My book on Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the ongoing legacy of UFW alumni comes out in paperback this month, forcing me to address two inconvenient facts: I am not on Facebook, and do not have a Twitter account. That’s a real no-no for anyone promoting anything these days; after all, a new study found that Facebook and Twitter “offer great platforms for marketers to reach a large number of users easily.” I appreciate how social media builds community in an increasingly atomized age. But do Facebook and Twitter really broaden the reach of one’s message? Or do they simply send information to the same audience that would find you through other means?

As the July publication date for my paperback edition approaches, so has my trepidation over lacking Facebook and Twitter accounts. I’m starting to think that Twitter might make sense, as it appears to involve a lot less work than Facebook.

Twitter Tipping Point

The tipping point for me came when I read in the Sunday July 4 New York Times that NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire announced his arrival in New York City late Saturday afternoon on his Twitter account: “Just touched down in NY, going to a Broadway Show tonight. Rock of Ages. It’s going to be great. What else is good this evening?”

Great question. I find it hard to believe that Stoudemire really wanted even a fraction of his over 5600 followers to tweet him as to evening opportunities in the Big Apple. After all, that information is easy to find (and will become even easier for him since he signed yesterday with the New York Knicks).

But the larger question is why anyone outside his immediate circle cares what Broadway show he was attending that night? Or am I missing the point about Twitter providing unprecedented access to the private lives of celebrities?

Because Times reporter Howard Beck is among the NBA star’s followers (no doubt a job requirement for those covering basketball these days), Stoudemire’s seemingly irrelevant message found its way into the Sunday Times. Beck must have been thrilled to finally get a Stoudemire tweet into print.

On one hand, the Stoudemire example shows Twitter’s benefits, as it enabled the outside world to learn of the basketball star’s evening plans (or the precise time his plane landed in NYC). He could have posted the message on his website -- but not as easily, and unlike websites, tweets update one’s followers without their having to do much of anything.

On the other hand, Stoudemire’s tweet also shows how Twitter barrages people with information that they have no need no know, and that has little meaning to their own lives. It seems part of a larger trend of people knowing more about irrelevant facts and less about what is important to their lives or the broader society.

Building Contacts

It used to be that people built contacts through “live” personal networking. This typically involved attending parties or other social events to meet people who could help careers, etc.

In the late 1990’s, e-mail created the opportunity for people with something to promote to compile a much bigger and geographically broader list of contacts that could be sent articles, messages, and promotional or event announcements. Those contacted could be referred to websites providing the content that the sender of the email sought to publicize.

Email, however, begat Spam, as well as a huge amount of legitimate, yet unsolicited messages, which led people to block such promotional contacts. Facebook and Twitter limit information to those who request it and recipients are alerted with each new posting. And neither of these Web 2.0 phenoms require the recipient to be anywhere near a computer, creating the potential to notify a large, receptive group about whatever information you desire at whatever time -- a publicist’s dream.

Is It For Me?

So why have I not already followed the lead of most authors and created a Facebook page and a Twitter account? After all, I was convinced by an attendee at a book event to create a Wikipedia entry, so why not go further? And I did set up a webpage for Beyond the Fields when the hard back came out.

First, my older daughter told me several years ago that nobody over forty should have a Facebook page -- so that excluded me.

Second, even had I ignored her warning, building and maintaining a Facebook page seems like a tremendous amount of work. And if people want to find out what I’m up to, why can’t they simply visit and/or contact me through Google or Beyond Chron?

On the other hand, Markos Moulitsas has a Twitter account -- even though he runs a website with over one million monthly visitors. He’s got over 20,000 followers who presumably want more updated information from him than he can provide on Daily Kos.

So while I’m not sold on Facebook (a venue where Lady Gaga’s record 10 million “fans“ exceeds that of President Obama), I am seriously considering opening a Twitter account.

After all, how can I resist creating another “platform” for marketing?

And since I frequently go to New York City, I could also ask my followers about out what’s happening on a Saturday evening. And Twitter will enable me to get tweets from those San Francisco food carts, whose location is only broadcast through this medium.

I’ll keep readers posted on my progress. If you want to weigh in, please use the Feedback button. Better yet, tweet this story and I’ll use it as a test case!

Randy Shaw is also the author of Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century.