It’s not a pandemic yet but you wouldn’t know it from the exponentially growing number of tweets about swine flu and #swineflu and, beginning yesterday, swine flu renamed H1N1. Like many others, I dislike the term "viral" marketing. But there’s an eery aptness to the term this week. This is real time and big time. This is proof of concept for the power and nimbleness of social media - especially Twitter - as a communications strategy.

Ambient awareness ("What are you doing right now?") be damned. There’s much more going on here. Twitterers are trading useful links, like this Q&A about swine flu on and a visual reminder to use hand sanitizer. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is/are twittering like mad, @CDCemergency (over 53,000 followers) and @CDCFlu. And take a look at the CDC home page: RSS feeds, email updates, audio/podcasts, video, photos, charts. This is a case study unfolding in real time.

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Sally Strackbein said on April 30, 2009 at 01:23 PM

You are so right. Is it “Don’t panic the public” or “The sky is falling?” Either way, it’s better to be prepared and have the whole thing be just a silly waste of bandwidth than to put your head in the sand and discover there’s a flu bug coming.

My policy is to be prepared for any emergency and expect that none will happen. Who knows, the emergency might be unexpected dinner guests.

H1N1 Flu Map said on April 30, 2009 at 09:18 PM

Interesting read. There’s a bit of good and a bit of bad with Twitter as it applies to H1N1 IMO. The ones coming from official sources are just another way to get facts out to the masses. The problem comes when the masses misinterpret stuff and spread it like its going out of style!

John Evan Frook said on May 7, 2009 at 08:03 AM

eery aptness is a beautiful turn of phrase, and really clear. new fan.

SiteBetter said on May 28, 2009 at 06:26 AM

I think this whole Twitter business is so overrated.  It’s kind of like going to a networking event where there is a lot of “small talk”.  No body likes small talk and so they dread going to those events if they know there will be a lot of that going on.  I think this whole Twitter business will blow over in about five years.

Does anyone remember when the Walkman came on this scene in the early eighties?  Everyone and their mother were wearing headphones to work, to school, to the gym, to their grandmother’s house and so on.  The media was freaking out saying everyone has just “tuned out.”  That trend lasted about five years.  Even with the handy and really robust iPod, I don’t see that many people walking around all tuned out. 

Things change and so will Twitter, unless it decides to grow into something that it is not in its current form; but as far as people posting little blurbs about themselves, I see that ending in the near future.  There may be some need for it like Morse code, but not everyone is going to use it like some marketing venue, that some people claim it to be.

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I’ve been writing about corporate and CEO blogging and business use of social media for over a decade. I welcome your Comments if they are on topic. I delete them if inappropriate or spammy.


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