Why Twitter Works for Me
As you many of you know, you can follow me on Twitter. The idea of following me on Twitter sometimes begs the question, "What is Twitter?" That question can be answered in various ways, as Twitter is often defined differently for different people. That is part of the beauty of the service is that it can be used in different ways.
Since I find myself answering this question from time to time, I am addressing it here to serve to answer that question when it does arrive. This is not going to be a piece on how one should or shouldn't use Twitter. I will leave that open to you. Rather this is why it works very well for me.
First, for those unfamiliar with what Twitter is, to put it simply it is a micro-blogging service. It is a powerful communication and networking tool — be it professionally, socially, or both.
It's original purpose was to pose the question "What are you doing?" In so that activities of your life in between your other correspondences in email, blogging, and phone calls could be shared with those that would be interested in your activities in hopes to find common ground and/or better know you. (See the popular Twitter in Plain English video by CommonCraft at the bottom of this post for a good introduction to Twitter and one possible way of using the service).
It would be a disservice to end it there though. Yes, you could post what you had for breakfast and it could be of interest to some. It is fine if you choose to use it in this manner. For many, including myself, it has a far greater potential as a communication tool.
Originally I resisted Twitter when it first debuted on the scene a couple years ago. As I thought that I was far too busy to be reading "noise" generated by others. It doesn't necessarily have to be that way at all.
The key is to find like-minded people to follow. Follow people in which you have an interest in what they tweet about. You may not be interested in everything they tweet about, which is fine. In fact, you may not necessarily like the person, as long as you find value in their tweets. If the majority of what they tweet about is of interest to you, they should be a good candidate to follow. It is important that you build a good number of people to follow. Too often do I see people try out Twitter only to follow only a handful of people. It's just not enough. They often loss interest in the service fairly quickly. How many people you follow is completely up to you, but I would recommend at the very least to follow about a dozen when you first sign up. You will want to add to it as you discover more people you would like to follow.
Eventually you will build your own following. In the meantime, I wouldn't obsess too much on how many followers you have. If you tweet enough and your tweets are of interest to others, people will eventually follow.
What is a quality tweet? Well, sometimes I find myself tweeting in a "knee-jerk" reactionary process. Tweeting whatever might be crossing my mind at the given time. Though often I think to myself if this is something I would be interested in reading from someone else. If the answer is "not likely" then I may not tweet it in most cases.
Isn't it just another chat or IM service? No. Unlike chat or IM, you can respond (if you so choose) when and where it works best for you. There's no commitment to respond immediately or at all, though I personally try to respond to tweets when it calls for it. Therefore, it does not distract or eat away at my time or productivity.
What about "wasting time" with it? For some, this could be a problem. I think of Twitter like a stream or water fall of tweets of interest. It's fun to play in the stream or water fall when you are in it, but you can't live in it all the time. It's a faucet. You can turn it on or off easily. When you do turn it on, you can walk up or down stream a bit to see what you may have missed while you were away, but you don't need to if you don't have the time to do so.
Twitter is portable. Unlike chat or IM, I can carry out a "conversation" jumping from one Twitter client to another from the Twitter website to my mobile phone and back again without missing a beat. Although you could use Twitter entirely from their website, you are not tied down to it. There are various Twitter client applications for your desktop as well as mobile devices such as mobile phones, iPhone, iPod touch, and more. There are many 3rd party websites and services that will enable you to tweet to your Twitter account as well.
There are some downfalls. Like many communication services, it has not been completely spared from spam attacks. Though you can easily control that... spammers tweets won't show up in your stream unless you follow them. The Twitter site itself is lacking some key features. You have no control on which of your followers show up on your profile page once you exceed the maximum that it will display. At the time of this writing, there is no way to organize or search the people you follow or follow you on the Twitter website. Though some of these features might be present on client applications and other 3rd party websites.
Another is the dreaded "fail whale" -- which has not been so much of an issue recently, but had been in the past when Twitter was going through its various growing pains. The "fail whale" refers to the image that would appear on Twitter when they were overburdened with tweets. Over-capacity.
One of the most often asked questions is how does Twitter make money? The service has been and continues to be free to use. There are no ads at this time. Eventually, it will need to find a way to monetize its service. There has been plenty of speculation on how that may be handled. There is no reason to go into it in this post.
There are some that will use Twitter to achieve certain goals. If it is solely to market your goods or services, be weary. It is easily detected and your followers will drop. It can be used as an organizing tool, to bring people together to rally for a cause. One good example of that would be Moya Watson who when working for the No on Prop 8 campaign recently in California used Twitter quite effectively. To gain some insight with her experiences using Twitter effectively in this manner, I would recommend reading her post, Serving the @NoOnProp8 Twitter community.
There have been countless articles and postings on the net about Twitter. This is my first entry into that foray. I had been wanting to address it in a post here for some time now. I haven't covered all the bases here, it is just a glimpse on why it works so well for myself and perhaps it can serve as a starting point for others.
There are other sites and Twitter related services that I could post here as well, but perhaps I will save that for another blog entry here at another time. In the meantime, be sure to follow me on Twitter.