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The Incredible Rise of a Twitter Visionary

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This is the latest post in our series, TwitterPowerhouses, which focuses on the contributions of people who've helped to expand, influence, and redefine how we view social networking.

How do you become influential on Twitter, and position yourself for greater success? How can you effectively use social media to promote a cause or business? What are the emerging technologies that will impact nearly every aspect of our lives? Those are the questions, and Twitter legend Glen Gilmore is the answer.

Admired and honored for his long list of impressive achievements, Gilmore is undoubtedly a trailblazer and a Renaissance Man for the new millennium. He had a distinguished and celebrated career as a suburban mayor, and, is currently enjoying success as a popular consultant to education, government, and corporate entities. Described as a "man of action" by TIME Magazine, he brings a broad range of expertise to the social media arena.

As Gilmore's social media stock continues to rise and rise, there is much to be learned from his example. He engages, mentors, and provides invaluable tips and information. While his huge number of Twitter followers has gained him attention, the depth of what he shares has given him immeasurable respect and influence. Yes, quality over quantity. As you will see in the interview below, he is "one who can walk with kings and queens without losing the common touch." Absorb, and apply, the greatness of Glen Gilmore.

Explain your success on Twitter, if you would. I say this because when I talk to people - who have 100 followers or 100,000 followers - about who they respect, your name always comes up.

My "success" has come largely from simply my sharing my journey of learning. When I started on Twitter, I took the name TrendTracker because my aim was to use the network to help me track trends. At the same time, I delved into a profound journey of learning into the concept and the terminology of social media. I set up listening platforms that flagged some of the best posts on the topic of social media, and I shared what I found to be interesting. Along the way, I discovered that a lot of my posts were being shared by others and that people were reaching out to me for advice on the topic. I tried to help whenever I could, and still do.

The biggest secret to success on Twitter is sharing: You are what you share. People who follow me know that I try to be as accurate as possible with the information I communicate. This means that if someone points out information contrary to what I've disclosed, I try to share that as well. This is crucial to becoming a trusted curator of information on any topic. Whatever area you decide to claim as your niche, you must also allow others a view into your world. Whether it's music or movies you're enjoying, or just taking the time to talk with your followers. Don't lose sight of the fact that it's a social network: people are here to connect. If you show your passions, you'll connect with a lot of people who share them as well.

Currently, you're an adjunct instructor with the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center at Texas A&M University, which develops courses on crisis management and also integrates social media. How do you think social media (and Twitter in particular) perform when responding to crisis situations?

Social media generally, and Twitter in particular, made a real difference for good in the response to the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, for example. People are on social networks in huge numbers and they flock to those networks when a crisis occurs. In the aftermath of the quake in Haiti, Twitter, according to Neilsen, became the leading source of discussion about the quake. The first photos and videos of the earthquake aftermath that appeared on the major news networks were taken from social networks, from users on the ground who uploaded what they were seeing moments after the disaster struck.

And, the Iran election crisis, for example, demonstrated much more of Twitter's awesome ability to carry real-time, one-the-scene news from forbidden and dangerous zones. Just as importantly, it helped to destroy stereotypes about the Iranian people: it showed a multi-dimensional society. The scores of chilling videos, shared via Twitter, covering the raw courage of the Iranian people, especially women, destroyed forever any notion that the nation does not have a strong segment thirsting for democracy and human rights. Twitter is humanizing the world in a way that brings great promise to our future.

When such disasters strike, traditional media often can't get to the heart of where they occur. Again and again, we've seen that the first and sustained reports, as well as the photos and videos, come from social networks, from citizen reporters. Savvy users of Twitter also know to add hashtags to serve as beacons for others in honing in on a particular topic. In each disaster, hashtags and user groups were created to make it easier for people to follow the moment-to-moment reporting that took place on social networks. Many of the major news networks set up listening posts on Twitter. These consisted of Twitter lists allowing Twitter users to share information about the disasters.

In both the Haiti and Chile earthquakes, and the Iran election, we saw Twitter being used to spread the latest developments on the damage assessment, relief efforts, needs reporting, missing persons identification, and relief support and targeting.

The use of social media in emergency preparedness and response is still in its infancy. These events demonstrated that Twitter is a primary vehicle for getting on-the-scene information out quickly and reliably, connecting people most affected by the disaster, and helping emergency responders understand where the need is greatest. They also help direct people from around the world who were interested in contributing to the relief efforts. Those of us who are on the social networks understand the unparalleled capacity for Twitter and Facebook to share information instantly and reliably around the world in a targeted fashion and to elicit collaboration. These are powerful tools for disaster preparedness and response.

It has been said that the diversity and global nature of social media enhances the experience. Do you agree?

One of Twitter's greatest attributes is its ability to bridge boundaries of all sorts. We easily cross continents and time zones in our conversations. We form friendships without consideration of social standing, ethnicities, or nationalities. The bonds formed in social networks naturally reach beyond the virtual world and extend into the real world. When we hear of a crisis in a far-away place, we think of people we've come to know personally, by name. The countless global connections formed in social spheres, along with the unfiltered exchange of information, are undoubtedly transforming our world. They're wiring us together in a positive way. The connections are too many and too deep to be ignored. These are no longer strangers in strange lands: they're people we hear from regularly and have a real bond with. We all have a common desire to discover and learn.

What's next for TrendTracker?

In the field of social media, I plan to continue my journey of learning, sharing, and connecting. I just returned home from three back-to-back events. The first was in Miami, the second in Washington, D.C., and the third in Memphis, where I had the opportunity to speak about social media. At each of these events I met great people, gained tons of information, and cultivated new wonderful relationships. At the last event, hosted by Howell Marketing, where I serve as the senior social media and governmental affairs advisor, I was thrilled to be part of a program keynoted by Chris Brogan. It was great to get to meet, on a personal level, someone who helped us all understand so much about social media. The event itself also created a lot of buzz and brought together, for the first time, many friends from across the country and even Canada. My hope is that I'll have the chance to be part of more events like these. Also, as an attorney, I'm interested in continuing to study the unique responsibilities and risks that come with social media, and the implications of recent FCC rule changes governing blogging, which trigger new responsibilities for bloggers as well as the businesses that sponsor them.

How would you define yourself in 140 characters?

Hmm...Hmm...Caring, inquisitive, learning, loving life...connecting and sharing whenever I can.

To read more about Glen Gilmore's awesome approach to social media, friend him on his Facebook page and follow him on his Twitter feed.

Authors' Note: In case you missed it, here's Part 5 of the series: 16 People on Twitter Who Inspire the World.

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