So many folks do not “get” Twitter, so I thought I’d help folks with the basics.
What is Twitter anyway?
Twitter began as an instant messaging service that would help groups of people chat online together. Sort of like an old-fashioned party-line updated for the social media era.
So, in keeping with the limitations of instant messaging on cellphones, a 140 character limit was set for the length of a single post, or tweet.
Okay that’s the background. What is so mesmerizing about a new instant messaging system?
Well, it’s the group aspect of it, imho. A whole group of your friends can communicate together, or at least respond to your tweet. This is the broadcast aspect of Twitter.
Ever want to be a broadcaster?
As you grow your followees (people who follow you), you are developing a network of people who receive your tweets. You can choose to limit these followees to close associates and friends, in which case you can use it to advise your friends what you are doing at any particular time.
If you want to meet up with whoever’s available for dinner, just tweet where you’ll be dining, at what time, etc. and ask your friends if anyone’s available to meet you there. Your tweet is broadcast to your friends, they can answer one by one, and if all of them are following each other, you’ll quickly know how many can join you.
From that basic idea and utility, Twitter took off. In addition to close friends, you can broadcast your latest blog post, or a project you’re working on, an article you read on a particular subject of interest. As you grow your followers (people whose tweets you follow) and followees, you begin to participate in larger conversations. That leads to networking…
So how do you network using Twitter?
Once you figure out that you can follow most anyone on Twitter (though they may not follow you back), you realize that you can have access to people you’d like to network with. For instance, if you are interested in government affairs or autism, whatever, and search http://www.search.twitter.com using that term, you might find people you’d like to network with, who you can then follow. If your profile and tweets interest them, they may follow you back. Then you may initiate a discussion about mutually interesting topics of your choice.
Over time, interesting relationships can be built, especially if you use your real photo in your profile. I was hesitant, then realized that using my photo helped people recognize me when we meet in person, for example at a networking event.
Why do people call Twitter a search resource?
I mentioned www.search.twitter.com earlier. Search any topic you like, and you’ll find what people are posting on that topic. If you use TweetDeck, you can also see a tag cloud of topics being tweeted. These days people also use “#term” to classify their posts according to that term. Check out #blogcakes or #sxsw for example. That’s just the beginning of how Twitter is being used as a search resource.
Is Twitter a waste of time?
Depends on how you’re using it, your goals, your commitments, your time. Like any other online activity, it does take time. It can be a great source of news, which keeps you up-to-date with news interests. It can broadcast your press releases, or blog posts.
Social media mavens love Twitter, going right for the broadcast aspects, as well as a few others. Lots of people twitter their bad customer service experiences. Many large businesses have begun replying to those tweets, bringing better customer service results directly to customers.
Businesses are finding all sorts of reasons to use Twitter. I still love the story I shared in an earlier post about a cafe offering online take-out orders using Twitter.
Hope this helps you “get” Twitter a little better. Get out there and try it, and don’t be afraid to follow people you don’t physically know. Who know who’ll you’ll meet… your next employee or employer, your next movie friend, your next relationship. Anything’s possible!