I got a kick out of seeing an <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/3/15/14293/8072/16/708827">exchange between George Stephanopoulos and Sen. Claire McCaskill on Twitter</a> the other day and took it as a sign that tweeting has finally grown beyond the so-called "<a href="http://meish.org/2008/09/26/is-this-the-emergence-of-the-twittering-classes/">twittering classes</a>."

Michael Hickins, Contributor

March 16, 2009

3 Min Read

I got a kick out of seeing an exchange between George Stephanopoulos and Sen. Claire McCaskill on Twitter the other day and took it as a sign that tweeting has finally grown beyond the so-called "twittering classes."Actually, I got more than a kick out of it. I got the heady feeling that technology may actually help break a communications barrier between decision-makers and the people upon whom the decisions are foisted.

Not just in politics, mind you, but in any aspect of life. Wouldn't you love to be able to send Steve Ballmer a message along the lines of "@steveb stop messing around with the Office interface. I just figured out how to use Office 97!"

I figured, if Claire McCaskill is using it, Twitter usage is surely rampant among technology czars who are ever eager to promote their vision. I mean, if Claire freaking McCaskill is Tweeting, so is, well, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Um, nope.

Cisco's visionary leader John Chambers then? Nope again. EMC's Joe Tucci? VMware's Paul Maritz? Google's Eric Schmidt? Nope, nope, and are-you-kidding-me-no-way!

It's a small sample, granted, but those are among the most influential leaders in the tech industry. What does it say that they don't think it's important to communicate directly with their customers and the larger tech community?

Just for grins, I checked out my own senators, Charles Schumer and newly minted Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. They have Twitter accounts -- although they haven't tweeted yet and they don't follow anyone.

Not following is more than a cardinal sin, it's foolish politics and the waste of a good opportunity.

There's no better way to measure the pulse of your most active and engaged constituency than by following their tweets.

Maybe that's the hitch stopping the CEOs mentioned above from opening Twitter accounts: Their egos get in the way of following others.

Well, let this little factoid sink in: Barack Obama has a whopping 470,000-plus followers, but he follows nearly as many -- around 425,000.

And here's another: He managed to post 264 updates while he was at it.

You might note that Barack hasn't tweeted since Jan. 19. In fact, he did the bulk of his tweeting while he was trying to sell a product -- himself. And I won't be surprised to see him tweeting again if he starts running into serious political headwinds.

Some would even argue that the president's recent slide in popularity is at least partly explained by the fact that's he's stopped communicating directly with his constituency. He certainly seems to have forgotten that his most engaged followers -- and 470K is no small number -- were also his most persuasive evangelists.

During his campaign, he acted upon the realization that he couldn't control what was being said about him by the media and his opponents, and that his best hope of getting elected was to communicate directly with the American people.

The same can be said of the technology (or any other) business, and while it's enjoyable being in the privileged position of being an information conduit, both vendors and customers would be better served by conversing directly with each other.

By the way, Steve Jobs hasn't tweeted since August 2007, but he still has more than 38,000 followers and follows some 1,300 people. Would you turn up your nose at the passionate following enjoyed by Apple? (I'm especially talking to you, Mr. Ballmer.)

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