When I first came across Twitter, I couldn’t understand it. So I can put 140 characters on a web site to tell the world what I am doing at the moment… Who cares? And why would I want to know what others happen to be doing at the exact moment they decide to share it with the world?
I was bewildered by the Twitter phenomenon sweeping the world. There are 100s of twitter apps in web, mobile, desktop. It’s everywhere. ReadWriteWeb recently wrote about which clients people use most to Tweet. Twitter addiction has moved to the physical world, people are going about wearing Twitter T-shirts.
I thought I may have judged Twitter to quickly and decided to dig a little deeper. Read research reports, added people and followed them, went over various blogs that talk about twitter, poured through the comments. Posted questions on various discussions forums and followed responses to questions posted by others. I’ve been doing this for past 2 months and I think I’ve come to some understanding on why we tweet.
Twitter’s power really comes from the feeling of intimacy with people as we get a glimpse into their lives. The beauty of Twitter is that it enables different types of conversations over a very simple medium without getting caught up in the technical intricacies of transports.
I believe twittering phenomenon is time/space agnostic. Twitter is just re-enabling needs that have not been satisfactorily met since humans moved out of the village town hall, pub etc. “where everyone knows your name”. As in a physical village, you’re more connected or more involved with some people than with others. Similarly in Twitter you’ll find that you talk or share with some people more often than others. To some degree, there is a behavioral difference, in that we have to consciously push updates at Twitter.
According to a research report, following are the main categories of users on Twitter:
- Information Source An information source is also a hub and has a large number of followers. This user may post updates on regular intervals or infrequently. Despite infrequent updates, certain users have a large number of followers due to the valuable nature of their updates. Some of the information sources were also found to be automated tools posting news and other useful information on Twitter.
- Friends Most relationships fall into this broad category. There are many sub-categories of friendships on Twitter. For example a user may have friends, family and co-workers on their friend or follower lists. Sometimes unfamiliar users may also add someone as a friend.
- Information Seeker An information seeker is a person who might post rarely, but follows other users regularly.
Reasons for Twittering
I’ve compiled various reasons for which people use Twitter which I came across while poring through comments/responses to blogs and questions
- Self-promotion – create personal brand awareness on some level
- Share and gather information that is pertinent to one’s interests
- Sharing useful resources
- Track on a much closer to realtime basis what people are thinking and doing. At the same time, one can then have a choice to participate in the thread.
- Stay in touch with your close ones
- See what’s happening with your friends
- As an educational and conversational tool
- Live event sharing– esp. for people who are not there, but even among attendees
- Closed groups such as a task-specific team or attendees of a conference
- Ideas — asking and sharing
- Learning about news before it spreads far and wide, for both industry and general news items. News spread faster on Twitter than on blogs
- Standard networking and communications with peers
- Creating much closer links with people despite not often physically meeting very often if at all
- Discovering new interesting people and networking with them
- Using the search box to find others interested in similar issue
- Research – by subscribing to feeds of smart people in the field
- As a targeted communication platform – Send responses @ a person or D (Direct to a person)
- Keeping up with tech – All the big names on the internet use Twitter. Subscribe to them and see what’s new and exciting.
- Tracking topics – enter ‘track SOA’ and anyone that posts a twitter message about SOA gets sent to you. A great way to hear what people are saying about a topic. To remove it just ‘untrack SOA’
- Emergency – just see what happened with the wildfires. San Diego fire department broadcasted alerts on twitter
- Television – watch TV together and react on it through Twitter
- Stalking – Strange as it may sound, this post by Laurel unveils this trend
Twitter as a business tool
- Drawing attention to/promoting products/content. Sending out special offers
- Viral marketing, and for pre-release product announcements
- News websites deliver information and updates using it
- Spreading the word about stuff we’re working on (announcements, etc)
- Gathering feedback from the community (asking questions)
- Customer service (subscribing to mentions of our company, responding to people personally)
- Getting pitched and communicating with PR agencies
- For project updates – send a quick one-liner and you can see all in one place / timeline
- Ask the expert – fling your question from wherever you are -up to the twitter network / global water cooler and get an answer.
- reach out by cross-posting information from regular blog
- Business bloggers are finding that tools like Twitter help draw traffic to their blog posts and give them a way to stay connected without the commitment of writing lengthy blog posts.
Twitter is not for everyone
Twitter can be sensory overload due to a high degree of micro information the user will need to self-parse. A lot of Twitter skeptics are put off by the banal nature of some of the discussion. This is really a limitation of the current Twitter clients, though. Twitter will become even more valuable when clients are available that let you intelligently filter through tweets for content that you’re interested in.
Love it or hate it Twitter is a force to be reckoned with, and provides a great many opportunities beyond simply telling the world what you ate for breakfast. By making it easy for people to send out short (140 characters or less) messages to their personal webpage, friends and followers, and even the Twitter community at large, the service makes for a compelling way to get the word out fast.
Whereas blog posts and emails tend to be longer-winded affairs, Twitter posts are closer in form to the SMS messages you send from your mobile phone, and in fact it is possible to access Twitter in this very way, in addition to using the Twitter website, Instant Messaging or one of the growing number of desktop applications available.
You can follow me here twitter.com/sachendra