The book I’ve been groggily making my way through every morning for the past month or so (I’m a slow reader) has been Twitterville by Shel Israel. I’ve already handed a copy to a gentleman in a book store cafe with express orders to buy it, and as soon as I’m done writing and publishing this post I’ll be dropping off my personal copy to a former coworker. Can you tell I recommend it?
This book combines a very engaging writing style with colorful case studies. Israel adds a personal touch by telling the case study stories from the perspective of the key players, having done interviews to bring the reader these people’s own words. He then makes the stories even more personal by adding his own views or experiences. For instance, even the story of how Twitter started and was first adopted by the business community is engaging in a chapter entitled “Dell’s Paralel Avenues.” Israel doesn’t just describe how Dell first started to use Twitter as a way of moving closeout and refurbished computers, he tells of how Ricardo Guerrero, the gentleman responsible for starting Dell’s presence on Twitter, was very confused when he got his first Twitter account after being introduced to it at the SXSW 2007 conference. Israel then makes it more intimate by interjecting his own personal story of confusion. The first Tweet he ever posted was “Well here I am. What happens now?” This personal flair continues throughout the book.
Of course Israel also covers Twitter best practices. When there is debate, he continues the personal touch by stating his preferences up front. When discussing whether or not a company should use a “logo tweeter” (a logo avatar without a disclaimer of who exactly is tweeting) or a spokesperson tweeter, Israel is obviously pro-spokesperson. (I take the discussion further by applying it to personal accounts here). But he is balanced and fair in discussing why businesses would opt with a logo account rather than his preferred method. He does this by using interviews again, this time with the people behind the logos. In other words, he lets the practitioners speak for themselves, letting him remain openly biased, letting the reader come to her own conclusions, and creating a more interesting read than a simple case study.
And it’s not just a business book. It’s practically a sociology book. With his background in journalism, Israel is able to describe how Twitter is changing the field by allowing citizens to keep each other informed or even informing the professional media, as when Janis Krums tweeted about the Miracle on the Hudson, complete with a TwitPic of the plane in the middle of the river. Krums then appeared as a guest on various television news/talk shows. Israel calls this type of exchange “braided journalism.” Not stopping there, the book then goes on to cover governments using Twitter to get in direct contact with their constituents, like when the British city of Newcastle used Twitter to announce a snow day for the schools and handling resident complaints. And that’s not even beginning to touch on the wonderful chapter on fund-raising on Twitter. If you ever need to raise money, Israel has some great tips – like using the ChipIn widget, which makes it easy to collect donations and let followers keep score on your progress.
Twitterville is a great introduction to Twitter, the type that just gets better if you aren’t a beginner at all, or if your an expert. I chock it up to Israel’s wonderful writing style, but the content doesn’t hurt, either. I highly recommend you pick it up. Today.
Also, please spend less than 5 minutes of your time taking this survey: Avatar – Identity vs. Perception. John Antonios and I are studying whether or not avatars show what we want them to show about ourselves. We’re hoping for 500 respondents, so please help us get there!