Twitter is barely nine years old, but it has revolutionized shorthand digital communications and social media. And on Thursday night, CBC Manitoba is hosting a "tweet up" in Winnipeg, an event designed to bring the province’s most prolific tweeters face to face to network in the flesh.
Since its inception in 2006, Twitter has touched everything from politics to mass media. Case in point: Winnipeg’s recent mayoral election.
Mayor Brian Bowman (@Mayor_Bowman) was a force to be reckoned with on Twitter on the campaign trail. He developed a faithful following, reaching out to his tweep-base for support in the lead up to the election.
Once candidates’ campaigns officially got off the ground, he blew his competition out of the Twitterverse, issuing far more tweets than the next closest competitor.
Bowman recognized the value of Twitter as a candidate. He still recognizes its value now that he’s mayor, going so far as to hire his own social media specialist.
Bowman uses tweets to convey important messages. When the boil water advisory was issued, Bowman was regularly providing updates on Twitter.
Once the advisory was lifted, before even officially making the announcement to media, the mayor tweeted a 30-second video of himself, smiling with a glass of water in hand while confirming the city’s water was safe to drink once more.
Thanks to Winnipeggers & public servants for efforts over past few days. Precautionary Boil Water Advisory Lifted http://t.co/fNQ9sFpFug— Mayor Brian Bowman (@Mayor_Bowman) January 29, 2015
“I think probably one of the most effective, probably was during the precautionary boil water advisory and just putting out some YouTube posts to inform citizens in a timely manner,” said Bowman.
Manitoba NDP leadership candidate Steve Ashton (@SteveAshtonMB), too, is an avid Twitter user.
“The hashtag I usually follow is #mbpoli,” said Ashton.
Ashton sees social media as a useful political tool, using it to engage with the public and rivals alike.
“Today Brian Pallister did a press conference and the PCs have been tweeting some stuff,” said Ashton. “I may respond the way I would in question period.
“Give it back somewhat. I mean, not a cheap shot, but I'm looking forward to a number of tweets ... I'm going to put out my response ... not a Twitter fight."
The original idea behind Twitter was to create a program that could send out public text messages. Today it has 288 million active users — all communicating in 144 characters or less.
“You get media following politicians, politicians following media, you know average Manitobans following everyone,” said Ashton. “It's a great equalizer and I think the possibilities are even greater down the line.”
'It's the future': Bowman
Social media guru Susie Erjavec Parker (@susie_parker) said Twitter is a political game-changer, giving the public immediate access to politicians.
“I always say that social media and Twitter have turned what used to be a broadcast into a dialogue and a conversation,” said Parker.
“Now if you tweet out something about budgetary concerns I get to say, ‘HEY those cuts are going to affect my district’ immediately, and I have some things to say about that, how can we work around this?
”It's the future. It really is.”