I made a decision recently that had me recalling the George Costanza character on Seinfeld. In one episode, George decides that he may be better served if he listened to his instincts and then did just the opposite.
While I don’t plan to make that a long-term strategy, I found myself toying with that logic when considering “Twitter.” Typically, I’m not an early (or even a later-than-early) adopter of new technology. If they still made rotary-dial phones, I’d probably own one.
And then the buzz began about “Twitter.” People began asking me if I was “on Twitter.” My knee-jerk response, of course, was, “No thanks.”
The more I read about Twitter, the more determined I was that it was a waste of time. No way was I going to “follow” people. That sounded, well, weird. And “tweet”? Just couldn’t see myself “tweeting.” Heck, I’m a guy.
Practically all of my friends and colleagues felt the same way. An editor friend of mine only half-jokingly pleaded with me to join him in fighting against the tsunami that was Twitter.
And then a few things dawned on me. Early in my career, I spent a good part of my time convincing folks in the banking industry that those “quaint” little branches inside grocery stores held more potential than they realized.
Since then, I’ve lost count of how many senior managers I’ve encountered that had a laundry list in their heads about why in-store branches couldn’t work. They didn’t actually know very much about in-store branches, except that they were against them. Nor had they spent much time considering them unless it was with like-minded peers who agreed that in-store branches were untenable.
I would often explain the strategies and give examples of how many banks have found in-store branches to be high-producing operations and a competitive advantage in their markets. I also tried to get them to look beyond what these branches “didn’t offer”, (drive-up windows and safety deposit boxes were favorites), and consider some of the unique opportunities (thousands of face-to-face customer contacts each week) that they did provide.
I also explained the positive cultural changes and new best practices that many banks developed in their in-store locations and found applicable to their entire network.
As often as not, the conversation was over before it began. Bank branches were the way they were and where they were for a reason!
It dawned on me that I might be becoming one of “those guys.” Of course, I once doubted that email would ever be all that important to conducting business. And I did think that pay-at-the-pump gas stations were lunacy when they first appeared. So, my track record on trend spotting is, er… spotty.
But when I realized that my peers and I were apparently “smarter” than the millions of people making things like Twitter a part of their personal and work lives (For instance, the first photos of the US Airways plane that landed in the Hudson River were seen on Twitter http://twitpic.com/135xa, not the news networks.), I had my “Costanza moment.”
So, I stuck my toe in the water. Appropriately, I think, I signed up for the address http://www.twitter.com/instorebank
After a few minutes, and to my surprise, I found myself thinking, “Okay, now I get it.” It has a clean look and is exceedingly simple to use. And it’s hard to beat the price – free.
Once I decided that I was going to jump in, I sent my email distribution list a note saying what I was doing, and if they were so inclined, they could check it out. The responses were funny and telling.
I could practically guess the age range of respondents by the reaction. The 30-and-under crowd gave me too much credit for being “cutting edge.” (I’m not.) Some of my older friends wondered if I was going into politics or starting a rock band. (I’m not.)
One friend emailed that he looked forward to finding out what I had for breakfast each morning. I laughed reading that, knowing that guys like him (and me) were focused almost exclusively on the triviality of the tool and not on the cooler possibilities. As it turns out, and to my surprise, you are not required to report every meal you eat. (Although I’m sure some do.)
You also don’t have to “follow” people or even sign up for Twitter. If you like someone’s posts, you can simply bookmark the page like any other website. I’m not sure whether or not it’s something I see myself personally using for years to come. But I can see why it is changing how many folks communicate both personally and professionally.
Giving it a spin has helped to put a few ideas in my head that likely wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. In the end, that in itself has made it worth the effort.
The next time you and your inner-circle are all in agreement that you’re wiser than the crowds, well, maybe you indeed are. But beware of unknowingly becoming more insulated than you realize.
You just may want to consider listening to your inner-Costanza every now and then just to make sure.
What do you think? Let me know!