When you haven’t seen something fast growing for several weeks such as a child or Russian vine the temptation to say, ‘my haven’t you grown!’ is very great.

This urge should be avoided as it annoys those concerned, by patronising kids or rebuking gardeners. Yet returning from a short tweet break this morning I muttered these very words on reading about the fifth anniversary of twitter so breaking this rule of the blindingly obvious.

Yet leaping to my own defence it is not just the speed of growth with twitter that is dramatic. It is the manner of its growth and what it has done to the way internet-based opinion and influence has developed that is very interesting, and weirdly so. A really interesting post on Elise’s Review prompted this thought with the question ‘Is social media becoming more about mass broadcasting than conversation?’

Twitter’s growth has been about amplification of opinions, influence and conversations. At times this has made it appear more like broadcasting and certainly it has made the conversation louder, shorter and less genteel. Yet in interacting with media and blogs I would argue that twitter is amplifying and sharing ideas that often start in long form in other media platforms. This is different from broadcasting although it does make the conversation less sophisticated in many cases. I would describe it as a broader conversation rather than a broadcast.

Indeed as twitter grows its ability to amplify grows too so amplifying the amplifier. Some bloggers who began as highly focused ‘Influentials’ talking to only niche groups have become stars and engaged in very broad conversations. They often start to post less frequently but when they do they reach bigger, much bigger numbers.

The post pointed out that now more people get news from the Internet than traditional newspapers. This too is a part of the amplification process with e-zines merging with communities and a more dialogue driven view of the news.  The key dynamic here is the way twitter helps ideas and stories leapfrog between niche communities.  Again this seems to be of the great strengths of twitter it takes news from niches and can make them part of a broad community.

As it grows this does not mean twitter is all about these broader conversations. Clearly there a niche areas such as middle aged cycling that have drawn together quite large but discrete groups who don’t make it as trending topics. But even these conversations have become broader. So back to the blindingly obvious not always being easy to adopt I quote one point in the Elise’s Review below:

If Your Blog Doesn’t Have A “Tweet This” Or “Like This” Button On It, It Means That You Are Not Cool.

And yes – we know ours doesn’t. yet.

@Naked_Pheasant

"Steve Jobs has announced he is to pursue a career as an artist. His work will be exhibited by Green Park tube""

Did you hear?  It seems Apple is planning to launch a shiny new toy.  Perhaps an easier question is “have you not heard?” You’d have to have returned from a month-long trek through the hills of Kathmandu to not be aware of this revelation.  Every news site is hyping it so much you’d think Apple has conceived a new way of slicing bread.  But the thing is – we haven’t heard it from the horse’s mouth yet.

If you’ve been busy finding yourself in Kathmandu you might also have missed our own news – Edelman launched the 2010 Trust Barometer yesterday.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do.

As we trustworthy types do, we were chatting about the research yesterday and Steve Jobs cropped up in conversation.  As he does.  So to catch you all up – once again Technology is the most trusted industry according to our research.  Well done us.  And we’ve moved from a shareholder to a stakeholder world  where transparency has grown in importance.

The findings also show that it’s no longer all about the CEO.  Its lowly people like you and me that people want to hear from (you do, don’t you?).  The trust is no longer linked to the job description. (Though as an obsequious aside – it is still worth listening to the likes of Robert Phillips and Richard Edelman.  Not only are they interesting to listen to, they also help pay my bills).  But you get what I mean, companies have to look beyond the bucks and the board room when asking for a consumer’s trust.

So compare this to Apple.  Jobs is the messiah for many, a heroic entrepreneur for our time.  But his health issues last year further underlined the important of not putting the whole company’s eggs in a CEO’s basket.  Transparency is usually linked to openness in corporate dialogue.  Compare this to the Tablet, which is so shrouded in secrecy they’ve probably developed an invisibility cloak especially for it.  Following the fanfare of this evening’s press conference I’m sure the Apple spokespeople will return to their imagination lab in the bowels of a volcano somewhere to a chorus of “No Comment”.  So in a conventional sense there is very little transparency.   However – there will be an awful lot of #iSlate conversations.

So what does this all mean?  Well the Naked Pheasant himself put it nicely when he said that the “trust is with the art not the artist.” The product is the king, not the person.  That’s where the consumer trust lies.  Mr Pheasant continues “how many times have you seen a friend showing off an iPhone in the pub?”  The Boss Bird has a point and attached to the great product is some great conversational marketing – the iStore adverts are a good example.  It’s a great approach to promotion and one that is too often ignored: ensure the product is blisteringly brilliant – and the rest will follow.   If you build it they will come.

There is one flaw in this approach as far as I can see.  What if they mess it up?  How loyal is the consumer trust in Apple?  Maybe Jobs is just too achingly smart to let this happen and the iSlate/ Tablet/ eReader will meet all of its expectations.  Maybe it will revolutionise how consumers absorb content.  It might even revive the print industry, to boot.  But what if it doesn’t?  What if the once glorious conversations and exchanges in the pub turn into “jeez do you remember when Apple had it all then they fucked it up with that big iPhone that turned into a toaster?”

When the conversation is around the art and not the artist, you are only as good as your last painting.

@LukeMackay

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