As the technological boom continues to blow the minds of generation X, the development of various social networking sites has caused a stir of adaptation amongst online users. From the masses of students on Facebook to the droves of corporate workers on LinkedIn, social networks have officially made communication quicker, amusing, and more efficient. Nonetheless, even with millions of users, SNSs have created a phenomenon where public connections seem to be more of an art, instead of just a scientific advancement. In only about 100 pages, Mark Schaefer successfully outlines the platform of Twitter in his short book The Tao of Twitter.
Schaefer primarily targets a broad audience of Twitter users, in spite of age, race or gender (which are the usual independent variables in recent social networking discourse and studies). In this way, we automatically see that his intention is to educate both current and future users of the advantages of Twitter with basic daily usage. In just the first 10 pages, the reader is able to understand the purpose of Twitter without a full-fledged glossary of “Twit-terms” and their definitions. Schaefer also provides us with anecdotes of his past and current usage of the site, where he describes that Twitter actually isn’t for everyone. He eventually narrows down to describe the advantages to businesses and small business owners. Nevertheless, though the book initially seems geared toward an overarching audience of all users, we see here that Schaefer targets businesses and their respective professionals. Looking at the book as an overall discourse of social media, we can see the recent spectrum of media scholarship regarding SNSs. danah boyd and Nicole Ellison discuss this briefly in their elaborative definition of SNSs, “Scholars from disparate fields have examined SNSs in order to understand the practices, implications, culture, and meaning of the sites, as well as users’ engagement with them. He breaks down the characteristics of an individual who would be an ideal user for business purposes. In general, this person would be a small business-owner who is knowledgeable of the global market, and looking to sell differentiated services using a small marketing budget on a web-based communication tool. This was the first thing that struck me as surprising. Now, indeed Schaefer is
There has often been negative discourse regarding Twitter and its purpose as an SNS, but I think it’s important to consider the difference between a social network and social networking. Schaefer shows readers the personal and business benefits of Twitter by doing three simple things, or Tao’s as he calls them, to ensure that you’re developing a strong community. Notice here that this community isn’t defined by users with whom you’ve already developed strong ties, although using Twitter can make them stronger. Rather, Twitter allows you to interact with complete strangers and people who are already a part of your extended social network where latent ties were established in the past. boyd and Ellison define an SNS as a web based service where individuals can create a profile in a bounded system, interact with other users with whom they share a connection, and view these connections within the system. Even so, they specifically state, ‘‘Networking’’ emphasizes relationship initiation, often between strangers. While networking is possible on these sites, it is not the primary practice on many of them” (boyd 211). Schaefer exploits this idea by highlighting the valuable connections that can be made from Twitter, which is indeed a networking site.