English is a dynamic and organic language. Six years ago if you questioned any thirteen year old about the definition of the word "tweet" you would be informed that this was the sound that a bird made (this information having first been obtained from a nursery book at age 2). Today, however...well, just "google" it. With over a billion tweets being trilled out around the globe a week Twitter has become a major social voice.

The idea of two-way, simultaneous information shared via the screen preceded social networks by half a century. In 1949, decades before computers became mainstream, George Orwell published 1984, a novel that examined the potential of totalitarianism on society. It was Orwell, and not DSTv, that introduced the idea of Big Brother, the system of control personified by the nation's leader and implemented through two way television like devices that simultaneously feed you propaganda and monitored your every activity.

"Big Brother was watching you."

Unlike the Big Brother system, social media systems feed you everyone’s thought patterns, not just the political party rhetoric. It is for this reason that access to social sites is tightly controlled in some countries. But in some instances Orwell was not wrong.

Orwell included the idea of the "Two Minute Hate," a daily period of negative expression against the system's enemies. A model citizen was to scream abuse into their television set in response to a series of graphic, hate provoking images or face the ire and censure of the thought police. Compare this to the constant abuse tweeted from online trolls, just looking to spew hate online. Not a month goes by when a professional athlete is not suspended or fined for a rant against an official, or releasing "non-professional information." Needless to say, hate driven tweets can be powerful, especially if they are about your product.

Twitter, and other social networks, are not bad tools (although I can not shake the conspiracy theory driven thought that somewhere, someone is collecting all that information for some nefarious purpose). They can be used wisely, as well as negatively, to enhance a brand, a business, or a personality. Positive tweets that add a degree of value (e.g. advice for solving a problem) are more likely to be re-shared by others. It is common courtesy to follow in turn those who follow you. There are two ways of looking at this reciprocal following as a business: either as a waste of time or as a source of information about potential clients. A lot depends on how willing you are to trawl though a couple of hundred bites of information a day.

The debate rages as to how many tweets a day are necessary to grow a business before it becomes annoying to your followers? How many times can you stomach "Buy Crispy Crunch on special, we rock your world" and "Crispy Crunch funds schools initiative" in your feed before you never want to hear from or see Crispy Crunch again. Three posts seems to be a much touted norm, but the extremes of up to 30 can be found across the net. An interesting point of research if anyone wants to take it up.

The important thing to remember about online networks is that your 'followers' and 'friends' are not a substitute for solid relationships built over multiple coffees, dinners, and the highs and lows of life.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go find out what Lady Gaga has been up to today.

(Photo: beachblogger42)