So, What’s this “Twitter” I Keep Hearing About?

If you haven’t used twitter, you might be surprised at how useful it can really be.  twitter is a so-called "micro blogging" site.  It’s "micro" because you’re limited to 140 characters per post (tweet).  It’s "blogging" because your tweets go only to those people who subscribe, or follow, you.  Likewise, you only see the tweets of the people you’ve decided to follow.   

Twitter began as an internal service at Obvious, LLC in March, 2006.  In October, 2006 the service went public.  They now have over one and a half million twitterers.  This rapid expansion has been a strain on the system and there are occasional outages.  In fact, there are some on-line anti-twitter groups, but twitter promises that things will improve shortly.  They recently got an infusion of cash and acquired another company that gives them additional engineering expertise.

That’s all very interesting, Mr. Wizard, but what’s in it for me?  Why should I care what my friend across town is having for lunch?  There is some of that "I’m going to lunch now" going on.  I admit I’ve done it myself.  And, depending on who it is, it’s not always a bad thing.  A little personal information doesn’t hurt a relationship.

But the real value of twitter as a conversational marketing tool can probably be summed up in a post from David Mullen called "Five Ways Twitter Will Make You Smart."  I’ll give you the key points but you’ll have to go to David’s blog to get the details.  The comments about each point are mine.

1.  You get access to different points of views.

You can follow anyone who has a twitter account, anywhere in the world.  Some very smart, very successful people are twitterers.  Unless they’ve set up their feed as "invitation only" you can follow just about anyone.

2.  The people you follow point you to great resources you wouldn’t find otherwise.
I can’t tell you how true this one is.  Many people tweet just to share things they’ve found on the web.  A lot of what you read on this blog is the result of something I found on twitter.

3.  You can poll your followers.

All you have to do is ask a question and you’ll get opinions from a number of sources.

4.  You can learn what consumers are saying about your company or your client’s brand.

Using twitter’s search tool, I just searched "sewing machine" and found fifteen tweets in the last 24 hours.

5.  Twitter will make you a better writer.

Try saying something intelligent in 140 characters.  It’s not easy, but it’s a great way to practice brevity, something I can always use help with.  Twitterers seem to frown on text message short cuts.  "I see" is "I see", not "IC".  A regular twitter user learns to use words carefully.

Some people think twitter is a waste of time.  Not long ago I felt the same way.  But what I’ve found is that if you choose the folks you follow carefully it’s a great way to keep up with specific areas of knowledge, and it doesn’t take up a lot of time as some people suggest.  Tools like twhirl run in the background on your computer and only pop up when you have a tweet.  There are also twitter add-ons for your browser.

twitter isn’t for everybody and it might not be for you.  On the other hand, you might decide it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.  If that’s the case, it would be a shame if you didn’t try it.  You just might be surprised.

4 Responses

  1. Mike – thanks for sharing my post with your readers.

    I got the idea to write it while chatting with a couple coworkers who said “who cares where I’m going to lunch.” I shared one or two of the ideas above with them and they said, “oh, that does sound worthwhile.”

    I agree that it’s not for everyone, but it’s a great tool for most. Maybe we’ll win over a few more twitterers with posts like these.

  2. Twitter sounds like a good idea. But I think people need to be careful about how many social networking sites / tools they use. I was talking to a marketeer recently who said she regularily contributes to 6 or 7 social networking sites / tools – and that it is all getting too much etc .. And I stil think that the blog is as important as ever but that social networking is another useful tool to use alongside / support the main blog. Do you have any strong views on the value of blogging?

  3. David,

    As a former twitter-doubter, I’m amazed at how useful it can be. Sure, some of the tweets are silly. Some might not be useful to me. But there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t find something really good, like your post.

    I have to come up with something to write about every day and it’s become much easier since I’ve become a twitterer.

  4. Eamon,

    I share your concern about the number of tools and which ones to use. I don’t want to use EVERY social media option, but I don’t want to miss anything either. I’m waiting for the one grand aggregator that combines everything in one place.

    As far as blogging is concerned, I love the medium and I doubt that it will ever go away. Personally, I use the other tools to support the blog.

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