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Bringing businesses into the Twitter-verse

'Chief evangelist' speaking in city

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If your social-media strategy is to wait it out until it goes away, you probably need a new strategy.

And if you think Twitter is full of tweets from people with too much time on their hands obsessing about things you don't care about it, Kirstine Stewart is here to tell you there is so much more to Twitter than that.

The newly appointed managing director of Twitter Canada will be in Winnipeg Wednesday evening, speaking at an Information and Communication Technology Association of Manitoba (ICTAM) event.

As well as fulfilling part of her role as "chief evangelist" at Twitter Canada, Stewart said her public appearance in Winnipeg gives her a chance to talk about leadership in the context of all the disruption and change technology is causing in the workplace.

Stewart is the former head of English television at CBC. She said her recruitment away from arguably the most powerful job in television in the country to the new kid on the social-media block prompted some to ask if TV is dead.

"No, it isn't," is her answer to the rhetorical question. "People still want to read newspapers and magazines and watch television, but they also want to do it while doing six other things... You can modernize old media and bring it into relevancy of today's world if you do it the right way."

One of the reasons she was recruited by Twitter was for her television-programming skills. Part of her mandate at Twitter Canada is to "amplify" deals with Canadian broadcasters that allow those broadcasters to reach Twitter followers with video clips -- and advertisements -- that can be tailored ever more closely to what that particular Twitter user wants to see.

She said Canada is the first international jurisdiction where Twitter has amplify agreements with all the major broadcasters.

Twitter Inc. also made news recently by acquiring a Big Data company that had previously partnered with Twitter, amassing data from the 500 million tweets per day, drilling down into that and selling analyses to third parties.

While Twitter's vantage point in the information world may be privileged, Stewart is right to say the availability of information is changing how leaders need to lead in the business world.

"Information and data is available to multiple businesses from multiple different sources on a constant basis that was just not there in the past," she said in an interview. "Whereas business could work in a vacuum, or reach out maybe to a focus group or other smaller ways to find out how to interact with the public, now public information is so very active."

She said leadership has to change to become more flexible and move away from a world where you just sit in a corner office making arbitrary decisions.

"Now there is huge value in listening to what people are telling you and what they expect and what they want from your business," she said. "It changes the way leadership incorporates itself into a structure. It's no longer a single purpose, it's driving down authority and decision-making."

Stewart is responsible for increasing Twitter's revenue and the number of active users, but she said she's also responsible for spreading the news about Twitter.

"It's a happy conversation," she said, as opposed to the story of cutbacks at her former position at CBC. "People like to talk about Twitter. They want to find out more about what Twitter is about. We're really building something."

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 22, 2014 B6

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