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Social Media Tips & Tricks: Better Use of Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin

FPC Briefing
Sree Sreenivasan
Professor of Journalism, Columbia University
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
June 11, 2009

Date: 06/11/2009 Location: Washington, DC Description: Sree Sreenivasan briefing on
3:00 p.m. EDT


MODERATOR: Welcome to the Foreign Press Center, and thank you for coming out on such short notice. Today we have with us Mr. Sree Sreenivasan, technology expert and Dean of Student Affairs at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he teaches in the digital journalism program. He will present social media tips and tricks, and how to get the most of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

MR. SREENIVASAN: Okay. Thank you very much, and thank you, Miriam. And thank you again to the Foreign Press Center. This is a return visit, and I’m delighted to be here. By the way, you should know that the reason we’re having this event is because email failed. What happened was I sent a message on Monday to say I’m – she was very kind to invite me when she heard I was in town. I’m doing three other workshops, and she said, “Can you squeeze us in for an hour?” And I wrote back saying it won’t be possible. She didn’t get that message. So she was not not planning to have me.

And then I sent a message saying, “I can come,” and I sent that message on Tuesday, which also she didn’t get. And I happened to call on my way to the airport yesterday at 4:30, saying, “Do you have any interest?” And she said, “Wait, I haven’t heard from you in two days, what’s wrong with you?” And here she is, and she was able to pull this together, and now you’re all here. So this is a nice use of old media, if you will, the telephone, and strange things like that.

What we’re going to be doing today is spending some time looking at new ideas on how to deal with social media and all the changes happening there. And I, of course, know some of the people in the room, others are new. And I’m just delighted to spend the time with you. We’ll go till about 4:15 or so, and then I’m going to walk across to the International Center for Journalism. I’m doing a panel – same workshop there.

And if there is something that we don’t get to cover today, please feel free to email me. Let me give you my email address. It’s,, and you can obviously also connect with me through Facebook and Twitter and all of that, and we’ll talk about that.

I thought I would also show you something interesting that I just – or that I was just looking at before this session here, and that is my new business card. And you’ll notice that there is – I have done something new, which -- I mean, you wouldn’t know, because you have not memorized my business card, thank God. But if you’ll look on the bottom right, you’ll see that I added my Twitter handle. This is the proof of the business card. So I went to the office yesterday and I said, “I want new cards, and I want my Twitter handle on my business card,” and so that’s what you see there.

Now of course, people who look at this say, my God, that’s the most crowded card I’ve ever seen already, so yeah. And then they also – there’s also a typo on the card, which is quite funny. It says, “Professor of Personal Practice.” It’s actually Professor of Professional Practice, which -- both sentences don’t really mean much, anyway, but I’ve given out that card to dozens of people, or maybe hundreds of people, and nobody has ever caught that typo, so it’s kind of funny. So it’s still in there. I have to fix it. I have to write them back saying, “Fix that.” But they did put that Twitter thing. So you’re the first people to see that. And it just kind of shows you where things are.

So I wanted to start by showing you this lead from a story that ran the other day. You see there – anybody had a chance to hear about this? “An AP reporter’s official reprimand over an innocuous comment on his Facebook has sparked the ire of union officials.” That means his union. “They’re now demanding that AP clarify its ethics guidelines, and are also urging reporters to watch who they add to their friends list.” So I thought that was like a perfect timing for what we’re about to talk about. This has happened almost exactly two days ago, as you can see this.

So what we’re going to do is look at three different things that I focus on. The three social networks that I am interested in are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. And that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other useful social networks. There are dozens and dozens. I have saved more than 50 invitations from people who have invited me to other networks that I have said, “Thank you,” very politely, “but I don’t have the time for this.” So things like MySpace, Orkut, hi5, (inaudible), Plaxo. There are more than 50 of these things. But that doesn’t mean – I said, that’s for me.

In your world, there might be things that are useful. But what I have found for journalists, these are the three most useful things. And we will look at all three of them, and the three are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. We’ll spend most of the time on Facebook and on Twitter. But I’m just going to start off on LinkedIn. How many of you are on LinkedIn? Just look around you. Actually, it’s kind of interesting. Just look around you. LinkedIn? How many of you are on Facebook? Almost everybody. How many of you are on Twitter? Okay, good. So that’s – that’s a good start.

How many of you are on LinkedIn, and are not sure why or what you’re doing there? Almost all the hands. So that’s kind of interesting as well. What happens is we join a lot of things, right? We join a lot of things and then we’re not sure, exactly. So my friend, Shidu (ph), who is sitting here, is a really smart technology guy who is right here in front, a really smart technology guy, knows his stuff, but he’s a skeptic on Twitter. And that’s good, because you shouldn’t follow every fad that comes along. I find that people who are big fans of Facebook are among the biggest skeptics of Twitter, so -- which is very interesting to me, and (inaudible) a good thing.

My friend from Germany here said that, you know, he called it – he said we were illiterate about some of these things. And I thought that’s also a good thing. We will -- that is -- natural skepticism of journalists is important. But it’s also good you all came here with an open mind. That’s why you’re here. It’s a very busy day. There’s lots happening in the White House, everywhere else, but you are here today, and I appreciate that.

So let’s look at LinkedIn. And what I have found is that LinkedIn is really appropriate and useful if you think about it as a professional networking tool – professional networking tool, not one for non-work stuff. And what you do is you go in there, you create an account, as all of you know. And then the LinkedIn people say that LinkedIn’s use kicks in, usefulness kicks in, when you have more than 60 contacts that you have connected with. Once you have 60 connections, then the usefulness will kick in.

Can I say to the lady with the mic, why don’t you sit down? It’s going to be a while, I presume, before questions. So I feel really bad that you’re standing. So what – so think about that. If you’re on LinkedIn and you’re finding it kind of useless, that might be one of the reasons. I do a lot of these workshops for non-journalists, and I focus in those cases mostly on job hunting and finding work on LinkedIn. And today we’re not going to spend as much time, we’re going to spend it more like looking at it as a reporter for sources and resources and things like that.

I want to first say that if you are interested in job hunting and using social media, especially LinkedIn, I want to give you an address to write down:, A-l-b-a. Jason Alba writes as blog called, “So you’re on LinkedIn, now what?” And it’s a very ideal kind of thing. You’ve spent some time there. Jason Alba is a great resource on this topic of how to use social media for job hunting. If you have any relatives, nephews, cousins, nieces, whatever, who are looking for work or need help, you should definitely talk to them – I mean, look at his blog and see this.

I also want to say that when -- I have recently had the opportunity to post some jobs on various websites, and the best applicants I got were from LinkedIn. Not only were the quality of the applicants really good, what LinkedIn does is it sends you the applicant’s information in a very practical, useful way – better than their resume, because if you look at a standard resume, a standard American resume -- and I know in other countries there are other things. In India, for example, even a 21-year-old will have a 4-page resume of everything they did in high school and kindergarten, and everything else was put in. Whereas in America – American journalists typically have a one-page resume.

But you know, everybody on the resume will be put three references. Have you ever, if you’ve every done any hiring, seen a bad reference among those three? Never, right? Because they’re all positive references. But LinkedIn can do for you is you can see who else has worked with this person who you may know, or where else has this person worked that you may know. So that’s how – that’s why it’s useful as a job hunting tool, but it’s also a very useful work-related tool for journalists to find sources.

So let me give you an example of how I converted to LinkedIn when I’m dealing with journalists and dealing with this. In the old days, that is 2006, if somebody would write to me saying, “Hey, can you connect me with, say, Shidu,” what I’d do is I would cc Shidu on the note – and this has happened hundreds of times – and I would say “Shidu, meet Jane, she wants some help. Good luck.” Now Shidu is stuck with Jane, right, because she is cc’d on the note. He is now stuck with her. She might be psychotic. She might be all kinds of problems, but he is stuck with her, and he doesn’t know what to do, and he’s cursing me. Out of his kindness, he may be replying or whatever, but he’s stuck.

Now what happens is – and this is an example. In about – I believe it was 2006-- a Japanese journalist came to see me and said, at the end of the interview, “Do you know such and such a person?” Very senior journalist, very senior journalist. And I said, “I mean, I certainly know who he is, I’m not connected directly. Let’s go onto Facebook – I mean onto LinkedIn, and let’s see if I’m connected to him.” And it turns out I was connected by one degree or two degrees. Somebody was between me.

So what I tell people now is go into Linked in, search the person and see how you might know them, and that’s what we did. Before she left my office, we sent a note to someone I know, saying, “Please forward it to this last person.” And then what happens is -- this the magic of LinkedIn -- that the person who I introduced her to has a choice whether to forward it or not, and then the next person has a choice whether to forward it or not. And the final recipient can decide whether he should respond or not. So there’s checks and balances along the way. The wonderful thing was by the time she got back to her hotel -- this is Columbia University, New York -- by the time she had gotten back to her midtown hotel, that last person had contacted and said, “Here is my phone number, call me.” All right? That kind of power is very useful for journalists.

If you are looking for a source, somebody you know you need to contact, I would definitely use LinkedIn. Now, LinkedIn is not going to solve all problems, you will not find all sources on there. Not everybody is on there. Some industries in particular are growing in use of LinkedIn, and that’s what’s happened. Mostly technology was where it started. Now you’re seeing a lot of journalists, you’re seeing a lot of medical level, a lot of political consultants, others are growing. As more people use it, the more useful it becomes.

I would also say if you’re using LinkedIn, you need to spend time working on your profile, making your profile more useful. And how do you do that? By making it 100 percent. Have you noticed, where it’ll say 60 percent, 35 percent, make it 100 hundred percent. How do you make it 100 percent, by putting in a photograph, putting in some information about where you went to college, where you went to high – I don’t think you have to do high school, but they have some criteria that makes it 100 percent. Get as close to 100 percent as possible. Then it will become useful. We will answer a lot of questions about LinkedIn.

But one of the questions that comes in is, “Well, I’m not looking for work, is this useful?” Now, I’m not looking for work, but I found it as a great way for me to get out of the business of introducing people to each other, right? Now I say, “Go into LinkedIn and see my contacts there.” So part of my thing is I’m very lazy and very cheap, so this is a great way for me not to do this anymore, so that’s helpful.

But more importantly is that people can go and do a lot of research in an interesting and important way. What’s also happening is LinkedIn results are now showing up within Google and other search engines. Have you noticed that? So that’s where that’s important. Curate your social media profile, curate it. That means take care of it, add information to it, build it, make it robust. That doesn’t mean that you have to spend hundreds of hours on it. I spend very little time on LinkedIn.

I go in to answer these invitations to connect. That’s what I do with it. So let’s take a look at this invitation from Charles Robin (ph). Is Charles here? No. So good. So we’ll make fun of him if it’s not good. All right. So we’re going to go in here, and we click on invitation to connect. And look at this, what he’s done is exactly the right idea. Remind people of who you are and why you should connect. You see that? “Professor, thanks for your time. I’m glad we have (inaudible) in the vital workshop – my workshop.” So this is somebody said, “I met you today, please connect with me.” And so I just hit “accept.” Does everybody see that?

Most times what happens, people use the default language, and they’ll just say, “Connect, I’d like to add you to my professional network.” That is a waste of my time and their time. Not because I’m so famous or so important or anything. Always you have to reintroduce yourself in cyberspace to the people you already know from real life.

This is a common thing that happens – you go to a convention, you go to a conference. Let’s say, you all went to cover the Democratic National Convention in Denver and you’re hanging out and you met this guy Chuck, who is a terrific guy. You are hanging out and he helps you with your story. He’s just a nice guy. And he says, “We’re going to be friends.” And then, four days later, you come back and there’s an email or an invitation to LinkedIn from Charles Smith, and you’re like, “Who is Charles Smith, I don’t remember any Charles” – delete, ignore, right? You don’t know. So you have to take the effort to reestablish your connections with the people you already know. And that’s hard for people to understand that. You have seen that for years. You have to do that with email. You have to do that on the web as well.

So give people a reason not to ignore you. Right? Give people a reason not to ignore who you are and what you’re doing. So I’m going to hit accept. The one thing I would suggest is that we’re all new in this. I should say – I should have started by saying that this is radio in 1912. This is TV in 1950. That means there are no rules, there are no hard and fast decisions. It’s all kind of – we’re all learning together. So one of the things I’d say is don’t ever, unless it’s a real spammer, do “Flag as spam.” That means -- because, you know, it’ll get the attention LinkedIn. It might get this person bumped off. I also never put “I don’t know this user,” because it might be that I’d forgotten this person. Maybe we were in high school together. I don’t remember. I – or maybe if it’s just a new person trying to get a lot of contacts. You know, it’s harmless. So what I would just say is, “Archive.” If you hit that, it goes away and he is not alerted. LinkedIn has not gotten the message. Do you see the difference? It’s a nice thing to do.

And you can easily do – so I’ll just hit accept and then it just gets accepted. So it’s a simple way of doing that. And that’s what I do with LinkedIn. So it doesn’t require hundreds of hours of work. LinkedIn also has a nice section of groups, where you can go and you’ll see the groups have all kinds of services. They have discussions, news, jobs, updates, member settings, et cetera. People are still getting used to LinkedIn. Like I said, when I – when we did this quick poll, a lot of people weren’t on it, but they don’t have an idea of all the useful things on there.

And finally, because I don’t want to spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, I want to talk about LinkedIn answers. I think answers is one of the most useful parts of LinkedIn for journalists. And you can use it to ask questions about anything you want, literally anything. You’ve discovered that people on the Internet have a lot of time on their hands, right? You knew this already. And you’ll find that people on LinkedIn have a lot of times on their hands. And what happens here is that you will find it’s a good way to find questions about – you’re working on a story. Look at this, examples of questions: “Retirees website for non-profit. How to develop a crude oil trading business plan.” My God. “Is there an association or an official hangout for large organization sustainability officers?” If you’re working on a story about sustainability, you’d actually want to know the answer to that question. If you’re doing green stories for your web – you know, for your news outlets at home, you can ask almost anything, and there will be people there – who – best DVD seminars on entrepreneurship.

Are you a Canadian and want to join a similar group? I don’t know what that is – dude (ph). I don’t know what dude – are there Canadians here? What is dude?

QUESTION: I have no idea.

QUESTION: I have no idea.

MR. SREENIVASAN: See, so aren’t you curious what that is? You’ve got to -- it’s so famous that they can say it’s a group similar to dude. It sounds scary. I don’t want to know what that is. Okay, so what you do is you can see all the people answering questions. Look at those numbers. I’m sorry, one second. These people – these are – number two, Mr. Frank Feder (ph) has answered 219 questions this week – this week. What is he doing? What is he doing?

QUESTION: He’s a futurist.

MR. SREENIVASAN: He’s a futurist. I would like a job as a futurist, because you can never make a mistake. It’s all about the future, if anybody makes a prediction. Look at software engineer Rumesh Kumar (ph) at CTO, you know. It’s interesting to see this.

But what I’d also say is that if you know – if you’re looking for expertise or looking for sources for stories, some of these people are sources in a way that they know a lot. How do you know they know a lot? Because you’ll read that answer. And there’s a kind eBay system, rating system. So think of this as eBay for answers, okay? And you’ll say, “Well, I could never trust this.” But if told you a dozen years ago, there is going to be a service that millions of people are going to send millions of dollars to strangers for crap in their basement, you know, you wouldn’t believe it. But that’s what eBay is. Am I allowed to say crap at the –

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. SREENIVASAN: Yeah, okay. Sorry. And this is also being recorded and – oh, this is – I apologize, okay. And I don’t know if crap is a word that translates well in all these languages, but it might.

So just think about this. That doesn’t mean you -- I’m not saying, oh, use this, and then give up the telephone or talking to people. As I said -- our experience with Miriam -- you’re all sitting here today because email fails sometimes. Old technology works better sometimes. The phone sometimes works, right? So – anyway, so just think about this, and do this. I know some people who are unemployed or underemployed who spend their time doing this, building up their brand, building up their marketing, establishing authority. On the web, authority, credibility, comes not from a degree that you put on your wall, but from showing your experience, from what you’ve done, from sharing information, sharing knowledge. That’s an example of this.

So the way I would think about this is to think about when I’m looking for something, there are also answers already in all these sectors. Look at this: administration, business travel, careers, hiring, international law and legal, management; a lot of things you guys cover. You don’t cover it every day, but sometimes you’re forced to cover it. There’s things in here, and so you can check that out.

Any questions about this? Click on the answers button at the top of Linked-In. Let’s get some Linked-in questions from anybody. Yeah.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, the – when you answer, “I don’t know this person,” this person knows that you answered that?

MR. SREENIVASAN: I believe so. What I’ve done is I’ve never said, “I don’t know this person.” I just archive it, get it out. I don’t want to punish them, so I just – do you know what it does? Has anybody tried that or had that? It’d be nice if it said, “I don’t know this person, please send them an email asking them to explain the connection,” right? I mean, that’s fair, and that’s what you should do. But they don’t necessarily do that.

You had a question? Somebody in the back? Yes.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, Chris (inaudible) from German Daily (inaudible). When I post a question on LinkedIn, who gets the question? I mean, everybody, or just the (inaudible)?

MR. SREENIVASAN: No, just the people who are just hanging out waiting for questions. They’re just like, hanging out here, waiting for questions.

QUESTION: Hasn’t got anything to do with the kind of list of friends I have or –

MR. SREENIVASAN: No, you can send it to your list of friends. You can send it to 200 lists of contacts you already have. You can send it just to them if you want.

What – I would just ask a question. Look at this. You click on “Ask a Question,” and then, going to see what happens. “Only share this question with my connections,” do you see that? You can choose that, or send the question, categorize it. Is it a specific geographic location? Maybe you’re a TV journalist and you want only people with camera -- who can be on camera in the DC area. And then, is my – “Is your question regarding recruiting, promoting, job-seeking,” so this is not really – I don’t know which one of these; it’s probably not any of those things. But I post questions on there. You can see my questions, and all.

I was doing this session in Boston, and somebody raised their hand and said, “A friend of mine I saw had asked a question, and I had a couple minutes at work, and I answered this legal question that – you know, three paragraphs. It took me five minutes. My law firm would have charged that person $500 for that answer, right? And I was happy to give it away.”

That’s one of the things that you may have noticed on the Internet, that we, as journalists, do stories about how bad the Internet is, and people are being scammed, blah, blah, blah. But I believe most of the stuff on the Internet is harmless or, at best, neutral – you know, at worse, kind of neutral, most of the stuff. There’s a lot of terrible, terrible stuff, but most of it is kind of harmless. People want to help, be helpful, want to be nice. I posted questions here and I’ve gotten great answers that I’ve been able to use in my work, and so that’s what I -- for example, are you familiar with the airline search site Kayak?

Everybody is familiar with that, right? I heard it about first by posing a question. I wanted to know about new websites, Kayak. And Kayak is now like five years old, but it’s a wonderful service. That’s where I go to get airline – that’s where I go first, right? So that’s the kind of thing where you will find that people can be helpful.

And then, using – that’s why the more people you’re connected with, your network becomes bigger. And then when you need a source at IBM, you can find them faster through LinkedIn.

Any questions? Any other questions?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) But I don’t have the time (inaudible). But I am curious, I want to learn.

MR. SREENIVASAN: That’s the right attitude. You have an open mind, right?

QUESTION: Yes. And Andre Sitr (ph), from TASS. Suppose I do want to join after your presentation? Do I need to – do I need an invitation, basically, or do I just go to the LinkedIn, or whatever it is, and --


QUESTION: -- join by myself? And how do I build my network after that?

MR. SREENIVASAN: Okay. So what I would do is I would go – thank you. That’s an excellent question. Almost everything you see here is going to be, like, open, and you can just join. And you will just go in and put – you’ll create a profile, and then what you can do is you can search to see who you might be connected to, maybe some people here. You start by maybe writing to me and connecting. Search for me, find me, connect with me there. Depending on where you work and how popular it is in your home country, there might be a lot of people you already know.

One word of caution. A lot of these search service – a lot of these web 2.0 services say,
“Hey, why don’t we see who’s in your Gmail contacts who you know already?” Or AOL. Do not enter your information on there. If you’re not careful, it might send an invitation to everybody on your list. And I got this piece of advice from a group like this a couple years ago where somebody said, “Sree, even if you teach people nothing else, teach them not to do that.” I said, “Why?” He said in the old days, as when Facebook was just starting out, 2006 or so, seven, he did that, and an email went to everybody who he had ever corresponded with on email.

Now, think about whose on your list. People you used to know, people you liked at one point you now hate, who now hate you, sources that were close to you, now you burned them or they burned you. Something went wrong, right? And he did that. And one of the notes went to a woman who used to be his girlfriend. And this is early enough that getting a note out of the blue that said, “I want to be your friend,” kind of caused a lot of anxiety and there was therapy involved and all of that.


MR. SREENIVASAN: It got very difficult.

And this is before Facebook diluted the word “friend,” right? I mean, it’s ruined the word “friend.” It just doesn’t mean anything anymore. At my Georgetown conference, somebody came up and said, “Hey, I’m your friend on Facebook.” And I said, “Hi, who are you?” You know, because there’s no connection. I’m not his friend. I wish they had settings like, acquaintance, barely know him, would like to know him, creepy guy who I don’t trust, right? My ex (inaudible). Whatever. But they sort of have that -- we will come to that.

So explore it, play with it, and see what you can. I would also want to say, when I said I only use these three networks, depending on the country you’re from, there might be other networks that are more useful, more relevant. So, for example, anybody here from Brazil? So in Brazil, none of these are the big thing. What’s the big thing? Orkut, O-R-K-U-T. Is anybody using it or heard of it? Nobody – a few, a couple of people, maybe.

So Orkut is an example. It’s a Google product, which is a failure in America, because none of you have heard about it. A Google product that nobody’s heard of? How can that be successful? Well, in Brazil, every Brazilian in the world is connected on Orkut. If I had a Portugese edition of a book I wanted to sell, let’s say, I would not buy an ad on their version of The New York Times. I would buy an ad on Orkut, because every Brazilian is on Orkut.

So in other countries, it might be other things. Let’s say, in India, a lot of people are on Friendster, and some are on Orkut. You know, it’s changing slowly. But Facebook seems to have come to most of the world. Is that correct in – as I understand it. There have been Facebook knock-offs. In Germany, there’s a very famous Facebook knock-off that even has the same colors and everything as that.

But anyway, let’s move on.

We’re now going to move to Facebook, and we’re going to talk about Facebook. So Facebook is the greatest time sink in human history, right? You go in for 2 minutes; you come out 2 hours – 20 minutes later. You go in for 20 minutes; you come out 2 hours later. And it’s – it’s something that I find very useful, very – it’s a lot of fun, but there are a lot of things I hate about it. So we’re going to talk about how to upgrade your Facebook experience, how to – some concrete tips. And I’m going to use the word “hate” a lot, which I’m also sure is not supposed to be used within the walls of this room. But we – I hate a lot of things about Facebook. But I love Facebook. But I hate a lot of things about it.

And we’re going to talk about that in a second.

One big thing that’s about to happen – if you’re using Facebook, you already know this -- on Friday -- Friday night, midnight on Friday night, they’re going to -- there is going to be this big land-grab, because people are going to go and get their names. You can do (inaudible). So people are all going to be awake – not all; many people are going to be awake. Anybody here planning already to do this? You were already planning to be up that night to do this?

Now, my own take on this is I don’t know how useful that is, really, because Facebook, unlike LinkedIn or a webpage, you don’t – people aren’t going to go in there and start typing your address. They will find you through search more likely than they would by going there. Having said that, I’m going to stay up and get my name. Turns out you cannot get three; five letters are the minimum on that. So I’ll get Sreenak (ph), which is my typical user handle online.

But more importantly, let’s look at some of the things I hate about Facebook. So you go in here, and you have these friend requests, so you click on friend – you all have seen this before, and I’m going to blow this up here. And as this is loading, I just want to say that if LinkedIn is 100 percent professional, Facebook I would have preferred was 100 percent personal. But I find Facebook is 60 percent professional or 40 percent professional, it’s like all a mix, and that’s what’s happening. I know there are people out there who want it to be different, who want personal and professional, separate worlds. But that’s not always possible.

An example I can give you is an editor I know who was very proud that he had no personal things on Facebook. But what had happened is a lot of his authors, a lot of his editors, they’re all now on Facebook and connecting with him. And he’s not happy about it, but he’s stuck with it. So he doesn’t know what to do. So that’s one of the problems, and we’ll talk about that in a second.

So now let’s look at this and let’s just blow this up a little bit so you can see it a little more clearly. And you can see here – now, notice the difference in the top three. Which one am I going to say yes to first? The bottom one first. Right? I’m going to say the bottom one, because he’s given me a little context. Ah, right, I know (inaudible), and then I’m going to approve -- and it says where he is, and I’m going to approve him. Does everybody understand that? Whereas the other two, now, I’ve got to think for a second, right? And if it’s even one second, that’s -- one second is too much to think about, like, why do I know him?

It turns out I know Andrea (ph) very well. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to add her to a list. I’m going to add her to a list called attendee. She’s attended my workshops. She’s – oh, so you can add her to multiple lists. She’s also an alum of Columbia journalism school. I’m also going to add her to another list I have here called veteran journalists, okay? And I’m going to go up here and then hit confirm. Right? I’m going to hit confirm. The choice is that -- ignore is the same as archive; does everybody understand that? What is one of the disadvantages of hitting ignore in Facebook? Anybody know what happens when you hit ignore? Because that person can re-invite you. They’ll notice that you haven’t approved them, and they can re-invite you.

So one of the things that happens is people come up to you two weeks later at a cocktail party and say, “Hey, I invited you on Facebook, what happened, why didn’t you connect?” You say, “Oh, Facebook, I don’t know, my children forced me to be on it, I don’t know, I barely use it, I’m sorry.” Just walk away, right? But what happens is that you have to learn how to use this and what happens.

So, I’m going to take Parzay (ph) and add him to the south Asian journalist list, or whatever. I can do anything I want with this. And then I thought it was amusing that Bernard Kerik wants to be my friend. You all know who he is, right? He was almost – what was he almost? Homeland Security Czar or Secretary of Homeland Security. Anyway – but Rosie O’Donnell one day wanted to be my friend. And this is not – Rosie doesn’t want to be my friend. What is it? It’s like her business people trying to increase her connections, and that’s what that is. It’s all BS, right?

So you can go here. The other thing I hate on Facebook is the idea of friend suggestions, because here’s what happens. When you go on friend suggestions -- let’s just go in here and let’s look at Marcie Young (ph), right? So I say, oh, “add as friend,” that’s not bad. So you hit “add as friend,” and look what happens. I now have to justify why I want to be her friend. Right?

What had happened was that she was introduced to me by Melanie Holland (ph). Do you see Melanie – it’s tiny letters. Melanie Holland (ph) introduced me. So what am I going to write to Marcie? “Hi, Marcie. I don’t know you, but I want to be your friend.” It sounds really creepy and strange, so I just ignore it, because it’s weird. So I hate that feature within Facebook.

But – so for example, somebody I will add is – Darryl Demonte is a very famous environmental journalist in South Asia, and I will want him to – add him as a friend. But I just leave that there because it’s good to present in conversations.

But you see what I’m saying, right, that this whole thing has ruined how this happens. I also want to say that Facebook is also a reflection of you and how you see the world and how you see the value of your friends’ time. Now, look at the list of nonsense and crap that people send on Facebook, right? People waste a lot of time on Facebook. So look at this. I’ve got here – it says, two Mafia Wars requests. That means not one person, but two separate people thought it was a valuable use of their time and my time to send me that. There’s Obama-ize yourself. There’s a Shisha’s Birthday request. There’s a Dragon Wars request, a British Gifts request – I mean, what is that?

What I do love, Cute Monkeys request. The one I like -- and I want to give them credit for being honest – one Worthless Gifts request. It’s called Worthless Gifts request. So that’s pretty funny, right? But everything else is a waste of everybody’s time.

So what I would say is if you’re going to join Facebook, don’t be the kind of person that wastes everybody’s time by sending around this stuff to other people.

Another part of Facebook that I want to talk about for a second is the poking. Have you seen that, the poking? On the German site, the equivalent word is cuddle on this thing. So it sounds strange to those of us who are older. It sounds like a really strange thing. But here’s the poking. And poking is, in effect, the equivalent of this (knocks on table) hey, checking in, how are you doing? So in the old days -- that is, 2008 -- you might have sent an email or picked up the phone. Now, what it is, is they go poking, and they go like this. And it’s a pretty harmless word. I say, you know, poke my wife, I don’t care. And people poke my wife. It’s fine.

But among some younger people -- and we have some young people in the audience, poking does have a kind of idea of, like, flirting and being – you know, a little bit like – that true? Yeah. So that’s what it does. Also, if you poke some – if somebody pokes you and you poke them back, you get a disease.


MR. SREENIVASAN: No, I’m kidding. If you poke them back, what happens is they can see your entire wall and everything for a week. Is that correct? Yeah. So – so you always find, like, a young person and ask them these questions. And that’s important.

So how do you prevent poking, right? You prevent poking by doing a simple thing: not poking back. Now, it prevents all of these people from poking you. So, for example, you know, some of the people on here are really good friends. My cousin is on here, my brother-in-law, and we just poke each other, thinking we’re communicating. But that’s not communication, that’s just like laziness, right? So you stop and then they can’t again poke you, and then that’s it. You just don’t poke back. Don’t remove the poke, and don’t poke back, and it ends the poking madness.

So let me step back and – first, let’s stop there for a second. Any questions about Facebook? Raise your hand, and somebody will come by. I’m going to address other aspects of it, as well. But let me get a sense of what you folks are interested in about Facebook. Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any tips on how – sorry. I’m Andrea Lee (ph) with CBC Radio. Do you have any tips on how to not let it become overwhelming, from all of that stuff?

MR. SREENIVASAN: Okay, okay. How do you let Facebook not be overwhelming? It’s a very good question. And how you do it is – depends on your kind of – the way you use technology, how you use information.

Think about this. A lot of the conversations we have about this I used to have with my dad and other people about other technologies. I still remember this when we talked first about the fax. Right? Why would you want fax when you have the telex (ph)? The Telex is so good. Why would you want the fax? It shows up any time. It rings in your bedroom. Remember people who used to have fax machines in their bedroom? It would, like, ring in the bedroom. It’s a terrible thing. Why would I want that? The telex works great.

Then the same people, when email came around, “Why would you want email, this is too much, I don’t – you know, fax is great. Why would you want email?” So, like that, with each technology, we all learn to use it, adapt, and work with it to the best of our abilities.

Particularly for Facebook, I have friends who do Facebook -- timed Facebook use, right? So they will say, “I’m going to spend 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes in the evening, and that’s it.” Or, I get a little Facebook break right in the middle of the day for 20 minutes, 10 minutes, whatever. So that’s one way to do it.

The other time is that you find yourself a lot of – I mean, we think of ourselves as highly productive, which you all are, and you’re all geniuses. But we also spend a lot of time waiting around and sitting around waiting for – you know, waiting in line for the bus, waiting in line for the train. And that’s where, if you use a mobile applications of Facebook and Twitter, you’ll find that while you’re hanging out in the doctor’s office, you can get a lot of this stuff done. So it depends on how smart you are about this.

On a side note, Gmail now has a new feature which you may have seen which times out, gives you -- forces you to take a 15-minute break if you want. It sets it up and it says -- every four hours forces you – it says – warns you, then logs off, so that you can actually stretch and talk to your families and other things. Right?

In fact, speaking of families, one of my friends announced one day, “I have half a wife.” My god, what does that mean? And he said in the old days -- that is 2008 -- he and his wife would sit around – that joke is getting old now, right? I can’t keep using the same thing. But anyway, his wife, after they put the kids to bed, would watch TV together, read together, even answer emails together, you know, plan their week. Now what happens? She puts the kids to bed and says, “Bye, I’m off to Facebook land,” and disappears, and he sees her in the morning.

So what did I tell him to do? Join Facebook, see what’s so interesting, participate, get involved. That doesn’t mean you stop reading. It doesn’t mean – but you have to have that discipline. And it’s hard, right? It’s really, really hard. We all know email addicts. We all know people who are like stuck blogging, (inaudible) reads a lot of blogs and their eyes are, like, glazing over. That happens.

I’ll take one more Facebook question and do some more stuff. Yeah.

QUESTION: Did you actually tell the husband to go on Facebook to find his wife? I mean, that’s a really sad day.


MR. SREENVIVASAN: Oh, I’ll tell you what is sad. I’ll tell you, I’ve (inaudible) relationship (inaudible), look, if your wife says to you, or your husband says to you every night, “I’m going to the club,” right, you’d go find out what’s at the club, right? You’d – not like casing her, but join and participate. And look, one of the – I’m not one to give relationship advice. One of the saddest sights in America is my wife and I sitting in bed with laptops emailing each other.

So, what happens is if Shidu says to me, “Hey, are you free for dinner,” I won’t actually turn to her and say, “Are we free for dinner June 6th?” I won’t do that because she’s in the middle of something. I’ll just email it to her and say, “Are we free,” or whatever. You know, that’s just – so I’m not one to give any relationship advice.

But okay, let’s move on. With Facebook – sorry, one more question? Yeah.

QUESTION: Two general ones, but what is the journalistic use of Facebook? Why should I start wasting my time on this?

MR. SREENVIVASAN: Okay. So the same – what has happened is that a lot of people waste their time on Facebook, but if you are developing sources, you’re connecting with people, it gives you great insight into the kinds of ways they waste their time.

But it also gives you insight on where they are, what they are doing. I was able to use this just the other day. There was a source that I desperately needed to get in touch with. I emailed. No response. I called. No response. So I’m like, “Is he ignoring me? What’s happened?” He posted a Facebook thing of him kayaking somewhere in North Carolina, right? You see what I mean?

So, that right there saved our relationship, in the sense that I am not thinking, “Man, he is ignoring me. What have I done?” So, it’s not like I’m going to tell you that you’re going to break Watergate based on Facebook. But if journalism is, in part, dealing with sources and your relationship with sources, this is a way of finding out a little bit more about them, being in touch with them occasionally.

What I find -- like I’m very critical of some PR people who will only contact you when they have something to sell, right? But what about journalists, who only contact people when they have something to ask, when they need something? Facebook is a low-key way of -- you read something, you say, “Hey, that was” -- you know, they post a comment -- say you post a comment. You never know when that reaction can be taken to the next step, or that relationship.

So, here is an example. You’re -- let’s look at this. Let’s just read what -- some of the things that people post. People post a lot of nonsense, but let’s look at this here. CNN posted an article called, “The Most Dangerous Search Terms on the Internet.” I would like to read that piece, so I will read it. And then what I could do is just comment and say, “Thank you, that was a good piece.” Or, I can just hit “like.” I don’t even have to -- so it’s just building that relationship.

You pick the people and you -- I’m not saying do it for everybody, but you will find some very senior people from government and other places, think tanks, who are on here, who are just kind of hanging out and posting things. So if you see something here -- here is a reporter. He is posting some people in Iraq with him. But then there is also a lot of other nonsense, as you can see here, as well. And so, you can hit “like,” or whatever else you can do on there, right?

So, let me go up here, and let me tell you a couple of other things -- hold on for a second -- a couple of other things on Facebook that I use. I think of Facebook as if it were an open house at a big garden party for New Year’s Day, okay? Now, I live in a tiny Manhattan apartment, so it’s fantasy world. But, okay. So you all know what an open house is, and how you would have a party, a big party of a large garden? What would you do? You would invite only your friends, their friends or their spouses, their children, people you know well, people you want to get to know well. This new person joined the office, and you would like to invite him. So, what you will do, invite him on December 28th, rather than earlier. You know, that list is kind of a moving list. You invite people.

And that’s how I think about Facebook. A lot of people think about Facebook like that, or they think, “I will only invite my best 20 friends to it.” And that’s fine. Make a decision. But the more important thing is where are you -- what are you doing at that party? Are you letting them all march through your house and use your personal bedroom, or your personal bathroom, and go into your medicine cabinet? Or are they using the porta-potty, which is on the lawn of the garden? Right?

That’s the difference in Facebook. And what I am trying to say is Facebook gives you immense control of what people can see of your house or your Facebook account. Most people leave it open, default, and therefore you invite these 200 people and they are all in your medicine cabinet, examining your pills and, oh, whatever else is going on in your life. So make sure you can do whatever it takes to control that.

How do you control this? By going into the settings, and under privacy settings controlling what people see. Do you remember with Andrea, one of the women that I became a friend with? I added her to multiple lists. So there is a practical use of it, so that when I am going on here -- by the way, if you are wondering what is this program that keeps popping -- like showing you a preview of the next page -- did you see that?

By going here, for example -- let me show you Facebook. So I just mouse over this, and it should just show you the next -- it should show you the page without going in. It’s a nice, quick use. It’s called Cooliris. It’s a tool that you can add to Firefox. How many of you are on Firefox? Most of you, right? So you should go and find it. It’s very useful. You can control how long you will hover over something when it shows you.

But here is what I do with Facebook. So I have a section here called “Family/Friends,” right? So I click on that, and what it does, it puts only my friends, people I have designated as Family/Friends, right on my book here, right?

So, here is what you’re doing. You’re a journalist. What you do is, if you have sources in the White House who are on Facebook and you happen to be their friend, you have a White House -- click, all the White House, what’s going on. You click Congress, all the congressional staffers. Click on Think Tanks, all the think tank people. It’s a very good way to see into their lives. If they’re smart, they’re not telling you all the details of this. But you get a sense of what’s going on.

If you see a lot of people saying, “Oh, my God, emergency meeting, 10:00 p.m., emergency meeting 10:00 p.m.,” it might be a story. Or, it might be nothing. But this is the way that you can use it, as a journalist. Use those lists, create those lists. And when I said control who sees your medicine cabinet, create a list of -- like, you could have a list called “creepy people I cannot say no to,” or, “my bosses who I don’t like,” or whatever. You can create any list you want, and then you can go to the privacy settings and control what people in that list see about your stuff. Does that make sense? So that’s the way it happens.

What happens is most people don’t know any better. They just join it, and then they post whatever they’re eating, and whatever sandwiches they’re eating, and boring stuff. But sometimes an interesting thing. You look to see what are people reading, right? If you go on there, people post, “I am reading this article about X.” Suddenly, if a lot of your congressional contacts are reading a new foreign affairs article about something by Henry Kissinger, shouldn’t you be reading it? Maybe, maybe not, right?

I mean, those are the kinds of things that -- this is giving -- it’s removing a curtain, and giving you insight. It’s not giving you deep meaning, right? But it’s giving you a taste of what’s happening in their lives that may or may not have a practical use. But you -- the more you’re out there, you will see -- you will also connect with friends that you haven’t had in a long time, and there is a whole personal side of it.

Right now, what we do is a lot of photography we do on this. We take photographs, we throw it up there. You don’t email photographs any more in our family. We just throw up the picture, you tag the people in the picture. There is a way to say, “This is grandpa, this is daddy, this is mommy,” and then they all get alerts that they have been tagged, and then they can see their pictures. So we don’t email photos around, we don’t put them -- and you could listen to all of this and say, “It’s so sad,” but it’s also all a matter of we don’t have time, this is the way we use it.

And nowadays, with kids especially, lots of people are very careful about what they do with photographs. And you can be extremely careful, as well. So now I am clicking this. Here is somebody’s photos, and she has put in, like, her pictures of her kids on her wall. And so here is what I am going to do. I am going to just put that photo, and I’m just going to say “like.” It’s a nice photo of her kids. She’s one of my friends. So that’s it. I mean, it’s a way to connect with her. It’s not a deep, meaningful connection, but it’s better than poking, and it’s better than not doing anything. That’s the difference. Right?

So, again, by the way, I should say I’m not here to convert you or turn you all into Facebookers, or anything like that. I just want to show you what is out there, and what is possible.

All right, let’s move on to Twitter. We have about 20 minutes or so, 25 minutes. And what I will say is that we can -- well, let this come up here a second -- that with Twitter, it’s something that I have found is a very useful way to listen for journalists. It’s not a way of talking, alone. People think about this as, “Gee, this is all for talking.” But it is -- I find much more useful as a tool for listening, and that’s what journalists should do. Journalists should be listening, and looking for story trends, story ideas.

You had a Facebook question?

QUESTION: Well, it’s actually Twitter.

MR. SREENIVASAN: Okay, okay. No, but I think they need it for recording.


MR. SREENIVASAN: You are being recorded right now.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) and I work for an inter-access show. And we are trying to, you know, find a way to incorporate Facebook and Twitter into our inter-access show, so we will have, you know, the host of the show post whatever the show is going to be about, and then people will comment on it or ask questions, and then we will post that on the show.


QUESTION: But do you have any tips on how to incorporate kind of the inter-
activity --


QUESTION: -- to all these things?

MR. SREENIVASAN: I do. A couple of things. You will see CNN is kind of the champion of this, right? They’re doing so much of it. There was a very funny kind of Jon Stewart take on this saying, you know, “Wait, I thought journalists were supposed to be telling us what’s going on, not asking the audience.” But it was kind of funny.

But what I would say is that with -- a couple of things that they do very smartly. They don’t actually put the live feed on there, because you don’t know what people are going to say. They cut and paste into Word documents, and that’s what they put on there, right?

So, again, it’s not that your audience is going to tell you the most interesting things. You’re going to tell them. But there might be questions they’re answering, or you’re doing an instant poll, or things like -- that’s how I would do it. I would use it as a conversation starter, and get them engaged, and keep you there.

Look, one of the -- Al Jazeera, of all places, had to turn to social media, had to turn to YouTube, right? In most parts of the country, you can’t get Al Jazeera, except on YouTube. Is that still true? It’s changed now? But not in New York City, though, for example.

QUESTION: No, you can now get us on a public TV.



MR. SREENIVASAN: So that’s great. But where am I more likely to look? I am more likely to go to YouTube and type in Al Jazeera, and get that.

So, anyway, let’s move on to Twitter. So you all have a hand-out about Twitter. And what this is, is my kind of guide for skeptics and for newbies. And I should again thank the folks here. They actually printed it on color, that’s very nice, which is a nice thing they did.

If you’re looking for this, you can find it if you go to -- it’s online at -- if you will circle it on the hand-out, you see where it says, “This hand-out,” and it has an address? B-I-T-L-Y/Newbies and -- or “Twitter Ideas.” So that’s my collection that I made for all -- for people to learn how to do Twitter better. And that’s what that is.

So, let me give you -- how many people here use Twitter on a regular basis? A couple of people? Okay. So what I am going to do is I am going to show -- explain some of the things. So just bear with me. If you’re a Twitter expert, just sit back. But everybody else -- I’m just going to explain some of the things on Twitter that you see. Some of the things that confuse people are, like, the @ sign on a lot of messages, and RT, and the hash, or the # sign. It’s kind of confusing. What is all of that?

So, let’s look at this. But before we do that, if you will look in your hand-out, there is a thing that is -- sorry, one second -- Twitter for Skeptics. I’m just Googling this to see if it shows up yet. Here it is, it’s already on Google. So that’s good. That’s the same hand-out you have. And one of the things that I can do here is to come down and I want to show you the 10 most extraordinary Twitter updates. Has anybody seen this list? It’s quite amazing.

So, first thing I want you to write down is this address: is the Wall Street Journal of social media. In fact, you can go home now, because nothing I am going to tell you is more useful than your reading Mashable every day, or once a week. Just everything to do with Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, YouTube, this is their beat. That is all they cover. And I get a lot of my ideas from them., okay?

So, we’re going to go down here, and here is a collection of what they call their most extraordinary tweets. Coming down here, give it a second. I’m going to come down and let’s see what we can do. Here is the marriage proposal by Twitter -- by a Twitter, not by Twitter -- and here is somebody who said yes, thank God. But she took 20 minutes in between. That’s not a good sign. Okay, all right.

Let’s see. Here is tweeting from the womb. Like, what? And what this is, is a husband put a sensor on his wife -- just on a belt; no harm was done to the baby -- and every time the baby kicked, he got a text message, he got an SMS saying that the baby kicked. Now, you can listen to this and say, “That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard, it’s so stupid,” but imagine being a father who is on the road for -- 3,000 miles away, driving a truck or whatever he is doing, and he gets a kick every time the baby kicks. That would be pretty interesting, if you are that father. If you’re not that father, it sounds stupid and ridiculous.

So what we’re also finding is that things can tweet. Okay? You don’t have to be a person to tweet, because anything with a sensor can tweet. So, in this case, you may have heard that from Mars, the Mars Rover did a tweet, which was kind of interesting. At the New York Times, there is a tree in its atrium in the New York headquarters, and it tweets. What does it tweet? Every time the water level falls below a point, it tweets, and it tells you that you’ve got to water it, so the gardener comes out and waters the tree. So, just silly things like that.

Okay, let’s keep going here. Now, if nothing else will tell you the value of Twitter, this should, okay? This was a Berkeley University -- University of California Berkeley -- journalism student was traveling through the Middle East, and it was in Egypt, and he was arrested. And he was arrested, and before they took him away, he pulled out his cell phone and said, “Arrested,” and he tweeted that. And you know what happens when journalists get kidnapped or taken by governments around the world? It usually takes headquarters or their families days, sometimes weeks, to find out, “Are they injured? Did they disappear? Did they fall in a ditch? What happened?”

This -- he was out in two days because of Twitter. Because what happens in Twitter is not just the power of one person hearing what you say, but hundreds and thousands of people, and the State Department responded, and they got involved, and they got him out. Okay?

So, the way I look at this is that the power of Twitter is not on the tweet, but what’s called the RT, or the re-tweet. The power of this is that I only have 10 followers, but those 10 followers have other followers, and each of them re-tweets. That power gets to hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of people, if it’s important enough.

And a friend of mine was in a panel like this, and she -- or in a session like this -- and her daughter was, in fact, going to Egypt for spring break. And she said to her daughter, “I want you to tweet.”

And she said, “Are you crazy? It’s such a nerdy thing.” We also think, by the way, that all the young, like, kids know all this technology -- and they do know a lot -- but Twitter is not something that they are really big on. Some of them are, but a lot of high school and other students don’t really care about it.

And what she did was she said, “Okay, you have two choices. Either you’re going to start Twittering or I’m going to have you call your mother every 30 minutes. What’s worse? What is more nerdy?”

So she said, “Okay.” So she quietly, “Going to lunch,” “Going to the pyramid,” “Going to a museum,” the whole trip. And she came back. Now she has a diary of her trip that she wouldn’t have had. The mother was calm, everything was good, right? So that’s an example of this, and there are many, many examples.

There were these two British – anybody from England here? Oh, they’re in the back, the best-dressed AV person I’ve ever seen.


MR. SREENIVASAN: See, that got everybody to turn around, right? That’s one of the things on Twitter – specifics, right? When I said “Somebody in the back,” you didn’t turn. I said “Best-dressed person,” people turned. That’s sort of what happens on Twitter, as well. Be specific, be engaging, be interesting.

So, let’s go down here. And anyway, in England, two people were – went skiing and they got separated and they both were lost. One was found by Twitter; the other was not. Because you will say, “Gee, why didn’t that Egyptian – that student in Egypt, why didn’t he just text his mom or call his wife or” – because what happens, when you make that phone call, they’re not home. Their computer is not working, something’s not happening, right? Instead, by tweeting it, it goes to bunches of people who can then re-tweet and the power of that.

The other thing that happens is – let me just show you here, okay – let me show you this post. So one of the things that happens that confuses people – just look at this – this is the original post. It says “I’m getting a knife, a big one that is sharp. I’m going to cut my arm down the whole arm so it doesn’t waste time,” okay? So, wow, that’s a strange posting. “Hope you are joking, RT@Sandieguy.” So what this is, is the @ sign says – everything that follows it is from Sandieguy, okay? That’s what makes it – and it makes it live, so you can click on it and read Sandieguy. RT is re-tweet. And so this is a statement back to Sandegard saying “Hope you are joking,” okay? And this happened 5:29 a.m. on this time. It turned out because of this re-tweet, thousands of people got involved with this and the police were able to triangulate and find her and save her life, okay?

And so it’s, again, the power of this. And what people say is, “I don’t have the time, how can I listen to this? What can I – I don’t have time for this,” right? But look who it was that posted the note that saved this woman’s life. Demi Moore, right? She has hundreds of thousands of followers and she follows thousands of people, but she was able to do this, and with one line, change and save someone’s life, okay? Now this is the kind of stuff that only happens in America. You can’t make it up. Demi Moore saves someone’s life through Twitter; you wouldn’t even want to make it up, but it happens. I mean, it’s crazy, right? But this happened in April of this year, this recent story.

So, Twitter is about posting, and posting items, and then people taking it and getting involved. What happens is that a lot of Twitter posts are like what I said earlier, “I’m having a sandwich,” “I’m having a shower,” “I’m brushing my teeth.” Those are boring. Don’t follow those people. Follow the people who are interesting, who are giving you information.

Now, having said that about a post, you know, “I’m having a pastrami sandwich now,” depends on who it is. Do you know the name Ruth Reichl? Some of you know that. She’s the former chief food critic of The New York Times. She’s the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine. When she tweets, “I’m having a sandwich,” I want to know what sandwich, where, how much mustard, what bread, which animal died, where did he get the animal. I want to know everything, right? And that’s the point, that when Jack Wells tweets, I want to know everything. If I’m a business reporter, I want to know everything he is saying. So it depends on who you are following.

So, if you look at your list, please, look at your list. Let me just walk you through what’s on the list. So we will look on it together. And so the first section is an intro to Twitter, and there are a lot of different items on there. The next section here, I have a whole section on breaking news, okay? This is what happens. Any time there is a breaking news story, I want you to go to Twitter and see what’s happening.

So, let me show you how it was used yesterday in the Holocaust Museum story. I’m just going to go in here and I’m just going to show you the very first tweet about it, okay? Just going to go to that one second, and I’m going to show you the very first tweet was this article -- sorry, here is the first tweet. “Early reports coming in, shooting inside Holocaust Museum in D.C.” Okay?

And then, Holocaust Museum shooting, police overhead. Okay. Now, one of the things that are important in Twitter is the use of the hash tag. Does everybody see that hash tag? It gets confusing. Why is that there? A hash tag gives it instant power to accelerate and the finding of it on search.

So, for example, right, if I were a blogger, and I wrote this and posted it, Google won’t find it for a long time, right, because Google won’t get to it. But on Twitter, the power of it is that if you use a hash, it gives you kind of instant juice, and it’s announcing to the world, “Hey, everybody, if you’re going to write about the Holocaust Museum shooting, put this tag.” I would say it’s a little too long, because it eats up into your 140 characters. But it tells people what to put together on it.

You might remember that one of the ways in which Twitter became famous was the Mumbai attacks. Do you remember that? And what people started doing instantly was just doing post, hash, Mumbai, post, hash, Mumbai. They started doing that. And then we were all able to see them. So you don’t have to search 100 places. They all kind of -- think of it like a Google juice, they all come together.

The problem was people sitting in Washington were also putting hash, Mumbai, trying to say, “I am watching on CNN.” What we have learned since then is the next time there is a crisis like that they will have hash in Mumbai and hash not in Mumbai, or something, to differentiate between people who are in Mumbai and who are not there. Does that make sense? Does everybody understand that? That’s what that hash tag is for.

And now that you look in here, Holocaust Museum, “One police officer shot.” Was he a police officer? No. But this is where skeptics show -- you know, they will criticize this. They will say, “Oh, he’s not a police officer, he was a guard.” And, well, it turns out that CNN, WTOP, everybody was reporting police officer. You see a guy in a uniform, you presume it’s a police officer. It wasn’t. But live breaking news has that chance that you will have a couple of mistakes here and there.

But the power of this, to sit there and watch this, and watch it unfold, is very -- the way I got to know what’s happening in Mumbai during the attacks, in addition to watching TV, one of the places was Mumbai, the hash Mumbai tags within this.

You had a question?

QUESTION: How does -- how many people are just reporting what they heard on the radio or on TV?

MR. SREENIVASAN: A lot of people. But the good thing here is that -- look at this, it says, “I can’t find anything online about it yet.” This is how early she was posting. She was probably the third or fourth or fifth poster on there. And it turns out she’s a receptionist at the Channel 4 here in Washington. She was just watching the TV, and she’s just posting it, posting it for her family, maybe, you know, you never know what she was doing it for. But she was posting. So, there is a lot of information here about this, and you can see a lot of CNN stuff and all of that.

So, let’s go back to Twitter, and let me show you a couple of ways in which you can think about your Twitter posts. So let’s look at some of these numbers. So first thing it says here, 704 following. I am following 704 people. And you’ll say, “Oh, my God, that’s a lot of people.” Well, how many people are you following in your email inbox? If you think of your email inbox as a listening place, how many people are you following? Thousands of people who have access to your inbox, right, including some very nice scammers who want to give you money from other parts of the world and increase your body size, and all of that stuff, body parts.

So, I found that the difference between this and regular email is you have a guilt factor with email, right, where you’ve got, “I didn’t reply to him, I didn’t reply to her.” This is just listening. And you’re looking for trends. You’re looking for ideas. What’s going on? What’s happening in the world today? I will just come down here, like, once a day. I will just look down and look at his list of what’s going on. Here are the trending topics. Something about Lakers, something about swine flu, iPhone.

Oh, the swine flu story, you know, is the -- WHO posted this, I think, ridiculous thing to make it level six. It’s the highest. What will happen -- what’s next, right? How do you get people to respond with real panic, when it’s time? Because it’s a geography rather than lethality, right? I mean --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. SREENIVASAN: Don’t over-panic, but then they -- if you hear it’s the highest level, wouldn’t you be over-panicked? I mean, that’s -- and when I -- if I think of the WHO -- I don’t know anything about this. But, as a layman, when I hear WHO, “pandemic highest level,” I imagine that’s like millions of people dead on the streets. We’re not having any meetings at the FTC, we’re, like, not -- we’re locked up in our basements, right? That’s what I think of, “highest level.” But that’s, anyway, another story.

Okay. So what I -- what you -- what I can show you here also about these numbers, so this means -- also, this number here says the number of people following you. And I think this is one of the problems of Twitter, that it lists this number, and people become fixated on that number, about growing it, about scamming, to get more followers. I don’t think it matters. I think what your goal should be is to have followers, so that people are listening to what you’re doing, but to avoid the churn of the followers.

Because what happens is -- you will see -- dozens of people will join and leave and join and leave. If you -- I can tell with each posting, I can see people leave if I am not careful about what I say. Every post I do I try to be one of the following: it should be interesting, useful, fun, helpful, one of those things. Otherwise, I don’t post it.

I haven’t posted that I’m at FPC today. Why? How will it benefit anybody? If this was a live video version, I would post it, so that people could participate. But I have not said that. I am doing four workshops today. I haven’t mentioned any of them today. I didn’t say, “I am in Georgetown.” “I am eating” -- you know, people say, “I am at the White House,” “I am hanging out with Barack Obama.” It’s kind of like showing off. It doesn’t add anything. You see what I mean? Follow people who are interesting, and not follow people who are just kind of just announcing and promoting things.

There is a section in the -- let’s just go to the (inaudible), because we’re running out of time. I will stay a little extra, just to show you. So the breaking news section, there is a lot of -- some of the best coverage of the swine flu stuff I found -- it’s going back to the camera thing -- was following breaking news, which is one of the things.

You can also, by the way, follow everything here without joining Twitter. You don’t have to join. You go to, which is my page. Bookmark it. You don’t need to join to read my tweets. They won’t be live and in your inbox, it will be more like a separate webpage, and you can bookmark the things you want.

I will say this, that I believe this very strongly, that in every area of human interest -- and, therefore, every beat that you might be interested in -- there is a Twitter feed that you should know about. The problem is, how do you know about that, versus all the crap that’s on there? And how do you do that? By starting slow, starting small.

So, a whole section of breaking news, a whole section of by and for journalists. There is a whole thing here. The New York Times appointed its first social media editor. It would be interesting to read what she posts. So her name is on here. Some tech people are listed on here.

Next page, business stuff. Look at all these executives and people on that. Other names you know, including Mrs. Ashton Kutcher, is there. Some funny stuff. Curated tweets. I also have lists of interesting people to follow. The legal world, the education world, the -- things like that. Job hunting, a whole bunch of hits on that.

If you come on the next page, how-to tools. There are a lot of tools on Twitter, something called Tweet Deck that you may have heard of, which is a way to not get lost in this Twitter, see all these things coming. You can break it into different groups. I want to hear only from my White House Twitter feed, I want to hear just from the congress, I just want to hear business. You can -- just from my family members -- you can curate all these tweets as they’re coming into -- you can put them in different buckets, so you’re not overwhelmed. So that’s an important thing you can do.

So all of that I have on my hand-out. And I would suggest that you just go back to your desk when you have time, and play with this. One of the things I will warn you about is that this stuff does not work when you’re on deadlines. If that’s the first time, right? What I mean by that is that you cannot suddenly hear “Holocaust Museum shooting,” “Oh, my God, let me join Twitter,” you try to make an account, you try to go -- it’s too late. That’s too late to use this to harness the power of it. You have to do this when things are quiet. Friday night you sit down, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, play with it.

I am not saying this is for everybody. And you definitely don’t want to be the person posting what you’re eating on there. But find interesting people who you follow in real life. You don’t know this, but you use the word “follow” in a different way, right? You read their work, everything -- using Dr. Kissinger -- but everything Dr. Kissinger writes or says or speaks you know about, you’re aware of it. Now, I don’t think he tweets, but if he did, you would have, like, a direct way to see an insight into his life. And that’s what we’re talking about here. And that is where it’s useful.

So, before I go, I want to just show you at the bottom of probably the last page, or the second to last page, I have a section here, “Twitter troubles, problems, issues.” The 10 worst tweets of all time. You want to go read that. And how about a UK magistrate resigns, due to Twitter use, okay?

One of the things I learned on Twitter was a post that said, “Common sense does not end when you join Twitter. And things that are common sense in real life are also common sense on Twitter.” So don’t forget that.

And let me take one question, and then I will give you a final couple of thoughts. Yes?

QUESTION: So, it took a couple of million years for the human thumb to evolve --


QUESTION: -- came out of (inaudible) to swing from trees.


QUESTION: I’m wondering now --

MR. SREENIVASAN: Not if you believe in intelligent design.

QUESTION: Right. So now, with all this Twittering and basically device-based communication --


QUESTION: -- I follow all of this online on the --

MR. SREENIVASAN: On the computer?

QUESTION: -- on the computer. I have resisted upgrading my phone.


QUESTION: Also because I am locked into some (inaudible). But I am just -- I dread the use of a device. And much as you said, you know, this is useful when you’re waiting for a doctor or waiting at a bus stop, you know, you can get a lot of stuff done, at the bus stop I just like to look around and watch people.

MR. SREENIVASAN: Or read a book, for God’s sake, you know?

QUESTION: Sit in a park, and watch children play.

MR. SREENIVASAN: No, exactly.

QUESTION: I am wondering -- and of course, there is the additional threat of the thumb evolving faster. So --

MR. SREENIVASAN: Well, that’s one thing we don’t have to worry about in our lifetime.

QUESTION: But my question is this. Does this constitute a threat of a professional setback? Am I falling behind by not tweeting all the time, not --

MR. SREENIVASAN: No, I don’t think --

QUESTION: Can I survive? Can I be a journalist without getting --

MR. SREENIVASAN: Certainly you can. You can survive without Twittering, yourself. But I think, going forward, the ability to listen on Twitter and have accounts where you’re listening to interesting people is going to be good, because your competitors are going to be listening, and there will be interesting -- but I also really believe that there is a lot of interesting stuff on there, just for your own edification. You go on there and you read.

So, for example, we will just give you a sense. In India, for example, they just had the big elections, and you heard about Shashi Tharoor, who is -- you know, ran for Secretary General, was campaigning, and he was Twittering. And, in fact, he has gotten in trouble, because he’s been Twittering too much and saying things he shouldn’t be saying. That was one of the things.

But if you are covering his election, you are getting better information on where he is, what he is doing, and kind of live insight into his mind than anything else, than everybody else. That’s the difference. So if you can find the right places to listen, you will be fine.

Let me give you a couple of final thoughts. So we obviously went very fast through this, and we were very rushed. So what I would ask is that if you are working on a story and you need some help, or you’re confused about any of this, drop me an email or friend me on Facebook, or any of those things, but please, when you write, just put a line, “FPC,” so that, you know, we can reestablish that contact that we’ve made, like this. And I am always happy to help.

My email address is If you -- I have a monthly email list of interesting story -- I mean text tips and tricks. If you would like to be on it, give me your business card, I will add you to that list. I won’t sell your name to Bill Gates or Disney, or anything like that.

And I would also say it’s very important, what Shidu was talking about, you know? Kind of look up from your screen. That’s very important, that you’re not, like, always looking down at something. But on another level, that Facebook and Twitter really foster a false sense of friendship and intimacy which are not real. And so you have to be careful about that.

And the final thought on this is be skeptical. I said this before. I said I was glad you came, because you have an open mind. But what’s the flip side of opening an open mind? Don’t let your brains fall out, right? Take it easy. Take it slow. Good luck, everybody.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.