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Citizens of Twitterville, Shel Israel is your special correspondent

September 4th, 2009 · No Comments · Entrepreneurs

Each culture has its ideal cities, communities, phalanxes, religious, economic or political wonderlands as well as its Fata Morgana kingdoms. We have our own form of utopia, Twitterville. It could have been Twittertown, Twitterburg, Twitterborough or Twitterpolis. No, it’s Twitterville. Shel Israel prefers to use the French suffix ville, derived from the Latin “villa,” an estate on the outskirts of a city, with a ” homey, small-town feel.” Yet, the minute you enter the place, you find out that Twitterville is a kind of sprawling environment, “a global neighborhood” made of an infinity of the smaller neighborhoods that Twitterville citizens select to create for themselves, depending on their business or personal interests. They follow and/or are followed by other citizens from the most diverse vicinities in the comfort of their home. In a way, this Utopia is really what the word actually means: a no-place that is nowhere, but in anyone’s mind, unconstrained by geography. However, instead of emanating from a single thinker, à la Thomas Moore, it sprang out from a wave that Chris Shipley from the Guidewire Group called “social media” in 2004 [1] and “materialized” as it is by a software platform (Twitter), Twitterville is a fully crowdsourced utopia. 

Shel Israel takes us through Twitterville with the fervor of a proud resident and engaged storyteller — eventually adding autobiographical details to enliven his narrative. And here we have in one breath an archeology of Twitterville, the history of its first settlers, famous people, unknown entities or businesses of all sizes, and dozens of Twitter addresses for the reader to try. He takes us though a chronicle of local adventures and mishaps as well as successful interactions between users and notoriously unfriendly providers both on earth and in the skies – and we can only wonder what U-Haul can do to recover from its repeated blunders or Motrin from the headaches that the brand created for itself. For, in Twitterville, bad rap might last just as long as they did in old-time villages. Everybody talks in the megalopolis and news, good or bad, true or false, uncontrollably propagate. Twitterville is all about conversation, i.e. any talk from babble to debate, and as a result, conversational marketing as much about reputation as it is about content.

Twitterville is not simply a marketing manual and is often really entertaining: it is a collection of stories for whomever wants to have a feel of what it is like to live in Twitterville and experience its continuously morphing precincts and innumerable downtowns. The conversational marketing manifesto side of the book comes across as summary rules and principles by which twitterers abide to be part of the community. In many respects, Twitterville is a free-style sequel to Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers, a book that Shel Israel wrote with Robert Scoble. However, while Naked Conversations discussed how to talk to people and customers through blogs, Twitterville is more about how to talk with people as you talk to them. “Spinning and targeting are outmoded,” and selling products is not the starting point of a conversation, only the symbol of an established social relationship. Basically Twitterville makes us rediscover the beautiful ambiguity and complexity of the definition of the word “commerce” which refers to 1) a “social intercourse: interchange of ideas, opinions, or sentiments”
 and 2) the “exchange or buying and selling of commodities on a large scale involving transportation from place to place.”[2]

Marylene Delbourg-Delphis



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