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Diplomacy in Action

Advanced Social Media for Journalists

FPC Briefing
Sree Sreenivasan
Professor, Columbia University School of Journalism
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
April 8, 2010

Date: 04/08/2010 Location: Washington, DC Description: Washington Foreign Press Center Special Workshop on Advanced Social Media for Journalists with Professor Sree Sreenivasan. - State Dept Image

4:30 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. I want to thank Professor Sree for coming again. This is his fourth workshop with us. Today, he’s going to present advanced social media for journalists. And without further ado, Professor Sree.

MR. SREENIVASAN: Thank you. Hi, everybody. How are you all doing? Okay? Good? Tired? I’m tired. This is my fourth session today. I’ve done two sessions at NPR, one at The Washington Post, so I don’t know where I am, what I’m saying, so please bear with me. But if you think this is bad, wait till the people who see me at 7:00 p.m. with my fifth session, the same topic, the same day. We’re going to – you’re – no matter how bad I’m going to be, I’m going to be worse at 7:00. And also keep in mind that anytime I do something like this, I tell people you get what you pay for. Right? So at the end of this, if you’re unhappy, please ask for a refund and we’ll give you one.

But it’s just an absolute delight to be at the Washington Foreign Press Center. I just made one phone call, said to Miriam that I’m coming, and she brought 50 of her closest friends, as you can see, and put them all together. So I’m just delighted. And I would also like to say hi to the new director in the back, who we have not – I don’t think all of – you’ve met all of them, right? They all know you? Look at that; he’s sitting in the back instead of trying to be at the front. That’s terrific. And I appreciate that, and thank you for having me at the Center.

We’re going to do a lot of stuff together in about – an hour and 20 minutes is what we have. I will stay, stick around and answer questions afterwards if you don’t get to all the questions that you have.

How many of you have been to – went to my session that I did last year on social media? Somebody? Some people did. A couple of you did, I think, before. So I’m glad to have you here. And then there are some non-foreign press reporters here, right? Some outside folks? Will you raise your hand – will I see them? Okay, great. And we appreciate you coming as well.

I know at least a couple of you who are here are newly admitted students at Columbia Journalism School and you’re here to see one little aspect of the J school of what I’m doing. I should tell you that foreign journalists and American journalists are constantly asking me, “Is there still life at Columbia Journalism School, considering the – all the problems that are in journalism?” And I just want to say one thing and that is that we are in the middle of admissions season, we’ve just sent out all admit letters, and we had more than 1,400 applicants from 60 countries who want to be journalists. And their level of interest, energy, optimism about journalism is so different from journalists who are 30, 40, 50 years old, who think that journalism is dying. And I don’t think it’s dying. I think the business model is having a problem, but there’s more hunger for content journalism, the work that we do, than ever before. And I remain optimistic and very excited about what I do.

If at any point anybody has questions about that part of my world and my life, I’m happy to answer them. But today, we’re going to be talking about social media. And since it looks like most of you were not at my previous session, there will be certain things that I might talk about that have practical applicability right now tonight when you go home, and then other things are kind of more general big-picture thoughts.

Raise your hand if you have a seat next to you, please, for our folks who are there. So please take a seat.

And I will say a couple of big-picture things. First is, if you look at your handout – does everybody have the handout? See the section with the shortcut to this page. Does everybody see that? Right? And circle that shortcut, please, because that shortcut is where you will find everything I’m talking about. This is what we call a living document, but it’s constantly updated and has a life of its own that most other web pages don’t. As most of you know, that when you send an attachment to somebody, as soon as you hit “send,” it’s out of date because you’ve got new ideas, you want to add new things, and this is where having a document like this is very helpful. Also, it’s got this bitly link on it. Have you all seen bitly before? You’ve seen it? I’ll show you why it is one of the most remarkable things to happen on the web in the last year, is this thing called bitly.

So a couple of general thoughts first: Social media, to me, is the biggest advance and biggest impact advancement in the internet for journalists since the debut of the public web in 1996 or so. It has more impact than almost anything else I have seen apart from, as I said, the rise of the web itself. And that’s a pretty ambitious or very kind of bombastic statement. But I think it absolutely is, and I’ll try to make that case. But I’ll also try to show you very practically how it can – what it can do.

I created at Columbia J School a class on social media. And I said at the first class that if your parents knew that you were coming to Columbia University to take a class on Facebook, you’d get my – you’d call my – your parents would call my boss and get me fired. So I said that my class has to be intellectually rigorous, helpful, useful, relevant, timely.

And as you’re listening to me, if you look at that second paragraph on your handout, those are the words that are there. Does everybody see those words? Circle those words because those are the words of what makes successful social media. People ask me, “What is this formula for success in social media?” And there isn’t really a formula, but these are the ideas. I think: Every tweet, every Facebook posting, everything I do, does it fall into multiple versions of this as possible? Helpful, useful, informative, relevant, practical, actionable, entertaining – I would also add timely and then fun and occasionally funny. And what I have learned from doing that five-week class has been amazing because I learned from these sessions a lot more than what I impart. And what I learned is that this thing changes so quickly. So those five-week courses – I’ve taught it, what, four times now, and every time, I’ve changed the syllabus 20 percent, 30 percent. That’s how fast it’s changing.

So why social media and what is it doing? The four things: Number one, it helps you find new sources, new ideas, new topics, new trends. Number two, it helps you connect with new and existing audiences – plural. You notice I used “audiences” because everything has multiple audiences. Everybody has multiple audiences. And in fact, foreign correspondents have more multiple audiences than anybody. I talk to foreign correspondents who were in India, for example, in the 60s, 70s, 80s. They had one audience: people in America. Now, among their biggest readers are people where? In India. Right? Same thing. Your audience, you’re writing for people back home, but your diaspora here is also an audience. So that’s important.

The third thing that social media does that’s absolutely critical is that it helps bring eyeballs and attention to your work. And you know that eyeballs are the currency of the web. Les Hinton – H-i-n-t-o-n – is the publisher of The Wall Street Journal and he said something to me that has been completely burned into my brain. And he’s a brilliant thinker about all of this. He must be if he’s trying to run The Wall Street Journal. And he said some – he said, “The scarcest resource of the 21st century is going to be – after water and food and all of that – is human attention.” Think about that for a second. And he believes, as I do, that the companies, the journalists, the brands, the organizations that will survive and have a future are the ones who can get a sliver of that human attention. Right?

So I often talk about a three-letter word that is helping determine how much your work gets seen. And that three-letter word is b-a-w. Anybody know b-a-w? What is that? Got an easel, I’ll write it, b-a-w. What is that? Bored at work. Bored at work. This is when people are bored at work, they go on line and do something, right? So your goal as a journalist is – bored at work means people are taking a break. What was this break before? It used to be called the water cooler break, the cigarette break, the Diet Coke break, chewing gum break. Now they take breaks during the day and they take – they’re on the phone and then they go on to the internet and they look at something. Can you get your work to be a sliver of that? They don’t need to be the first destination, second destination, or even third destination. They just need to be one of the places people turn to once, twice, three times a day.

Does that make sense to everybody? As I speak, if there’s something I don’t understand, some jargon I use, please raise your hand and ask the question. There are no dumb questions when it comes to social media; we’re all learning together.

Number four: I said a fourth thing that social media does is that it helps you create, enhance, curate your online brand. Right? Everybody understand that? So your online brand is what’s going to partially determine your success in journalism in the future. And it’s already happening. People have so many things they can read. Are they going to choose to read you over everybody else? Only you can control that. And one way to control that is with social media. And I can give you examples on all of these things in the limited time we have. I’m actually trying to condense my five-week course into one hour, so it’s hard. So I’ll only be able to do a few things for you.

The next – so those are some kind of big picture ideas. Another big picture idea is that we’re very early in this game. A lot of people say, “I need to catch up on Twitter; I need to catch up about this.” I say don’t worry. We are where radio was in 1912, where TV was in 1950, and where the web was in 1996. I’m not going to ask you to think back to 1950 because you can’t. But let’s think back to 1996. Everybody just picture for yourself how your life was different in 1996, especially if you were a journalist. You’re already a working adult. Think of 1996 and how was your life different? What are the things that you use every day that you didn’t use every day in 1996? Let’s do a quick – raise your hand and I’ll call on you.


MR. SREENIVASAN: E-mail. Okay, what else?

QUESTION: Twitter.

QUESTION: Cellphone.

MR. SREENIVASAN: Twitter, cellphone.

QUESTON: Google.


QUESTION: Facebook.

MR. SREENIVASAN: Facebook. What else?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. SREENIVASAN: Wikipedia. Look around you. How many people used Wikipedia this week? Raise your hand. Look at that, all – most hands. Okay. We could keep going. Blackberry, right? Satellite radio. Many people use things like that, right? These are all new and look how our lives have changed so quickly. So fast it happens. How many people used YouTube in ’96? The founders of YouTube were probably in diapers at the time. No, they’re older than that.

But you get the idea, right, that change is constant and it’s always happening to the work of journalists in particular. There’s a great line. Someone said, “Oh, boy, I like progress but I can’t stand change.” Right? I just – “Change is the problem.” So what I find is that journalists are among the best users of technology – the best. I mean, you guys use satellite phones, email. Some of you might remember something called the Trash-80. Do you know what I’m talking about? You’re nodding your head. That was the TRS-80. It was a Radio Shack computer, and to transmit your stories,you had to couple it with – on the cell phone modem – not cell phone, landline modem. And it used to do – one – it used to do eight characters a second. So one line every minute, something like – it was that bad, right? And --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) screens that would read four lines –

MR. SREENIVASAN: Four lines, that’s right. And it was a big innovation when you could read eight lines. That was like, oh, my God, the world has changed. So what we have to remember is that this will constantly happen to us. And the best journalists are the ones that see the technology that works for them and incorporates it into their lives.

Now I’m going to say something about social media that will get me kicked out from most social media gatherings because I don’t use these three services I’m going to talk about. The three services I do not use are: Number one, I do not use something called Foursquare. Raise your hand if you use Foursquare. Look around you. Look, these people are now like, I’m leaving, I can’t --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. SREENIVASAN: Okay. How many people use Google Wave. Anybody? Again, several people. The same people.

And then, how many people are on Google Buzz? Some of you, right? So these are three things that I don’t use. As I said, I lost my internet cred by just saying that. But the reason I said it was to say that it doesn’t mean it’s not good, it doesn’t mean it’s not right, but it’s just not right for me at the moment. I didn’t join Facebook, even though I was at a university, till three years after everybody was using it. I didn’t use Twitter till 2.5 years after everybody was using it. So what you need to do is, I say, “Does it fit in my work flow? And does it fit in my life flow? If it doesn’t fit in these two things, it’s not for me.” And then I don’t worry about it.

A lot of people are talking about it, like the iPad. How many of you covered the iPad in some way or wrote something about it? A lot of people, right? I call myself an early tester and a late adopter. And I think all journalists should be like that. You should not be like me, but you should be an early tester and late adopter. I wrote about the iPad. I went to the iPhone at the Apple store and looked at all the craziness, and I came back and said – and I was on CNN twice talking about it – and I said it’s good, it looks great, it has everything Apple makes, but it’s not going to change the world instantly, and I’m not buying it till version three, at least. Right?

What is the number one thing missing on it that you think – that you know is missing, that you would have liked to see on it?

QUESTION: A camera.

MR. SREENIVASAN: A camera. A camera. A USB port. Flash is a huge thing. So – but does that mean it’s a failure? Absolutely not. In fact, it’s going to be a huge success. People are going to buy it. But I don’t have it. I don’t own an iPhone, for example. Because iPhone – I like to type with my thumbs and an iPhone doesn’t let you do that. So you have to find the things that work for you instead of worrying what everybody else is talking about.

So a couple of other kind of big picture thoughts about this: What this means is that there are a lot of opportunities for us as journalists when you’re dealing with technology, and we could – we can do some very practical things as well. I want to show you where my contact information is on the front page. Please circle that. If you’re working on a story, you need some help, or I said something that doesn’t make a lot of sense, I’m happy to respond to you. And just write “journalist” or “FPC” on the front, or anything; I will respond to you.

So the three social networks I use the most are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. And I think those are absolutely critical for journalists. There is one that I – that used to be huge but most people don’t use anymore, that I recommend for anybody who’s a music journalist. What is that?


MR. SREENIVASAN: MySpace, right? MySpace used to be the eighth largest website in America. And it is something that I think is very good for certain audiences, but not for me.

Did anybody do any stories on Second Life? Anybody remember Second Life? Anybody do any stories on it? So you remember that?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. SREENIVASAN: Yeah. So I say about Second Life, I have six-year-old – now seven-year-old twins; I have no life for my first life. Right? How do I do a second life? It doesn’t make any sense. So you have to think, does it fit my lifestyle, my work flow, life flow?

So please look at your handout. You’re – I’m a professor, so you’re going to take notes, damn it. Oh, wait, can I say damn it here? I don’t know – is that – Miriam is not here; she didn’t hear me. What do I mean by taking notes? Annotate that list. Take that list and annotate it. Circle the things that are useful and say – oh, great, Miriam is here. I’m sorry. Annotate the list. Circle things that are useful. Put a checkmark; I’m going to try this when I go home.

And the first section there is – you see this? My tips for newbies and skeptics. And many of you have seen versions of things like this. Please look at it. Then I also have – all my syllabi and notes from my five-week course are online, so you can check that. Again, you find all of this at – b-i-t.l-y/sreesoc.

I also – you know that one of the big things that everybody’s talking about these days is the word “hyperlocal.” Right? And so I spent the last year – I left – I had a – I took a buyout from NBC to work on a hyperlocal website in Manhattan covering Manhattan news, and I worked on it with this guy who founded Ameritrade, and his company just – I mean, his family just bought the Cubs and Wrigley Field. And in that process, I learned – I feel like I got an MBA doing that – being an entrepreneur, trying from scratch. It’s a lot of work. It helps to work with somebody who’s got a vision, but boy, it was very, very – it was a lot of hard work.

I want you to skip down a couple of buttons to where it says Mashable – does everybody see that? “Fates of the Future Journalists.” I urge you to look at that piece not because I wrote it, but it’s about what is happening in the future for journalism, what are the trends that future journalists will need, and I urge you to look at that. And then the next bullet point: “BBC Tells News Staff to Embrace Social Media or Leave.” I don’t know, is there a BBC person here? But that’s what they’re doing.

So first thing I’m saying here on the next set is to change your media diet and add this website called Mashable. How many people here read Mashable? Raise your hand. Look around you; this is interesting. Look, these are people who – and most of you who have not heard of it or don’t read it – thank you. Mashable is really good. Why do you read Mashable?

QUESTION: Who, me?


QUESTION: A friend told me about it four days ago.

MR. SREENIVASAN: Four days ago, a friend told her, so that’s great. Yeah, and you trust her. That’s a good example. Why do you – she trusts – you trust her, so you’re starting to read it, right? So think about finding new things. So I call this the FT of social media, or the Politico of social media. That means it covers social media completely, deeply, and is very, very helpful, so you must, must know about Mashable.

And the next thing I want to show you is something called Muckrack. How many people have seen this? Oh, about eight, so this will be helpful. – that’s something very nice – it brings together people, all – as many journalists as it can from Twitter into one place. So have you ever seen the trending topics list on Twitter? How many people have seen that? All right. What is it? It’s full of crap, right? As in the technical term – what is it? What is it there? A lot of people playing games, a lot of fake celebrity deaths, and this guy called Justin Bieber. (Laughter.) I had never heard of him, literally never heard of him, know nothing about him except seeing there again and again and again.

Who – and then what I did was, then, yesterday, I saw this, just to show you. Let’s see, – oops, sorry – Give it a second. And here’s what I – sorry, here’s what I posted about him. This is what I saw. He’s on the cover of People Magazine. It says he’s the hottest singer in the world, the world’s biggest pop star, and I had never heard of him. Right? Somebody told me, “It’s because you don’t have 15-year-old daughters.” So maybe that’s the reason. But he is the world’s biggest pop star, apparently, and he’s on the cover of People Magazine.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)


QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. SREENIVASAN: He was at the White House?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. SREENIVASAN: Oh, they were screaming. So that’s why, so – so anyway, but look at – here, what they do is because it’s all journalists, the trending topics are actually a lot more interesting here. So look on the right of this. You see the trending topics? It’s Tiger, McLaren – I know what that is – Masters, Republican, Woods, Spitzer. Did Spitzer do something today?

QUESTION: He’s launching a comeback.

MR. SREENIVASAN: He’s launching a comeback? Political fix, the Marlins, energy. Pardon me?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. SREENIVASAN: Of The New York Times, yeah, so there you see. So some of it is useless here, but it’s different because it’s bringing together all the journalists. So here’s how you can use it. As a foreign press reporter, look at all these things by beat. If you’re covering a certain topic – many of you are covering, say, business, right? So if I click on business – look at this – I just hit business and what it’ll do is it’ll bring together various reporters who tweet about business and then – or who work in business and they’ll – it’ll put them all together in one place. Just give it a second and it’ll come – here you go, Business and Finance. The managing writer of the Financial Times, the editor of the Sunday Business Post, the special projects editor of Forbes, the sports business editor of USA Today. Does everybody see how that is? People are talking and now it makes order to the craziness of social media, of Twitter, by bringing them all together.

The other thing is you can go in here and – look, let’s look at the London Telegraph. What it’ll do is it’ll take all the people at the London Telegraph and show you what they’re talking about, what they’re reading, and who they are. Does everybody see the value of this? Bringing order to the craziness, okay? This is only journalism, but you see what they’re doing. If you’re a journalist and you tweet, you can go in here and say, “Add a journalist,” and you can add yourself on there as well. If you’re an organization with a lot of Twitterers or Twits, you can add them also on there. Okay?

Question, yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MODERATOR: Wait for the microphone.

MR. SREENIVASAN: Oh, a question. I’ll also repeat the question if that’s --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. SREENIVASAN: It’s official question.

QUESTION: Seriously. Don’t – I mean, don’t we kind of self-filter when we put our (inaudible) in that way? I mean --

MR. SREENIVASAN: Oh, absolutely. Yeah – no, it’s a good question. And in fact, someone at my NPR session said it: “I don’t really care what Al Roker is saying or all these big journalists.” But what we also found was you’re covering the pharmaceutical industry – find the trade reporters. And then we found, like, the farmer reporter of some publication. That’s incredibly useful. What are they reading? What are they seeing? I’m not saying that this is better than going to the source, but you have a sense of what’s happening in a specific beat that you never did before this came along.

Let me show you something else. They also printed across the top here different topics. Let’s see, many of you might cover science. So we click on science and they created a thing called Sciencepond – p-o-n-d -- .com. And what is this? This is taking scientists – on the left, you see biology, biotechnology, chemistry, cognitive science, earth science, and then all their tweets in one place. Does everybody see how that works? So now, you’re seeing instantly – these are these great lists of people who know these certain topics and they’re tweeting and you can see.

Let’s see. Their topics must be different from the journalist topics, right? So let’s take a look. What is popular right now? Health, Duke, medicine, Butler – this is all the basketball stuff – iPad, Easter. Now, these are scientists, so they’re a little slow. So that’s why Easter is still a trending topic, Edinborough – and then why is John Kerry there? It’s not four years old. What is this? He’s introducing some kind of science bill or energy bill, climate bill – there you go. So you see how this works? Their trending topics are different.

If you go to the very top, here they have food, chefs, beer – there are all bunches of people who tweet about beer – and then foreign correspondents love these stories like “The Worst Aspects of America,” so here’s one, which is, which is all the pets tweeting in America and their owners tweeting. So if you ever want a funny little story, quirky story, this is one. But look, these are all the bird tweets on the left and then all the (inaudible) tweets and the cats fighting the dogs versus – all of that, so you see this. Whoa, the ferrets, gerbils, hamsters, horses – only one horse. Only one horse is tweeting in America? That can’t be true. So anyway.

But everybody see how Muck Rack could be useful, right? Bringing order to the chaos that is social media. I also have a couple of other suggestions: Lifehacker and then ReadWriteWeb and then a site that’s absolutely critical, is about the future of paid content. It means the future of the writing that you all are going to do – the TV, the video.
And it’s an excellent resource, so please do look at that.

Let’s talk a little bit about Facebook. Facebook is the – you saw the third largest country in the world by population, right? 400 million active users. 200 million log in at least once a day. These same numbers last year were 200 million and 100 million. So in one year, they doubled. Just think about what that means in terms of how fast it’s changing. It’s also true that with Facebook, there is more of – let me give a couple other statistics. I’m sorry. One is that there are now – of the average person on Facebook, how many users do you think the average user has? How many friends? How many?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. SREENIVASAN: 132 is the number – 130, I’m sorry, is the number. How many of you have more than 130 friends on Facebook? Raise your hand. Some of you don’t want to admit it. What has happened in Facebook-land is that it used to be very American, right? Very, very, very American. Anybody from Brazil here? Brazil – nobody, okay. So if you’re on – if you’re from Brazil, every Brazilian on earth who has a computer or a cell phone is on another network. What is that network called? Anybody know?


MR. SREENIVASAN: Orkut, O-r-k-u-t. A lot of Indians on Orkut, Indians on Friendster, things like that. But here’s something dramatically that’s changed in the last year, two years. You talk to Brazilians and they say “We are all still on Orkut, but we’re also on Facebook. What is the difference? Orkut is to talk to us and Facebook is to talk to them – to talk to the world, and that’s how we’re using Facebook.” So you’ll see that. People tell me that in their – in many countries, they have their own network and then they open up when they talk on others. And so Facebook, you’re seeing, is growing dramatically and I believe they’ll hit 500 million by December of this year, right?

So just think about what that means in terms of numbers, what it means in terms of access, and then what it means in terms of privacy. I say that Mark Zuckerberg, who is the founder of Facebook --

QUESTION: One of them.

MR. SREENIVASAN: Is one of the founder – it depends on who you talk to, there’s a lawsuit, everything else – founder of Facebook. You talk about him. He has had – he has – he can instantly affect the lives of more people than almost any leader of the world, because he can make one change and affect, positively or negatively, 400 million people, right? So what are those issues? Privacy issues and other things where he can affect people instantly. And I think that Facebook and all of us need to have a relationship with Facebook where we’re very careful about what we say, what we do on Facebook. And I think not enough of us are careful, right?

So I’m going to show you something called – it’s on your handout if you’ll circle it – under “Facebook Guides” – does everybody see “Facebook Guides” – something called “What the Facebook,” all right? And now, again, I don’t think stuff like this has ever been seen at a Foreign Press Center, so Miriam will forgive me, but I’ll show you this thing. This is all in the interest of learning, right? We’re going to do that. I think she’s nodding her head. I can’t see from here, so I don’t know her – I can’t see her expression, which is good.

So here – just very quickly here, let me just show you. So this is something that happens every day in America. A mother finds pictures of her son and posts it, right? Old bunches of photos. So this is a cute picture of Brian playing dress-up in his dad’s undies. That’s his actual underwear that he’s wearing. No harm, no problem. Now, that’s – many of us who are my age and above were thinking 1991 is pretty recently. Well, it turns out Brian is not that age anymore, all right? So Mom has posted this on Facebook. What could go wrong? Many things.

So Brian says “Mom, seriously? You’ve lost your privileges. I’m putting you on limited.” Mom says “Oh, Brian, do you not like the photo? I think it is cute. What is limited?” Brian: “Think of it as being grounded or put on time-out indefinitely. Goodbye.” Right? A real situation, happened in America, will happen every day because of this.

I have a friend in New York whose father is unhappy with her because her children – that is, his grandchildren – have not responded to his Facebook request. And I said to her, “Tell your dad” – he lives in Chennai in India – “Tell him that it’s helpful for his blood pressure not to know what his teenage granddaughters are doing in New York, and she’ll be better.”

So I’ll show you one more. A lot of this stuff is what we called not – NSW, not safe for work.


QUESTION: A lot of sites, though (inaudible) Facebook.

MR. SREENIVASAN: And what does it say?

QUESTION: Well, the usual South Park (inaudible).

MR. SREENIVASAN: Okay. Again, not – okay. So let me show you one more thing. One of the things that people spend a lot of time is taking quizzes on Facebook – quizzes, games, things like that. There was a story yesterday – there’s a thing called Farmville. Has anybody seen that on Facebook? Dragon Wars, Mafia Wars – who has time for this stuff, right? So a kid racked up $1,400 of debt on Farmville and now his parents are upset and everything else.

Anyway, look at this. Somebody took a quiz called “Are you good in bed?” And she was ranked as one of the top 5 percent of all lovers, okay? Now, that might be a quiz you might take and you might keep it to yourself. But on Facebook, you can’t keep it to yourself. So what could go wrong with this? So her result is she’s an incredible lover, which is important.

So you post this on Facebook, either by accident or on purpose, what could go wrong? One, your ex-boyfriend could write “No, you’re not.” (Laughter.) How about a current boyfriend saying “No, you’re not.” That would be bad. But it’s worse than that. Here’s what happened. Nell writes, “Just what I needed to know about my daughter.” That’s really bad. But it’s going to get worse. How could it get – possibly get worse? Stella writes “Or about my granddaughter.” Right?

And again, this is happening all the time, that people are commenting, posting, sharing. Five billion pieces of content are being created every day on Facebook, five billion – I mean – not every day, every month. I’m sorry. And five billion minutes are being spent every day on Facebook. So these are all hard to understand, but to be – please be careful. Again, if you want to see all those videos that I played at the beginning, if you scroll down to the end of this page, you can find all the videos there. So you can look at them when you have time.

So let’s spend a couple of minutes talking about Facebook. Give me some Facebook questions. Facebook questions – something you’ve been wondering about Facebook. One question that one of the videos said – Facebook has won the social networking war, that it’s over, that it has won. And what I would say is it has won it for now, right? It doesn’t mean it’s always going to be the winner, but for now, it has won this round of the war. And people always ask me, why did it win over MySpace, for example? Anybody have any ideas about why it became successful where MySpace did not, at one point? After being the eighth-largest site in the world, MySpace fell. Why? Or in America, so – yes?

QUESTION: User-friendly.

MR. SREENIVASAN: User friendliness of Facebook, that’s absolutely important.


QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. SREENIVASAN: Right, there are a lot of – it was – MySpace was mostly run by teenagers and all the sites and everything looked like it was teenager-y, right? A lot of flashing things and color. Facebook – very controlled, very templated, not much you could do on there. That’s the background of Facebook and that’s why things like privacy and other issues are a big problem on Facebook, because again, they control everything. And that’s how it was born. That’s why we liked it first and that’s why it’s going to be a problem now.


QUESTION: You think they could successfully go to a charge – charging to use the site?

MR. SREENIVASAN: Well, first of all, I don’t want to give them any ideas, but I would just say here – one second, let me just show you – I think Facebook is the greatest time sink in human history. You go in for two minutes, you come out 20 minutes later; you go in for 20 minutes, you come out two hours later. For a while, I used to say the greatest time sink in human history is Google Earth. Do you remember that? For about 10 minutes, it was. Do you remember? Like every day you’d go on. I want to see grandma’s house. I want to see where I was born. And most of us have never been back, right? Unless it’s for some work-related thing, it’s not important.

Am I getting the hook? No, okay. I thought she was mad about some of the things I showed.

So I think that – could they charge? Would you pay $2 a month for Facebook? How much money is that? Right? A lot, right? Or it’s a billion dollars, right, if you got that. Would you pay $10 a month? Would you pay? Maybe. Now, what have they done? They’ve built all this. We’ve invested so much in Facebook. I don’t know; I’d pay $10 a month. I don’t want them to hear it. No, Facebook, don’t charge.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. SREENIVASAN: Yeah, they don’t need my ideas. Mark Zuckerberg had a very funny line. He says, “We have 300 engineers and we’d like to keep a proportion of a million customers per employee.” And I said, “Yeah, all companies believe the same thing.” Can you imagine a million customers for every employee? The New York Times would have a billion readers if that was the case. But Facebook can afford to do that. Yeah.

QUESTION: You’re promoting a book now. Can I – and I spend too much time on the net anyway – can I just put up a notice about the book and then forget about it? Do I have to service it or anything like –

MR. SREENIVASAN: Oh, no, Facebook is work. One of the things in the video, as they said, is Facebook is work. Social media is – I’m sorry. I’m bouncing around. I’ve been talking since the morning and so I’m just trying to stretch a little bit. So Facebook and social media takes time, dedication, energy. I didn’t say money, but it takes all of those other things. So you can’t just post it once. You have to interact, you have to promote, you have to go back again and again. Here I’ve created a Facebook page that’s separate from my kind of personal Facebook account, that’s called Three Tips. And so it’s, where try to put tips on technology and I post them here and people connect with me and I do this and that’s a public page. You could create one for your book. You have a Facebook page and then you have a lot of activity.

Here’s a breakthrough for me about the value of the pages was when there was a movie came out in January called “When in Rome” – did anybody see this? Anybody remember this? No. It was not aimed at my demographic, but “When in Rome” – from 1997 or so, every movie in America has had one thing at the end of it, a URL of the trailer of every movie, right? It will say, or Right? What did they do? They did Why did they do that? Moviemakers have realized that it’s better, instead of sending somebody to a dead page where there’s no life, send them to Facebook. And then what happens? Every time they comment, post, it tells everybody in their network and then their network and their network. And it has this multiplier effect that standard web pages don’t.

So I’m not saying that those are going to – and by the way, the good lesson, Facebook didn’t save “When in Rome.” Right? You still have to have good content. That’s the great news for journalists about social media. Sometimes people listen to me and say, “This guy is like, it’s all about the new stuff.” It’s not. I’m not about that. What I’m saying is take all the good stuff you know, how to tell a story, how to report, contacts, connections, hustle, and then take social media and you amplify your message. Get it out in new places, new ways, and connect with those audiences.

One of my colleagues, Sid Gissler, who is the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, created a wonderful term. He calls it “the tradigital journalist.” That is the traditional journalist with a digital overlay. Notice it’s not the opposite, a digital journalist with a traditional overlay. It’s the opposite. That’s why I think every person in this room can do really well in Facebook and Twitter, because you understand how it amplifies what we can teach you or what you will learn together. We’re all learning, right? If this is 1996, we don’t know what’s coming. Google is coming. So is So is So is Whatever, right? Finding the gems is the hard part. And you will have to work very, very hard to use that. Questions or comments about that? Yeah.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. SREENIVASAN: Tell me your name again.

QUESTION: Noran Lochschmidt (ph) from –

MR. SREENIVASAN: One second. By the way, he is the – I mean this is going to embarrass you a little bit. He is the new Washington correspondent. Just a month in Washington – give him a hand – of the Hindu newspaper from Tenali, India. Welcome him and give him some help. He’s not – introduce him to people, connect him with people. He’s really regretting asking a question now. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: That’s why I’m not in the front seat.

MR. SREENIVASAN: Yeah, exactly.

QUESTION: Maybe getting a bit ahead, and I think you may be coming to this later in your talk. But I was just wondering, you obviously have more than Facebook. There is Twitter as well and some sites, for example, even the FPC, I think, uses both to keep us posted on events and stuff. So can you tell us a bit about how to kind of balance your use of the two. I’m sure they have different impacts as well – strategy.

MR. SREENIVASAN: Sure. I’ll come to that in a minute. But the headline, I would say, is when people say, “Do you need all these?” You don’t need all of them. You need a couple of them and you need them for different purposes. So the way I look at it is, I call Twitter e-mail without the guilt. Meaning you listen to a lot of people. If you don’t read their things, nobody minds, right? It’s not – no harm, no problem. On the other hand if e-mail – if you ignore people who send you e-mail, they get mad, right? So there’s no guilt in that. So that’s one reason.

The other thing is on Facebook, what I try to do is, I might post the same thing on Twitter and on Facebook, but I’ll do it many hours apart. And then I’ll also – I’ll add something new on my Facebook version compared to my Twitter version. Twitter, short, tight. Facebook longer, more space, et cetera. So think of them as different ways of connecting with people. The fact is most of your people will miss most of your stuff. That’s guaranteed. So don’t feel too bad about it. I – in fact, all everybody knows about RT. RT is re-tweet. I am also encouraging something that I learned from somebody else called RR, re-run. Meaning when your posting your own content again, just put RR in front of it and say – maybe you’re doing it for a different time.

One of the New York Times correspondents, Brian Stelter, does this beautifully. He’ll post something at night. He’ll post it again in the morning and he’ll just say it’s for the morning crowd. Right? There are some people who read it at certain times of the day and some people – so it’s all new. There are no rules about this. One of the things I saw is that so many people call themselves social media experts, right? That’s all BS. It’s not true. Nobody’s an expert. We’re all learning and I think something like 49 percent of all Twitter users call themselves social media experts. It’s not true. I’m joking. Now, many of you are writing it down because it sounds plausible, right? You see everybody calls a social media expert. What do I like? I like social media enthusiasts. (Inaudible) I’m enthusiastic, but I’m not there yet. Yes.

QUESTION: We had a question that came up at the White House. Robert Gibbs is sending out things like tweets. And –

MR. SREENIVASAN: Right. What is his handle? Hold on. What is his handle?

QUESTION: I – that’s the problem. There –

MR. SREENIVASAN: One second. What is his handle? Presssec, three Ss together, P-r-e-s-s-e-c.

QUESTION: Now, the last time we checked, there were a heck of a lot of Robert Gibbses. How do you know it’s authentic? How do you know it’s really coming from the White House press secretary?

MR. SREENIVASAN: Well, in his case, I think – does he have a verified account? So he must have worked with Twitter to get that. But basically, like, our college president Lee Bollinger, has a fake Lee Bollinger account. Somebody is tweeting off of that. What you do is, the best way to confirm somebody is to, in Twitter, there’s a place for a link. Go to that link. If that link is the official whatever it is, and go to that place and look if there’s a link back to Twitter. So – I’m not being that clear.

So let’s say you see this account. Not that anybody would try to imitate me. But why is – it says here “sreenet.” How do you know this is me? Well, what you do is you know what my official Twitter – my official website is sreenet. So go on sreenet and say is there any hint that he’s on Twitter? Right? Is there anything here that says he’s on Twitter? And if there is, then it’s okay. A-ha, Twitter@sreenet; and that’s that confirmation.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. SREENIVASAN: Now Robert Gibbs – how did I find out? Because it was on CNN and people were talking about it. But also, what happens is that you can kind of read some tweets and then figure out is this the person. You can sort of know. But you’re right. That night, I wasn’t sure it was him. I didn’t know. But then on CNN they said so and I – you kind of trust that people will look at it. But also, I think on his account, there is, if I’m not mistaken – let’s just see. Sorry. I go on here. Presssec, sorry, three S’s. And it’s a verified account, which means Twitter has verified him and he has 52,000 followers. Right? Now one of the – since we’re here, let me just talk a little bit about Twitter.

One of the worst things about Twitter is that number. People obsess about that number. We make a fetish of that number. Right? Look at this. And why is that bad to make a fetish of it? We now have an understanding that somehow that number means something, right? And that the bigger the number, the more valuable the person. If that is true, then you should all stop following Robert Gibbs and follow Ashton Kutcher, Alyssa Milano, Demi Moore. Some of you are like, “We love those people.” And that’s fine, but value of the person is not in the number. Imagine if we all had these numbers over our heads when we were walking around. It’s based on what you know rather than who’s following you. Does that make sense to everybody?

So let me give you an example. In a breaking news situation, one of my students was stuck in Haiti. And he was stuck in Haiti during the earthquake. Anybody from Haiti here by the way? So he was stuck in Haiti during the earthquake along with nine other Columbia students. His wife was panicking in New Jersey. And she and he were the only ones on Twitter. She found out he was okay. Minimum of a day before every other Columbia parent or spouse member because – spouse because of Twitter. And in the six days that he was in Haiti before we extracted him, she spoke to him once on the phone. Every other conversation was on Twitter. But here was the funny thing. It turns out they were not following each other on Twitter. So they had to have these public reunions, “Oh, I love you.” His name was Parker @theparkerreport. So @theparkerreport would write to @aliaking (ph), “I love you.”

And then he would write, “I love you. Now, follow me.” No, you follow me. So what are the lessons? Follow your spouse, follow your boss, follow the people because they cannot direct message without following. Does that make sense? You have to follow. And the other thing was that the person that found him for her was a total stranger named Ramhaiti, R-a-m-haiti. He had 17 followers at the moment when he tweeted, “@aliaking (ph) theparkerreport is safe. He’s out rescuing people.” She was so relieved. But she trusted him with 17 followers. How many of us would have the guts to trust somebody with 17 followers? We’d say, “This is not important.” So that’s the other lesson from her story. Trust people if you think they have useful stuff.

He had 17 followers at the start of the earthquake. Anybody know how many he has today? He has 12,000 followers. Why? Because he’s – at NPR when I mentioned his name, they said, “Oh,” she went – Nichole from NPR went there. She said, “I love him. I follow him all the time.” Why? Because he’s relevant, timely, useful, right? All the – probably not funny, but all of those other things. And that’s what you need to find. ?with 17 followers.see the four-e that. So that'f nowwhere rtunities coming every day. Are you listening for them? Are you abYou need to find – if you’re unhappy with Twitter, it’s because you’re listening to the wrong people. You’re listening to the people who are saying, “I’m putting on my pajamas.” “I’m having a shower.” “I’m having a bath.” “Shower or bath; tell me.” You know, all of that stuff. That’s not what you want. You want to find the interesting people. So I’m going to give you a couple of tricks of how to find the interesting people. Are you guys done with Twitter – I mean Facebook?

We are – LinkedIn we’re not going to get into, but LinkedIn has a lot of guys. Look at that. LinkedIn is underused by journalists as a tool to find great sources. It’s underused. We don’t have time to get into it, but you can – pardon me? No, then you’re doing it badly. I’m sorry. Not you, but I’m saying it generally.

QUESTION: I don’t know how to get on. It just goes around and around in a cycle and they keep asking again and again for the name and –

MR. SREENIVASAN: Well, then you should look at the picks that are here. They’re under picks for journalists and the page of picks for journalists. Read those and you will see. I use it all the time. I did this training at CNN. CNN – one of the overnight producers said that she was able to get a human rights lawyer in Saudi Arabia off of LinkedIn when she couldn’t find him any other way. And she was able to put him on the air only because of LinkedIn and I see that time and again. I’ve used it so many times to get stories, to get story ideas, all those things I was talking about earlier. Right? So that’s LinkedIn.

Google Buzz Guides. Now it turned out – how many of your are on Google Buzz again? A few of you, right? It turned out to be one morning we were all on Google Buzz because it was Gmail, right? 100 million people suddenly on Google Buzz because they didn’t do it the Google way. What’s the Google way? Test it slowly, get you used to it, like it, and they just went poof. It was very scary. Sorry. So everybody see that section? And then everybody see the Foursquare section is the next part of it. Right? Foursquare and geo-location guides and I say myself, I’m not a user yet.

And now Twitter guides. Let’s talk a little bit about Twitter. And I’m going to tell you about some tools that I use personally that I think everybody should know about. Number one, what is the most popular Twitter management service? TweetDeck, right? How many people use TweetDeck? Raise your hand. Look at that. Everybody’s using TweetDeck. I think TweetDeck is very good. I don’t use it. I use HootSuite. How many of you are using that? A few of you in the back. Wow, that’s unusual. All right, so HootSuite does a couple of things that are very, very useful. Number one, it does postdated tweets. Absolutely critical for journalists. What’s a postdated tweet? You set the tweet to go off at a different hour. Right? So you set it. So I do a lot of work with India and I want to tweet something for my Indian audience, I’ll tweet it at 2 a.m. and it will show up live in primetime for them. So I set it and forget it and it goes away. Right? So everybody understand the value of a postdated tweet?

Second, I use it because it has a feature called Save Draft. Now you say that’s not a new feature in everything else. E-mail, right? E-mail has Save Draft? I think lots of relationships in the world were saved by Save Draft because you write something angry and nasty and then what do I tell people? Write it. Write the worst angry letter you can. And then what do you do? Hit Save Draft. Go to sleep, wake up the next morning, and delete it. Right? You cannot do that on Twitter unless you use HootSuite. TweetDeck might have some of these features now, but it certainly didn’t.

The other thing is HootSuite is based on the web. No downloading of anything. Like I have a MacBook. If I lose my MacBook, I’d be upset, $1,200. But I have no files on it. Everything I do is on the web -- Google Docs, things like that. But HootSuite does that. And then the final thing is it allows me to see previews of all the tweets without – to make sure that what I’m looking at – or I can view videos right within my screen rather than outside. Now some of you who have no idea what I’m talking about; don’t worry. Start by going – I spend a lot of time using the regular portion of the web and using just the web like this. Right? Just going in here and reading it like this. Okay.

Next thing on your link, everybody see Everybody see that? Right? Everyone has seen Look at this. So I want to tell you that is an example of the inertia or blindness that people have, including people like me who pretend to know something about technology. I teach a class in entrepreneurship at Columbia with a guy named Ken Lerer, who is the cofounder of the Huffington Post and chairman of the company, and he told me last January, he said, “Sree, there’s a thing called You must check it out.” I say, “I like tiny URLs and (inaudible) URL. I don’t need it.” Big mistake. So let’s say they have zero users in January. By October, they had two billion clicks a month – not total, a month. In January, they crossed three billion clicks a month. Right? So it’s fascinating how fast that happened. So that’s one of the things, that there are new services and new opportunities coming every day. Are you listening for them? Are you able to identify them? How could come out of nowhere and do that? Foursquare has come out of nowhere and done that. So that’s one thing.

Now let’s look at this. So he – Robert Gibbs tweeted this: “Chile gives U.S. Weapon-Type Uranium. How Small Countries Can Play A Big Part in Making the World Safer.” I’m not sure what exactly what that means. They gave the U.S. that? But okay. So you know what happens, right? I can click on this and go to the – some kind of White House piece or something. Oh, oops. Let me try this again. Let me try this other one. “Some Important Background Details on the START Treaty.” So let’s click on that, okay. So it went to the White House page, right? Now, what is the magic of bitly? Not only is it short, but here’s what you can do. I can copy this – oops, sorry, one second. Give me a second – well, forget this. Well, hold on. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Give me a second. I’m not a PC person. Okay, I’m going to copy this, paste it here. Right? Everybody see that? And then I’m going to do this: I’m going to go back, back, back, back, back. And then if I hit enter, what will happen? It’ll go to the page, right? It will go to that White House page. But look at this – plus, what’s going to happen? Anybody know? You’ll get statistics about the page. Look at this. We’ll find out how many people clicked on his thing. Oh, oh, oh – you’re like one hour it took for something useful. All right. (Laughter.) Miriam, what is – we have 20 minutes left? Is that right? Okay.

So not only do we know when this thing is – look, it shows you like by the hour, 12 since 4:05 p.m., right? And then you can go back and you can see a past week. I can see when he tweeted it. See, he tweeted that today and he’s at a total of 1,100, right? And then you can see who has referred to it; where do they come from? They came from email, Tweeter, Facebook, et cetera. What locations, what countries, okay? That’s useful. Oh, wow, all right. And then look at this, all the people who re-tweeted it. Whoa, that’s a lot of – that’s a – look at – that’s a lot of lots of re-tweets. Okay.

Now, one of the things I should tell you is that you can be very impressed by that or you can be not so impressed. How many followers does he have? 52,000. How many clicks did he get? 1,100. So this is what’s going to happen. The first time you take your – you take a bitly link and you hit plus, you’re going to cry. There will be tears. Why will there be tears? Because it’s so – such a small percentage of your people will click, and I’ve seen it, right? So – but the good news is that you can get a sense of all the re-tweets, and so that’s what you’re seeing there. 1,100, by the way, is all the tweets. Those hundred tweets only gave 1,100 tweets, 1,100 clicks. Does everybody see that?

I had somebody who had a million followers tweet something for me, I got a hundred clicks. That’s terrible. But what I thought about was that’s okay because that means a hundred – out of the hundred tweets – sorry, out of that – at least 99 were people who had never seen the content, and that’s the big part of this, right? That it’s incremental and that’s more important than the actual number that sees you. It’s that new people are seeing you, new people are connecting with you.

So let me show you this again. Remember my handout is at bitly/shreesoc, right? So I can go to that or I can do this: bitly/shreesoc. And then what can I do? Plus (inaudible), not minus or anything else, soc-plus. Oh, I’m sorry – plus. And now look what happens When I do that, I don’t know why the comma’s in the wrong place, but – (laughter). It’s like the euro, right? In the euro everything’s got a comma in the wrong place – right place, sorry, no offense to the Europeans. But look, 28 people since 4 o’clock. Or in the past month, I’ve gotten 1,300 or a total of 2,000. Does everybody see how that works? It’s all directional. That’s what you’re happy with.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) compare one of your own linksto bitly, so that we can –

MR. SREENIVASAN: Okay. So how do you do that various – the fastest way to do that – first of all, everybody should create a bitly account. You don’t need to do this but you should, because then you can cumulate all your tweet numbers and have them all together in one place, (inaudible) numbers. So here’s what you do: You go to a link – let’s see this goodinbed. Okay? This particular story, you’d go on that. And first thing you do is you go to the end of the – the very beginning of the link. I don’t know if you can see what I’m doing, but I’m going to the very beginning of the link, all right? And I’m typing in b-i-t.l-y/. Everybody see that? No way you should keep* anything else. You can’t really see what I’m doing, but it typed in bitly/ and then a-c-d-c*, okay. And when I hit enter, I get a bitly link. Everybody see that?

But there’s what I’m going to do. To make it more useful to me, I’m going to give it a custom name. I don’t know why in God’s name I’m doing this but let’s see that – one second. I can go in here and give it a custom name. What is a custom – I’ve got shreesoc, so I can do – look at this; I can do fbgoodinbed and then that becomes the new bitly link. Right? So you want to show this to somebody today, you just go home and type in bitly/goodinbed – fbgoodinbed and you’re into that page, and you can see the statistics.

I say about bitly, you could create a link and send it to your mom and see if she clicked on it, right? “Mom, I wrote this great story.” And then she didn’t even bother to click on it, so that would be –


QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. SREENIVASAN: No, so that’s a big question. It’s something called Linkrock* -- like you’re worried about Linkrock*, and that was a big question with TinyWorld*. These people have essentially eliminated the problem. And they’re part of a new consortium that’s working on this, that what they call forever links. They will – it’s actually multiple things. You may have seen bitly; they have another one called They have a whole bunch of those. And now companies are buying their own and working with these pro accounts. Does anybody’s paper here have one for* organization? Like I created one that’s called And then if I do slash-shreesoc, so even if bitly dies, this one will work. See, it goes to that page. The New York Times has a new one, nytime – Right? Shorter. Shorter, better is that idea. So people are doing that all the time. They’re creating them.

I see our friends here from the Center for Public Integrity. Where are you? In the back, there you are. I don’t know if CPI has thought of doing something like that, but that’s something that you could do to have like shorter links like that.

Questions from anybody about bitly? Who’s head is spinning or is it just me? Okay, moving on. So – yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: So the only way we can (inaudible) statistics –

MR. SREENIVASAN: No, Ali* also does that, which is a – HootSuite has its own shortener. It does that, but it doesn’t do it as well. I will cut and paste Twitter feeds. I’ll cut and paste bitly links into HootSuite to get this, because I want to aggregate all accounts. And here’s what I’ll do: I might do this – that I might take an existing bitly link, expand it, find the thing, create a new bitly link, and then post that. The original guy still gets all the credit because it accrues together, but I can tell what percentage of the traffic I sent him. Okay, does that make sense?


MR. SREENIVASAN: Yeah. Yes. We have about 10 minutes left and I have several things I need to go through, but a quick question. And then, as I said, I’ll stick around. I don’t need to get to Georgetown till 7.


QUESTION: My question is: All of these different social media tools seem to be sort of shotgun. How do you reach specific audiences?

MR. SREENIVASAN: That’s a good question. What I’d say is that you have to work – you have to put that effort into it to identify that audience. I showed you how to find scientists today, how to find journalists, so there are ways in which you can do that. And if you have – we don’t have the time – and one day somebody should come here and show you what Facebook does with advertising. You can just go to and make an ad. You don’t have to create it, but just make it and see. You can target single women over the age of 25 in Washington, D.C. – I mean, that kind of direct targeting. It’s kind of really scary when you can do that. A student – a journalism student – not mine – wanted to work at Hearst magazines. She created an ad that ran on everybody who works in Hearst magazines’ Facebook. They freaked out because suddenly it said, “I want to work for you” and this guy’s face showed up there, right? So these are all – I mean, this is all a new world and part of it is finding the communities and then going in there and looking at them.

Let’s – because we’re in a rush, I want to show you just a couple more things. The first is – does everybody see Find New Feeds? Everybody with me? And I want to show you something called triangulate*. One of the things I hate about tweeter is all these stupid names, right? They take an English word and put a “twa”* in front of it. Have you ever been gone to a twanwhite* -- that’s like a twavitation or a twaparty, things like that? All right.

So here’s twiangulate*. Think about – what did I say Les Hinton* said? That the scarcest resource is attention, right? So here’s – one of the things I tell people about Twitter that you can do today is find fabulous people to follow. But how do you find the fabulous people? Find good people first and then who they follow are the fabulous people, right? So you trust somebody, you follow them.

So let me show you an example of this. Let’s type in presssec, right? I’m curious, who does press secretary Nick Kristof and – I’m just trying to think of active people on Twitter, people who have a lot of followers or who follow a lot of people, so I’m just putting my name in here and just see. So these are three unconnected people, we were not friends, and different levels. But let’s just click on this and see what happens. And okay, so here’s one lesson: Never use Internet Explorer to do social media because it’s not working. Always use Firefox, obviously, if we can. But a quick –

So here’s what will happen. It will see – it will tell you the press secretary is listening to this many people, sreenet is listening to this many people and this – and who’s in common? It’s an incredible list when you find out who those people have in common, right?

You can do this in any beat, any field. You can go in there – put in three Twitter users and it tells you – or event two – and it tells you who they have in common. That’s the funnel of really good users. Roger Meyer said – he was the managing editor of the Post. I showed him this for a second and he got it. He said, “Wow, I really get that that’s that funnel you need. Too much noise in social media – find that essence. I bet you the three of us are listening together to maybe like three accounts and those will probably be interesting people. Bill Gates might be one of them; Nate Silver, some of you remember he picked the elections from 538*, things like that. So you should definitely look at this.

Triangualte* is really good. Another one that’s a really good and useful thing is, Twitter for Busy People. Anybody seen that yet? Again, it may not work here. But here’s what it does: You go in there and I hit okay. And what it will do is it will look through all the people I follow and it will show me an interesting thing. Again, this may not work in – oh, it worked. Okay, here we go. So it says here’s who updated their page in the last hour. Let me see this – sorry. Do you see this? Last hour, last day, last month, okay. So here’s what you do: You just go on here and then I mouse over people and it should show me – again, this is because of Internet Explorer – but when I mouse over it, it will give me their related status update and so you go boop, boop, boop, boop, boop, boop, boop, boop, and that’s what you can do.

Now, the problem with this, you can see – this is the importance of your avatar*. It has to be really clear; who are you? But if you do this, you’ll find it’s very easy – t4bp. Again, I’m sorry it’s not working but that’s just Internet Explorer. I’ll write a note to Bill Gates; maybe he’ll listen on Facebook.

Then a couple of other things on here: One is Keep Track Via Email. Have you seen that? One of the problems with Twitter is there’s too much content, too many times you’re mentioned – you can track. Here under key track by email, they will email you every time you’re mentioned on Twitter. That’s pretty useful, right? You get an email.

I’ve got five minutes left. Okay.

Next thing on Twitter, everybody with me? Now, I’m going to say something that I only tell people I know with strong constitutions, but I’m going to tell you guys. You look like sort of strong constitutions. And what I’m going to say is don’t worry about those numbers. I told you that already. What I care about is who’s following me, what kind of people are following me. I don’t care about having large numbers. I want the right people to follow me. What I mean by right people – who care about journalism, who are working in media, things like that.

And then I also care about the “un-follows,” people who un-follow you – very dangerous. If you do this, you will need psychotherapy, okay? It’s very, very scary. So what am I talking about? Everybody see Chirpstats? That’s okay. Chirpstaps will send you one email once a day or a direct message saying, “Sree, you’ve got 10 new followers and two people left you.” That’s okay. That you can handle, it’s aggregate number, it’s okay. But the next one, do not use because the next one sends you an email with a name and when they stopped following you, when they started following you. Very dangerous. I have used that and you’re severely tempted to write to them saying, “Why did you un-follow me, why’d you leave me?” Right? Imagine you’re a TV correspondent and you get an email every time somebody changes the channel while you’re talking. It would be horrible, right?

But I’ll tell you the number one reason people leave, because you’re over-sharing, you’re boring, you’re not interesting, you’re pointing at yourself. I tell people one and every five tweets should be about you – five. Most people it’s five out of five. I tell people every tweet should have a link as much as possible. Have links in there. Make it interesting.

Anybody have a newspaper? Can I have it?

So if you look through my handout, the rest of it – I’ve got all kinds of things on there that you can check out, including I have a thing under “Must Do” called “Back Up my Tweets”. Does everybody see that? And you should absolutely back up your tweets because it’s very important.

So here – one of the things that people always say to me about social – about Twitter is 140 characters; I’m a writer. I cannot write 140 characters. I write 2,000 words minimum, right? And what I say is think about your newspaper. Not a single headline you have ever read is more than 80 characters, maybe 90 characters. So let me look at a couple of these stories. Okay. “The Coming Traffic Meltdown – Downtown D.C. Nuclear Summit Promises Massive Security and Gridlock” – 90 characters. What is the magic of a newspaper? That if I want more, I’ve got a thousand words underneath, right? The same idea on Twitter.

Do you actually read this story? No. You got to a cocktail party and say, “Wow, that coming traffic meltdown it’s going to be a real problem.” You never read the story, but you know enough, right? You know enough to speak. So same thing – “For Deterrent, U.S. Looks to Conventional Warheads.” You’re sitting at a cocktail party – “You know, for a deterrent, they’re looking at conventional nuclear warheads.” The magic is everything underneath. Think about this with your tweets – short headline. And the thousand words are where? In the link or in the photo, in the information so people can get more if they need it. Otherwise you don’t need it.


QUESTION: I’m just curious if in five minutes you have --

MODERATOR: Two minutes.

QUESTION: Two minutes to talk about how –

MR. SREENIVASAN: One minute.

QUESTION: The importance of hash tags as well.

MR. SREENIVASAN: Okay, sure. So hash tags are a way of bringing together a lot of stuff under on place, and you saw that with Iran election, Mumbai attacks, things like that – China earthquake, the plane crash in the Hudson. And hash tags help collect and bring you all together in one place. But they’re also a great source of spam and other things because they see, say Justin Bieber is really popular, so people start tweeting useless stuff – maybe all of it’s useless – and then put a hash tag on it. Try my new dessert – and then put a hash Justin Bieber to fool people into going there. Think of it as a kind of instant Google juice that people are kind of finding you instantly there.

But what’s happened really on Twitter is that now Twitter stuff shows up in Google as a live feed. Have you noticed that? That it’s showing up right at the top and it’s coming in because Google – Facebook’s the same thing. It’s becoming live in a way it had never been before.

So we’re out of time. So let me leave you with two thoughts. One is please connect with me if you haven’t. You can connect with me on Twitter or on Facebook. If you’re on Facebook, please connect to my Sreetips page because that’s where I do all my technology tips. If you’re not on my email list, please email me or give me your business card; I’ll add you to it.

The second thing is we are very, very, very early – all you have to do is try, practice, and there’s new stuff coming all the time. And as I said, I’ll stick around here. If you have any questions, come talk to me and I’ll be happy to answer stuff. And let’s thank the Foreign Press Center and thank you all for coming. (Applause.)

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