Twitter as interactive backchat

So You Think You Can use Twitter as backchat?

So You Think You Can use Twitter as backchat?

As an attendee of the freebieĀ  Ad:Tech09 keynote sessions, there were a few of us commenting and reporting on Twitter of what was going on using the Ad:Tech hashtags #atsyd. Mumbrella pulled out some selected highlights of the Twitter stream comments, whilst the unfiltered Ad:Tech hashtag stream ranged from the serious to the downright hilarious. There were some rumblings that much of the tweeting was sniping and backstabbing and surely the tweeters could just come out and say what was being broadcast on Twitter?

I also attended a building online communities presentation at NSW KM in February, where we again publicised the event by tweeting interactively throughout the three talks. Despite an audience who were all ready to do it again, the most recent NSW Knowledge Management speaker Ed Mitchell put an end to the Twitter stream by saying he preferred not to allow Twitter’s through his presentation because it would lead to people “checking their email” and other online tasks. It was an old media argument by saying electronic “note taking” through Twittering was not allowed, whereas a traditional pen and paper method was not frowned upon. Ironically, by preventing the Tweets, we now have no record of what the audience thought of his presentation, unlike the February event where one could follow the key insights during all 3 of the presenters.

Twitter since it’s launch 3 years ago has been a major part of SXSW, so much so that Pepsico spent some sponsorship dollars this year in creating an interactive visualizer of the various Twitter streams, following the parties just as much as the event itself.

Which brings me to the most pop cultural use of Twitter as interactive backchat. So You Think You Can Dance Australia has a bunch of amateur commentators (me included I’m afraid) who sit on Twitter every Sunday and Monday evening, tweeting on the minutae of costumes, music, hair, camerawork and oh yes, the dancing. Every week, the #sytycd hashtag becomes a trending topic, prompting Twitter users from opposite hemispheres (literal as well as metaphorical) to ask “what’s sytycd?”. Meanwhile the backchat goes on in an interactive (at least amongst the amateur commentators) stream.

I read a great slideshare presentation today from SXSW on The Future of Social Networks. The overall idea was the ubiquity of social networks, that your friends commentary will become the “subtitles” to the TV show, (have a look at the #sytycd hashtag on any Sunday or Monday evening live during the show) and that events will need to be re-thought to include Twitter streams. When Ev (Evan Williams) did his TED talk in February 2009, he was confronted by the Twitter stream about his own speech by the TED MC. Scroll to around 7 minutes in to see Ev’s hashtag backchat.

So in the era of smartphone Twitter applications enabling Twitter on the go (except where 3G can’t penetrate), and TV consumers who are online as much as they are watching TV (at the same time) its natural that a new form of live interactive backchat evolves from the public Twitter stream, monitored through relevant hashtag.

Some interactive uses for Twitter backchat:

  • Brand feedback (Skittles did this in the most public way possible – previous post about the bravery it took here)
  • Live event feedback – including interactive questions from an audience not limited by geography (already happening more often than not)
  • Live TV show feedback – including interactive questions from an audience not limited by geography
  • Dating show – I would love to see a Twitter version of Perfect Match where the contestants would be subjected to a three round tweet out. Only the wittiest in 140 characters or less gets to go out on the date with the datee.

Any other ideas? Please feel free share them here.