The only thing better than being by the sea is …

I have been meaning to get round to writing another post about my recent social media experiment.  I was really thrilled by the number of and enthusiasm behind the responses.  I think I can also say that the responses I got were genuinely helpful, thank you very much everyone who participated!

It was the first time I had seriously tried using social media to poll opinion on a subject.  I had half heartedly tried on very trivial matters, but never really expected anyone to reply or show an interest.  Funnily enough, very few people ever did.  Over the last few months, however, I have enjoyed becoming more a part of communities on the social media sites I use.  I finally realised that blogging was not something I do in isolation, and like with real life friendships it is far more rewarding when I engage in a conversation with others and actively think of my input as being inserted into the wider community in some way.  I find it is the same with twitter and facebook, they become much more rewarding when you stop thinking about broadcasting what you want to say and start thinking about engaging in dialogue.  Not social media related, but I also find thinking about my short story writing in the same way helpful.  I have touched on the importance of community in an earlier blog post, so I won’t labour the point any more than I have done already!

Back to the tie breaker, my own answer to the question was

“… having a small, loyal and highly mobile army of monkey butlers at your disposal.”

Which I thought was fairly witty and I was quite happy with it as a representation of something about me.  I then found myself wondering how other people would approach answering the question.  How people approach answering questions is often as interesting, if not more so, than the actual answer.  As I thought about how to gather opinion using facebook and twitter I realised that if I wanted anyone to engage and reply I would need to curate the exercise properly.   I also realised I had to give people a reason to care, hence I made a point of explaining it was important to me.

Before began I decided I wanted to show appreciation for the responses I got.  Both on and offline a little bit of appreciation – an acknowledgement, a thank you, an explanation of why/what/how it helps – goes a long way.  One of the things I can find slightly frustrating about social media is that it sometimes feels so anonymous.  Particularly with blogging: it is very rare to get comments and feedback on my blog.  I understand why this is, but we all find it flattering to know what someone took notice of what we contributed.  So I resolved to make the effort to respond, prompt, cajole, flatter and generally (and genuinely) interact with anyone who showed an interest.  It paid dividends and led to some of the most interesting exchanges of the evening.

My sister, in completely unexpected turn of events, decided to grill me on what the tie breaker was supposed to be demonstrating.

“What are you supposed to be demonstrating? A sense of humour, beautiful poetic language, something truely bizarre and unique?”

Her analytical approach opened up ways of thinking about it that would never have occurred to me.  I hadn’t thought of breaking it down like that.  She is a science teacher so I suppose this shouldn’t really surprise me.

The other really interesting exchange was on facebook with my friend Grant, who started off poking fun at me.

Grant: “… an intangible start to a statement, as I live in Lewes. ???! x”

Cheeky git!   I thought for a minute about how to win him over to thinking about it differently. He is an intelligent, thoughtful chap and so I thought he could come up with something better if he put his mind to it, rather than just poking fun at me.

Louise: “Grant: it’s a game, suspend disbelief for a minute! You’re clever, I thought you’d be better at this ;-)”

So I built rapport by gently teasing back and using a bit of flattery (which was in no way insincere, as I genuinely think he is a clever, thoughtful guy).  He responded with

Grant: “I will go for a rhyme … the satisfaction of squashing a flea.”

This became one of my favourites form the evening:  “The only thing better than being by the sea is the satisfaction of squashing a flea.”

The observation of rhyme and meter gives a it a lovely aesthetic.  See, I knew he could come up with the goods!

As he said later, in response to a post of mine thanking everyone for their help

Grant: “not only did my answer rhyme, it also had the correct number of beats as well.”

No smugness there at all then … 😉  Bless you for taking the time to help me out Grant, it was much appreciated!

The other thing I noted was a difference in approach from twitter and facebook users.  As I had anticipated, my facebook friends were quicker to catch on and join in than twitter followers.  With twitter it was a bit more of a slow burn, it picked up more momentum later and required a bit more prodding from me.  I resorted to reporting comparisons between twitter and facebook on my twitter timeline to encourage a bit of competitive spirit.  I am not sure if that helped or not. Mentioning it several times in my timeline certainly did.

Unlike facebook, where conversations about specific status updates are grouped for everyone to see, twitter relies more on something being a very current topic of conversation and having several mentions.  On facebook there can be the benefit of immediately seeing what everyone else has posted, but once a thread is established between two or three people, another person can find breaking in to contribute quite intimidating.   Because of the way conversations are tracked differently in the two media, I think conversations take a bit longer to pick up momentum on twitter.  Once going, though, I find conversations tend to last longer on twitter.  Knowing the strengths and limitations of a given medium is always useful in figuring out how best to use it.

By way of conclusion, here are some honourable mentions:

My colleague and friend Darren (on facebook) was first to contribute an answer to the tiebreaker and I admired his no nonsense style: “… being by the sea with a pint.”

On twitter, a big mention has to go to @Grifflett who contributed an astonishing number of answers and her enthusiasm and literary style was wonderful!   I think the final number of suggestions from this one person alone was 14!  My favourite of her contributions was “… being tucked up on a rainy day with buttered toast and a good book” as the imagery and kinaesthetics it conjured for me are just wonderful.

And to finish the most topical answer to the tie breaker, courtesy of @RobKRead “is … about to be sold off by the coalition government as part of their deficit reduction plans.”  I almost always go for daftness and humour, the possibility of a topical reply didn’t occur to me at all, so I found this one interesting for that reason.

Thanks to everyone who was interested enough to help me out.  With any luck some good/interesting news will come out of the meeting that prompted me to do all of this in the first place and if it does I promise to share it with you all.

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