Twitter for networking business: getting ready to step into a professional world

NU PRSSA, Entrepreneurs Club, and IDEA presented a social marketing event #trendingNU at Northeastern University on March 20. Click for more photos.

While some people are still posting their food pictures on Twitter, others have already started a new way to use social media. For those innovators, Twitter, or any other social media platform, can actually be a powerful networking tool for business use.

Tom O’Keefe, better known as the guy behind one of the most well known Twitter accounts, @BostonTweet, is one of those pioneers. During the past five years, he has been tweeting about life in Boston, sending out guides for food, events, breaking news, as well as job or business opportunities. Using Twitter as a main source to promote startups and local business is his current major career.

O’Keefe started @BostonTweet in November 2008. Because of the economic recession, in the very beginning he just wanted to try it out of desperation. However, with it working along successfully, he decided to continue it as a business.

“What I do is mainly being out attending networking events as well as talking about local businesses and restaurants,” said O’Keefe, who has about 80,000 followers. “Twitter makes it perfect for promoting local business. I can just take quick photos and tweet it in real time, instead of having to go home, write an article or blog post, which happens five hours later.”

Joselin Mane, owner of @BostonTweetUp, also saw the importance of using social media in his career.

“I think Twitter is one of the most innovative tools,” he said. “Once you understand it, it opens up the door for you to be able to connect with almost anyone in the world, especially for establishing your own brand.”

Mane used Twitter to build a new media event planning promotional service, helping companies promote and kick off events successfully. He believed that social media, primarily Twitter, has been redefining the way people connect in the world, and will continue to evolve in the upcoming years.

“I think Twitter is going to be more integrated into the applications or tools we use every day, giving us the ability to get information in real time,” Mane said.

In 2009, Time published an article about the future of Twitter, saying “as Twitter grows, it will increasingly become a place where companies build brands, send information to customers, conduct e-commerce and create communities for their users.” During these years seeing Twitter developing into a more professional platform, people can find a trend that it will be more used for business marketing and networking.

“It’s not really going to be called social media in the future. It’s beyond the communication or social tool. It’s connection tool,” Mane said when talking about the future of social media being used in business world. “It’s a way to do market research, a way to analyze, a way to let you know what’s going on in a certain area, to find out what’s happening among the customers so that you can make the decision on product, on services to provide. It’s going to be integrated in everything we do.”

At the same time, Mane pointed out that there are new challenges for startups who want to get involved in this new world of networking.

“The biggest thing that has changed in last several years in regards to social media is that it is becoming more mainstream and more into our daily life,” he said. “At the beginning it was mostly thought leaders, innovators and early adapters that were communicating. The community was smaller so that more what was being shared was visible. Now because of the quantity of the individuals that are on there contributing to the communication, it’s becoming harder to make strong connections.”

Mane suggested that those starting businesses build a strategy to use social networking system such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

“You definitely could take advantage of Twitter in your career. But it’s not easy,” said O’Keefe, who is also facing the new challenge. Instead of keeping all of his connections on Twitter, he is now starting a new business called BostonAve, to help make either personal or business connections between people in a relatively private networking environment.

Brooke Foucault Welles, assistant professor in the department of communication studies at Northeastern University, suggested college students starting thinking of using Twitter to build their own career path.

“I think it’s a really exciting opportunity for young people. A lot of companies, politicians and individuals are now recognizing that they can use social media to make money,” she said. “Twitter is the platform that you can communicate directly to organizations you might be interested in. So you can start to tweet things and to create your identity on Twitter. In this way when companies search you as a job candidate, they will find you really are someone that is knowledgeable and engaged in this field already.”

The growing impact of social media

My final project will focus on how social media, especially Twitter, has been developing during the past five years, and have a discuss about how it will be in the future.

For my paper project I will do a feature story on BostonTweet, who is basically tweeting about life and things to do in Boston. He has been an active Twitter user since 2008, with 20,859 tweets and 78,703 followers. I think he is a good example of using Twitter not only as a social tool, but to aggregate news, bring people together, as well as make a career. This is what we might not have thought about five years before, and it is exciting to see how far it will go and what it will become in the upcoming five years or so. I have scheduled an interview with him on next Wednesday.

For the video and photo project I plan to do a story on a Weibo user who lives in Boston doing the same thing as what BostonTweet does, but on a Chinese platform. I am still waiting to hear from him. If this does not work out, I am thinking to talk to a variety of people, including an expert as media/communication professor, to discuss about how they have been using social media and what they think social media will be like in the future.

Lunar New Year Celebration at Franklin Park Zoo

2013 is the Chinese year of snake. Franklin Park Zoo held a Lunar New Year Celebration in the Tropical Forest’s Hippo Theater on Saturday, Jan 26. The celebration was hosted by Winchester School of Chinese Culture, including Erhu and Guzheng performances, as well as traditional Chinese dances and snake encounters.

I went to the celebration and tweeted about the performances. There were also people from both Boston Neighborhood Network and a newspaper in New York City covering the event with video cameras. I found it fast and convenient when using twitter to cover the celebration since you can live tweet about everything and add photos or videos. When traditional journalists have to take notes and photos, go back to the office, sit down and write the story, you may just enjoy the event and tweet about what you saw and heard in no time. I was surprised to see Zoo New England retweeted my tweets, which made me feel getting involved.

However, There are some negatives of covering a story via Twitter. In my scenario, there was no cell phone signal at the place where the celebration was held. As a result, I had to go out in the middle of the show to use my phone and then got back into the room when I wanted to live tweet about what happened, which could be very annoying. Also, you cannot tell a story fully by tweeting since there is 140 characters limit.

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Who’s tweeting about China?

This week I decided to go back to Twitter and followed a list of interesting/thoughtful Twitter feeds to get a sense of what is going on in China.

There are, actually, tons of Twitter accounts – either official or personal – talking about China. However, very few of them are contributed by Chinese citizens, for China has been blocking Twitter since 2008, right after the Tibet unrest. Instead, most of the feeds are launched in US or UK.

Ministry of Tofu translates Chinese news articles and public opinions into English, reporting what Chinese netizens discussing about current events.

Mike Forsythe, reporter for Bloomberg in Beijing and co-author of China’s Superbank, gives a focus on economic news. As well he tweets a lot about updates on daily news in Beijing.

The Relevant Organs focuses more on politics and international affairs. It is very critical and satirical, which we can easily tell from its name – “relevant organs” is a phrase often used in Chinese official reports or by government officers to pass the buck.

Sam Geall, departmental lecturer in human geography of China at University of Oxford, and executive editor of China Dialogue, is discussing about severe environmental issues in China.

China News Daily is a pretty active Twitter account, basically gathering news from western online media such as Bloomberg, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, VOA, etc.

China SignPost provides analysis of China’s economic, political and security development with special interests in oil, grain, jet engines, ASBM and so on. It tweets about Chinese military occasionally.

SCMP belongs to The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s premiere English language newspaper. News produced in HK always has different angle from that in either China or US, and it is fairly interesting to make comparisons among them.

Other than these, I also followed a few Twitter accounts offered by news organizations, which are Xinhua News Agency, Caixin Media, Reuters China, and Financial Times Asia.