Tweet Me Back to New Orleans

February 24, 2009

One of the better-known facts about me is that I lived in pre-Katrina New Orleans for a while, attending Tulane University for my undergraduate education. Ten years later, I still have very fond memories of the city, despite clearly remembering how eager I was to pack up and move away. The very things that make New Orleans so memorable are what make living there difficult—but that doesn't mean I can't be nostalgic.

Case in point: Mardi Gras. From my perspective, there exists an inverse relationship between the amount of time one lives in New Orleans and one's enthusiasm for this infamous pre-Lent party. The graph to the right shows a simple timeline of my feelings about dealing with the traffic, trash, and total chaos of Mardi Gras during my four-year residency.

Predictably, now that I'm removed from the daily hassles, I'd love to go back. Unfortunately, things such as Mother Nature, money shortages, and marriage have prevented me from simply gassing up and going. However, one intrepid Twitter user helped me relive this year's event—even though I didn't set foot outside Texas.

Beyond a boring slide show

Tom Martin, a fellow marketing man, dedicated himself to tweeting a full five days of Mardi Gras madness using only his iPhone. Nostalgia aside, I couldn't help but follow his feed, primarily because I know what kind of dexterity his undertaking would require. What I was treated to was a live broadcast, both verbal and visual, of the Mardi Gras experience, and it took me back to the sights and smells of the city.

This was different from sitting in my aunt's living room, suffering through slide reels from her recent trip to Branson. It's one thing to to see a destination through someone else's lens; it's quite another to see it at the moment it happens. Martin gave me a play-by-play of what was going on, complete with visuals, and the net result was a richer presentation that made me feel as though I was in the moment.

Lessons learned from Louisiana

Honestly, I hadn't expected to take much away from Martin's experiment. I figured I would crack a smile or two, see some of my old stomping grounds, and chuckle at pictures of unknowing tourists laden with reams of store-bought beads. Interestingly, I came away with a reminder that services such as Twitter can be—when used properly—powerful communications tools, even if they limit you. (For the uninitiated, Twitter has a 140-character limit. More basics can be found here.)

However, had Martin's experiment flopped, or simply bored me, I still would have written this post. Why? Because he used the service in an innovative way, a way that probably was not envisioned by Twitter's founders. (Admittedly, I didn't ask them. They're here, here, and here, if you'd like to.) That, my friends, is the true power of Twitter: anyone—or any organization—can make it their own through the simple act of using it differently.

As for Tom Martin, I'm going to continue following his Tweetstream. Maybe I can get him to drive through Uptown, whisk down Octavia Avenue, and ask the owner of my old house why he painted it such an awful shade of green.

 

Comments

Thanks for following my experiment

Zackary Thank you for penning such a wonderful post regarding my little experiment here in New Orleans. it is nice to see fellow marketers tipping their hat to the idea and the soundness of the experiment. I agree. I don't know that I'd seen anyone else use a combo of pics/twits to immerse viewers in an experience. I'm glad you agree that it is truly one of the more powerful ways to use Twitter. Stay tuned to my blog. Results of the experiment, yes I actually did have a marketing goal, will be posted next week. @TomMartin