot of additional value from Twitter by properly leveraging the Favorites feature.

    Favorites are public content, meaning they can be viewed by someone who isn’t logged into Twitter, so the tweets you Favorite can be very useful to someone visiting your Twitter profile if you choose wisely and Favorite tweets that are meaningful. And with a good list of carefully selected Tweets, your Favorites page can be linked to as a resource from a Website or blog page.

    Here are some more ideas on using Twitter Favorites effectively:




    Salvatore Saieva

  3. Valencioon 27 Feb 2009 at 4:49 am

    Twitter has turned out to be really successful in a short time. The best thing about it is that it concentrates on the user’s actions rather than his friend list, pictures, videos, etc etc. A stripped down version of what really matters.


  4. [...] Sarah Milstein on Twitter, Web2Open and Self. [...]

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