What Monocole Got Right And Wrong About Twitter
Monocle is my favourite magazine. It constantly feeds my interest in travel, politics, culture and design. I love that Monocle is unapologetically committed to urban living and cosmopolitanism. Moreover, I’m a big fan of the the way they have retained their brand identity online, through the website and their podcasts (Monocle and The Monocle Weekly). […]
Monocle is my favourite magazine. It constantly feeds my interest in travel, politics, culture and design. I love that Monocle is unapologetically committed to urban living and cosmopolitanism. Moreover, I’m a big fan of the the way they have retained their brand identity online, through the website and their podcasts (Monocle and The Monocle Weekly). Finally, I know that the editor of Monocle, Tyler Brulé shares my passion for Japanese standards of service, grown-up men’s fashion and Copenhagen’s ability to turn out beautifully attired male and female cyclists.
Therefore, it is unusual for me to dissent from the Magazine’s editorial perspective – as I do right now, over Twitter.
Monocle is no fan of Twitter, the latest edition makes that point clear, adding it to their “most unwanted” list (which also includes cliché ridden language, Larry King and Joseph Kony). Their claim is that large media organisations are using Twitter as “cheap filler to replace meaningful content,” and that companies are using Twitter in a way that suggests poor cosmetic rebranding.
The criticisms are valid. I don’t believe news organisations should be creating Twitter-specific content. The medium is not a good fit for anything other than links to breaking stories and the occasional editorial nicety. Moreover, the way some companies use Twitter is embarrassing to watch (“…like seeing some old guy walk down the road with a young bimbo on his arm…”).
I’m no expert (although social media experts do appear to be sprouting like mushrooms after a rainy day), but I wonder if Twitter has much value at all to the top end of broadcasting or big business. I’ve yet to hear a compelling argument there. The only exception being guerilla-marketing campaigns for niche brands.
However, Monocle’s focus is not solely on big business or the top of the publishing tree. They consistently champion smaller, high value businesses – both global micro-brands and local examples of excellence in service and design. It’s here that I think Twitter has a value Monocle has missed. Consider their “verdict” on Twitter.
“There is a kind of social media that really works for business and play. It’s called having a glass of wine.”
I couldn’t agree more. We are not going to get very far, perpetually hidden behind the safe, embryonic glow of our computer screens and mobile devices. If you are a successful brand, or key identity in your field, this is not problematic. You reputation becomes your business card and people will either come to you, or your introduction will carry some weight.
But for new businesses, smaller players and people with niche skills, finding the right people to share wine with, or finding anyone at all, can be a challenge. Here in Hong Kong I’ve met plenty of people with “networking burnout.” The city is replete with such events and they work for some people (consultants, headhunters, etc), but for the rest of us they can be like finding a needle in a haystack – especially if your industry doesn’t really have a large presence in the city (e,g., you don’t work in finance, retail, tourism or logistics).
“…what you will be in five years depends on two things: the people you meet and the books you read.” Twyla Tharp
That quote hit me hard some months back. I made a decision, to refocus on my locality, make more contacts and improve my social network. Much to my surprise, Twitter played a key role in that. The people I’m actively connected to on Twitter are mostly musicians, photographers, advertisers, artists, game-designers, writers, publicists – in a nutshell, the kind of people I’ve struggled to meet in my three years in Hong Kong.
Moreover, Twitter is an amazing recommendation-engine. The common criticism of Twitter is that’s full of inane, “what I had for breakfast,” type comments. Sure. But, part of what I love about Monocle, is exactly that sort of thing – reliable recommendations from trusted sources (filters still matter, online and at the news-stand). An under-appreciated point is social media’s potential to make urban living more manageable – which is, after all, a key commitment of Monocle itself – and more social. In many ways, Twitter works, on a local level, the way Dopplr has tried to work on an international level.
As a musician, Twitter is only one component in what should be broader approach to online publicity. That won’t just include MySpace, Amazon, iTunes and Facebook, but also sites like SoundCloud, Blip, LastFM, Beatport, Bandcamp, AWAL and Topspin. That said, Twitter is an active space, right now, for conversation and musicians, like any business people, should be paying attention to “word of mouth.”
I can understand why Monocle are not active on Twitter and in their position I might not be either (at least at an editorial level). But, I would be a little alarmed if they were no at least researching the way smaller and niche businesses were using it grow their brands and the way sophisticated urbanites were interacting with it to make living in their cities more liveable and enjoyable.
And, as for my recommendations on the best places in Hong Kong to share a wine with new contacts and potential collaborators? Well, you’ll only find that, on Twitter.