Ok. Chances are you’ve at least heard of Twitter, the micro-blogging tool that asks the question “what are you doing?” You may have even read some of the dozens (hundreds?) of articles touting its usefulness and business applications.
I can’t pretend to be an expert on Twitter. I’m sure that there are tons of aspects of Twitter I haven’t even begun to explore. However, I’ve been on Twitter for a few months now, (after reading a few articles like this) and have been converted from a major skeptic (who thought that it was a waste of time and that people who really liked Twitter were either: a) really nosey, b) really egotistical or c) a combination of both) to a huge fan (I’m getting a smart phone, mostly so I can be on Twitter more often). Here’s why:
1. Twitter makes networking easy, painless and powerful.
For a PR professional, I am an awful networker. I find it awkward and uncomfortable and generally I try to avoid it at all costs without an accomplice. But on Twitter (and really any social networking platform) you can network with ease. Online profiles allow you to avoid the canned elevator speeches and awkward silences. The immediacy of Twitter and relatively constant interaction helps you avoid having to leave a message for someone and wait for a response, like with other social networking applications.
There are two major groups of people I interact with on Twitter: people from Cleveland (like me) and people into social media/inbound marketing/new PR (also like me). Basically, Twitter allows you to connect with people who have similar interests to your own.
2. Twitter keeps you informed.
By following people with similar interests, you get their updates about blog articles they’ve written, interesting things they are reading, etc. I barely pay attention to my RSS feeds anymore because I just find things through my network on Twitter. The only thing to remember on this end is that you need to contribute also. Read something interesting? Post a link for your Twitter friends. It’s a very give-and-take social medium once you get comfortable with it.
Additionally, lots of news organizations post breaking news alerts on Twitter, so you can see important headlines as they happen, without having to turn on the television or go to news Websites.
3. Twitter keeps you connected, online and off.
I’ve connected with people in my industry that I greatly admire. For example, just the other day, I got a direct message from David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR. Call me a geek (you’re probably right), but that made me kind of excited.
You can use your network, too, to ask for advice, tips and opinions. Want a review of the cell phone you’re thinking of buying? Need a good Facebook-for-business case study? Make the right friends on Twitter and I bet they can help you out.
Not to mention, posting blog updates and whatnot on Twitter can boost your site traffic, and get your content in front of people who care about it — and are connected enough to want to communicate with you and share interesting information with others.
I’m also getting more involved locally, thanks to Twitter. I’ve joined the Cleveland Social Media Club and I have started going to lunch once a month with other people from the area, to catch up and chat about cool things going around us. I find that there is this kind of strange thing that happens with Twitter, where getting connected online helps you foster better relationships offline. It seems quite backward at first, but it’s really kind of fun.
4. Twitter is a time-SAVER, not a time-WASTER.
Remember how I said I initially thought Twitter was a waste of time? I absolutely think the opposite. By downloading a desktop application like Twhirl, you can have updates pop up on your screen (much like emails do if you use Entourage). This way, you can screen updates from friends and news sources without stopping what you’re doing on your computer. Again, this filters news and blogs even further than RSS in my case. And if you don’t have time, you’re generally so in the zone that you don’t even notice them.
5. If you’re not on Twitter, you’re missing some really cool things.
I’m sure this list can go on and on, but here are a few cool things I’ve seen on Twitter so far:
Twebinars: Radian6 put together a series of Twebinars — Webinars that included a live stream on Twitter. Basically, instead of the comment/question screen most Webinars allow, people watching the Twebinar also logged onto Twitter and made comments through Twitter and tagged them #twebinar. There are Websites, including hashtags.org and Twitter search (formerly summize) that allow you to search Twitter updates (aka tweets).
Hack the Debate: Current and Twitter teamed up for the presidential debates. You can watch the debate online and see people’s Tweets that are tagged #current (and maybe also #debate08) show up on the screen in real-time.
Customer Service: One day I was having trouble with Firefox. I tweeted about it. An hour or so later, I got a direct tweet from Firefox, asking if they could help with the problem.