Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Twitter matters because it is a stethoscope

Twitter has a stratospheric valuation based on the fact that it can sell advertisements to its expansive user base. And that makes sense for investors. But I think that model of Twitter - as a microphone for advertisers - misses the platform's real power as a stethoscope for institutions to listen directly to the masses. Think about it. The POTUS, the Pope, and the Dalai Lama are all on Twitter. Multinational corporations are on Twitter. Celebrities and even airlines you want to complain about are on Twitter. You can tweet at all of those folks and they might actually respond.

I have personally engaged with really interesting people and institutions on Twitter that I've never met in person. It's incredibly liberating to have access to institutions with power. Never before in history has it been easier for an individual without formal power (read: people like me) to collaborate with those that have lots of it.

That flipping of the model could be world-changing, and I'd argue it has been already. Twitter doesn't seem to have done that intentionally, but that's what's happened.

Twitter is trying to make gobs of money by giving advertisers the ability to shout their shouts as loudly as possible. But wouldn't it be interesting (and more valuable) if Twitter instead focused on helping institutions listen instead of shout?

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

  • Do "the masses" really have an appetite to share their opinions, ideas, and stories? Do institutions have an appetite to listen?
  • If "the masses" really do care about sharing their opinions, ideas, and stories, why don't they now? For example, civic participation isn't exactly rampant in the USA.