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An Interview with Author of Naked Conversations and Twitterville, Shel Israel

Author: Carl Heaton
He is our senior instructor and originally from Manchester UK. Carl teaches our Web Design and Online Marketing Courses.
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Recently Web Courses Bangkok had the pleasure of discussing ‘Twitter as a marketing channel’ with Shel Israel, veteran of the blogosphere and conversationalist extraordinaire, this is the Question and Answer with him.

For those who are not familiar with your work can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am a trained journalist. Hating the vow of poverty connected with the field, I was a PR executive for 25 years.

In 2001, I started writing again. Since 2005, I have focused exclusively on social media.

I’ve written two hardcover books Naked Conversations, how blogs are changing the way businesses talk with customers and Twitterville, how businesses can thrive in the new global neighborhoods.

I have also contributed to Businessweek, FastCompany and wrote an eBook for Dow Jones called The Conversational Corporation.

You wrote in ‘Naked Conversations’ that blog’s are changing how business communicate, can you describe briefly what you mean?

Before blogging, and now social media, businesses talked AT people.

They sent messages which we were supposed to receive. Now, because of social media they can engage in two-way conversations.

This makes customers much happier and it tells companies how they can build better product and services in less time, at lower cost and with easier market acceptance.

You recently published ‘Twitterville’ can you tell us a little about what inspired you to write it?

I only dabbled in Twitter for a while. Then in April 2008, an American student named James Buck was arrested in Egypt for photographing food strikes in the Nile Delta region. He tweeted [posted on Twitter] a single word: “Arrested.” That word traveled far and fast on Twitter.

Twenty-four hours later, our usually slow-moving State Department had Buck released and heading back to the US. It only happened because he had posted that single word on Twitter.

I was amazed. I posted that someone should write a book about James Buck. A friend tweeted back: “How about you, Shel? You haven’t done much lately.”

That got me thinking. And I started collecting stories on Twitter. I was amazed at their richness and diversity. That is how Twitterville came to pass.

What 3 points should a business think about when using twitter

1. Who you follow is far more important than who follows you. They become your custom newspaper.

2. Joining other people’s conversation is often more valuable than starting one about yourself.

3. Speed is important. If something happens on Twitter, it’s value can be very high for just a short while. So you need to pay attention.

How do you see social media impacting social communication?

Through history, our social communication has been constrained by geography. We got to talk with people who lived near us, not just in our own country, or city, but our own neighborhoods.

Technology has consistently extended our reach. Telephones. Text messaging. email, etc. But now social media lets each of us live in a global neighborhood. We can find people who share our interests and passions all over the world.

This fundamentally changes the social fiber of the world. People can socialize with each other. We can bypass the barriers of geography. We can do it inexpensively and we can do it easily.

It’s a very big deal.

Where do you see the internet going in the next 5 years

There are now well over a billion people using the internet. That’s about one in seven humans. Eliminating people too young, old or infirm, it’s probably about one in 4.5 people on the Internet.

It is in all countries that have electricity.
It has already become ubiquitous. Over the next five years, it will become more so. People who do not have access, will have computer cafes. People using it in cafes will be accessing from the home and from hand held devices.

It will be everywhere, and will continue changing all institutions, as well as the way most people work, play, learn and communicate.

What is the first site you open in the morning and the last site you check at night (not including your email)

Twitter. (editors note. Didn’t see that one coming!)

What advice can you give our trainees when thinking about their online activities

Have fun. Fun is vastly underestimated. Explore. Start conversations with strangers. See the world through YouTube and other video sites.

Now you can explore the universe from the comfort of where you access the internet.

Web Courses Bangkok would like to thank Shel for his participation with our interview program and if you would like to keep up with Shel, tweet him at twitter.com/shelisrael

You can also buy his books Naked Conversations and Twitterville

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