Tweeting has become a fact of life at industry analyst briefings, and at perhaps more social events than I’m even aware of. Cocktail parties have become tweetups. People get married, break up and live together tweeting. If Archie and Edith Bunker were still on television, we would watch them tweeting.
Up until the last two weeks, I had not been much of a tweeter – and felt guilty about it. I had Twitter followers and followed people. I even wrote about Twitter and its impact; but frankly, it had had very little impact on me. With my infrequent participation, I felt unworthy of followship. And when I did go to Twitter, it was joining conversations in progress and I couldn’t flow with it.
My Twitter awakening took place at the Informatica Analyst Conference, held on February 9 and 10. I attended this event – I was there in person, listening to many fine presentations from Informatica executives. As has been my habit for two decades, I opened up my computer and started to take notes, listening and watching carefully. However, it wasn’t until I logged onto Twitter and checked in on the hash tag (#infaanalyst) that I was really there.
Or not there: It was hard to decide whether being involved in the Twitter conversation was a distraction or an enhancement. It was sort of exhilarating, kind of like surfing, with a mass of water moving below your feet, or in this case, my fingertips. Yet, Informatica people were watching the tweets carefully, and while they did not join the stream, they were responding to tweets during their presentations. Sohaib Abbasi, Informatica chairman and CEO, even picked up my tweet about the role of the CIO and offered insights during his remarks.
Convinced that Twitter was important, I made a point of following tweets from the SAS industry analyst conference earlier this past week (#sassb), since I was not physically there. Many of the same analysts who were at the Informatica conference were tweeting from this event. Some tweets were matter-of-fact restatements of what SAS was presenting, as if reporting to the outside world. These offered narrative value, but given Twitter’s character limit, they couldn’t provide much beyond headlines. Sometimes the NDA (nondisclosure) curtain would fall and there would be silence. Most other tweets were a combination of opinions, humorous asides, kudos, complaints and half-formed questions. An ensemble narrative it was not; since I was having trouble following the thread, I finally logged off and turned to other matters. My conclusion: You had to be there.
Then today, I had a third type of Twitter experience. I participated in the Boulder BI Brain Trust meeting with Hewlett Packard’s Business Intelligence Solutions group, represented by John Santaferraro, senior director of Marketing Communications and Industry Marketing. This time, while not physically there, I was dialed in by phone – and was on Twitter (#bbbt). This tweet stream was more like a parallel reality; HP did not really respond to tweets as Informatica had, but the flow seemed more sensible because I was hearing the presentation in real time, alongside the real-time tweet stream. Of course, tweet streams are real time and nothing else; when I go back and review the presentation and my notes later, the stream won’t be there (maybe I could hunt it down, but I won’t).
In the analyst business these days, tweeting is obligatory, as it is for marketing and public relations. I’m initiated now, and will tweet more. But, are the tweets of any use to anyone not physically there, or part of the tight community of tweeters? I think the jury is out on that. Can you follow a hash tag and “be there”? No, at least not yet. It’s more like archeology, where you piece together disparate pieces and try to form a narrative. In real time.