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How classical stations could use Twitter

Are you Twittering? If not, and you’re at a classical station, maybe it’s worth giving some thought.

Twitter’s own website describes the service as “a real-time short messaging service that works over multiple networks and devices.” Twitter’s users post short updates, sort of like miniature blog posts in 140 characters or less, from the Web, cell phones, PDAs and other interfaces. They also choose friends and other Twitterers to “follow,” curating their own customized streams of news and conversation.

Since its launch more than two years ago, Twitter has quickly grown in popularity. And it’s not just a means for your friends to send you somewhat mundane messages about where they’re eating lunch or how boring their jobs are (as fun as that may be). News organizations, political campaigns, commercial vendors and all kinds of people have discovered ways to use Twitter.

Public radio is also getting into the act. At least a dozen stations have Twitter feeds. San Diego’s KPBS got a lot of attention last fall when it used Twitter to keep its audience abreast of the path area wildfires were following. Twitter provides a way to reach your listeners when they may not be listening but still want to know the latest news or what your station is up to.

Twitter’s uses for disseminating news content may be more readily apparent, but there are plenty of ways classical stations could use Twitter as well. For examples, I turned to Mona Seghatoleslami with West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Earlier this year she started a Twitter feed for updates related to the classical fare on her station. Check out the feed for a sense of what she’s doing. It has 128 followers.

“I’m not really a ‘new media’ person,” Mona wrote me in an e-mail. She studied music and library science and joined WVPB in a musical capacity. And she’s not on the station’s technology committee. “But I think it’s important to reach out in as many ways as possible, meet people where they are, and be part of both the physical and virtual communities of our state in any way that is feasible.” (Sounds to me as if she should be on the station’s technology committee — she gets it!)

Mona says she had to overcome some internal roadblocks to start Twittering — obstacles that strike me as painfully myopic, the kind of parochial concerns that prevent public media from fully branching out into new media. WV Public Broadcasting didn’t want Mona to use “third-party software” such as Twitter. Instead the network would have to create something like Twitter, in essence reinventing the wheel. Why bother? (The station also blocks employee access to Facebook, MySpace and Flickr. I can understand MySpace, perhaps, but more and more journalists are coming to rely on the other two to do their work.)

Here’s how Mona uses Twitter:

  • promoting new posts on the station’s classical blog, Classically Speaking
  • taking requests from listeners
  • finding artists and publicists, acquiring recordings and arranging interviews
  • promoting other station events
  • reviewing or describing classical concerts she attends
  • “I ended up messaging back and forth with someone who wanted a tour of the station,” she writes. “I showed him around, he sends in requests, and he and his wife listen more regularly now and sometimes tweet about the music I’m playing.”

Granted, a station’s Twitter feed may at first attract a relatively small number of followers. But if Twitter allows even a small group of listeners to feel a deeper connection to the station, gives them a peek behind the scenes, and makes them feel as if they’re in closer contact with someone they invite into their homes and cars via the radio — isn’t it worth it?

I’ve compiled some links to resources and articles about Twitter on my delicious page, and I have a Twitter feed as well. If you’re inspired to try it out, let me know!


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