What social media platforms are you on, and what are your handle(s) on them?
I use Twitter and Facebook primarily. I’m @KaiserKuo on Twitter, and just Kaiser Kuo on Facebook. I have a Sina Weibo account, @Kaiser, but it’s fallen into disuse, mainly because my written Chinese is shamefully inelegant and childish, and it takes so much longer for me both to read and to write in Chinese.
What do you get from each of these platforms? Which do you most heavily use?
I spend more time on Twitter than on Facebook. For me, Twitter is mainly a source of breaking news and of links to stories I’m interested in, and so I tend to follow news hounds and people who mainly link stories on subjects that interest me: chiefly current affairs in China and the US. I use Facebook mainly to keep up with what friends and family are up to, to post occasional musings and missives, and to promote things that I do like the Sinica Podcast and my band. Both Twitter and Facebook are also great for punctuating the day with a laugh.
Where do you get your news from?
I subscribe to a few email digests of China news- most importantly, the daily digest from Bill Bishop’s Sinocism blog, which is a real treasure with links to both important English and Chinese-language news stories – but for other news I still look at major media sites: the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist and so forth. I also enjoy news podcasts during my morning commute, like Public Radio International’s “The World.” Twitter is another important source of news. During the course of the day I’ll glance at what stories are being tweeted by the people I follow, and through Twitter I find at least a half-dozen worthwhile reads a day that I might not otherwise have seen.
How much time would you say you spend on social media daily? Is it worth it?
I would say I spend no more than 90 minutes a day actively engaged with social media on a normal day. I tend to dip in for quick scans rather than hang out for extended stretches. On days when there’s breaking news in some area of real concern to me, either personally or professionally, I can spend far longer on it.
How do you organize everything? What software do you use?
I’m a big fan of Hootsuite, a social media client that lets you post to Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks. Posting pictures or shrinking links is also very convenient. You can set up columns specifically to show mentions of you, direct messages to you, your general Twitter feed, specific lists you follow, sent tweets, or even just tweets containing a specific hashtag (such as #beijingfloods) or search term. I lean pretty heavily on a list I created called “China Folks,” which has roughly 500 good people who tend to tweet on China-related subjects. I update the list pretty frequently, dropping and adding people as they come and go.
How would you compare weibo and Western social media?
Just comparing Sina Weibo (the only one of the Chinese microblogs with which I have experience) with Twitter, I’d say the Weibo is more feature-rich, more intuitive, more powerful, and far more stable. Chinese websites are designed and built for ridiculous amounts of traffic, and I have yet to see Weibo crash, as Twitter so often does. Twitter isn’t as harmonious, of course, and I’m one who likes a bit of dissonance.
Has being on social media been beneficial to your life or career in Beijing?
It’s been good, on balance, for both my life and career. It keeps me feeling connected to friends and professional contacts, however illusory that feeling may in fact be. It helps me stay atop the online buzz on my company – something very necessary in my line of work. That’s not to say social media isn’t without its downside: it can make me overreact to news events and get somewhat obsessive in watching things unfold with each refresh. It can make me seethe occasionally with an impotent indignation that’s surely no good for my health.
Which accounts do you most recommend people to follow?
In China, on Twitter, just off the top of my head and sticking with people who tweet in mostly in English, I’d suggest people like @niubi (Bill Bishop), @goldkorn (Jeremy Goldkorn), @gadyepstein, @imagethief (Will Moss), @granitestudio (Jeremiah Jenne), @bokane (Brendan O’Kane), @eosnos (Evan Osnos), @ChinaGeeks (Charlie Custer), @China-Hearsay (Stan Abrams), @cmphku (China Media Project), @siweiluozi (Joshua Rosenzweig), @tomlasseter, @malcolmmoore, @comradewong (Edward Wong), and @RelevantOrgans (some sidesplittingly funny tweets).
Will social media supplant journalism, take it someplace new or just be a supplement?
It won’t supplant journalism, I don’t think. Social media is already a clearly useful if not indispensable supplement to journalism, and as such is already taking it someplace new and – though it may make for rough going for media companies and even journalists in the near term – someplace better.
Published in Agenda magazine