Thursday, August 28, 2008

Best Explanation Of Twitter Yet

The more I use it, the more I believe that Twitter has immense value. Heck, it may just save your life.

But try as I might, I can't explain to ordinary folks (brother, dad, etc.) why this service is so valuable. A big part of my trouble has to do with Twitter's claimed purpose - to let people know What are you doing?. People rightly respond, why the heck should I care what you're doing? Good point, but a person who uses Twitter well is going way beyond answering this question.

But, thanks to, I have my 1 sentence summary of why Twitter is so exciting:

"If you had the chance to sit at a bar and silently listen to 100 Reporters talking, would you? That’s Twitter."

(Thanks to Joan Stewart for originally sharing the quote.)

OK, listening to 100 reporters may not be your idea of a good time, but try this experiment. Replace reporters above with your peer groups of interest. Be they: programmers, marketers, bio-tech founders, CEOs, lawyers, stay at home moms, real estate agents, the-guy-who-always-finds-funny-links-on-the-web - you name it. Imagining you were quietly listening to them.

Sure, some of the chatter won't interest you, but a good portion of it may. Like any conversation, you'll hear tips, war stories, frustrations, drama and comedy. And because this is the web, you'll see links to other resources that expand on these relatively short comments.

The beauty of Twitter is that this conversation is totally shaped by you - you can add and remove people from it at will, check in and out of peer groups.

This, though, is something you're going to need to try for yourself to see just how effective it is. Here are some suggestions to get you started.


  1. Will the real Twitter please stand up?

    OK, I know already – Twitter is a “micro-blogging” tool that allows you to post short 140 characters (or less) of text. There lies the problem. Twitter needs to do a better job of explaining that Twitter is a different experience for every user (both personal & business).

    What Twitter is to me – I call Twitter an Operating System (OS), or if you do not want to be that generous, at least call it a platform. This is because Twitter is a child of the Open Source movement. OK, so it’s not truly open source, but they generously offer their API, which allows anyone to write applications that run on top of (or with) Twitter.

    I also like to think of Twitter as allowing me to build my own social network on the fly. I use LinkedIn as my “business social network”. I use Facebook as my “family & friends” social network. There are hundreds of thousands of social networks. Their commonality is that they all revolve around a common interest. So for me, wanting a social network around my interest (Social Media), I used Summize (now owned by Twitter) , Twitterpack Wiki, and Twellow to search for terms related to my field i.e. – “social media,Web 2.0, Software, Marketing,etc”. I then reached out and followed all who showed up in that search. Bingo, I just built my own social network.

    My Twitter social network does not necessarily have to be around a subject either. Perhaps I want to just see who is Tweeting in my vicinity, well now I can Twinkle and my social network consists of everyone within my geographical location.

    I use third party tools such as Twitterfeed, so that anytime I post on my blog, my Twitter followers can be automatically notified (Here I think of Twitter as a much better form of RSS).

    Sometimes I just use Twitter as my virtual water cooler. I listen to what other’s are Tweeting, and if something peeks my interest, I join in the Tweetersation.

    When I am home, my family becomes my social network. I can simply send one Tweet, and both of my kids, and my wife no that “Dinners ready, come and eat”. When I coach basketball or little league, and want a quick, easy and painless method to communicate with the players and their parents I just Tweet them. The reason that this works better then any other platform (Instant Messaging, Email,Phone,SMS) is the ubiquity of Twitter. Think about that for a moment…With Twitter, my Twicipients can listen using THEIR choice PC or Mobile. With past platforms it was usually one or the other. Using “next generation” tools like Phweet, I can even hold a VOIP conference call on top of the Twitter platform. So in this aforementioned example, I am using Twitter as an Event notification system.

    When I am a salesman, Twitter allows me to datamine the Twittersphere and listen for opportunities. I can do a search using terms such as “cable sucks”. If I were selling FIOS service, this would offer me a great opportunity to be using Twitter as a lead generator.

    I want to know who is the founder of Twitter…I use @cbbot and ask “who is the founder of Twitter”, and the Twitterbot replies “Biz Stone. So Twitter is a research tool.

    I am a business…What better way to both put a human factor to my business then to communicate with my clients (and NEW clients) using a medium where they are? Zappos has over 400 employees using Twitter to communicate with their customers. How do you think interacting with these 400 people make you feel about their brand?

    Why not let your customers interact with customer service via Tweets? Because Twitter is a distributed medium, your entire call center could be monitoring this for the quickest response times yet.

    I have excess inventory, why not let users learn of special offers in real time – Tweet it to em!

    I have a large knowledge base, using SPARQRL & the Twitter API anyone can now access that knowledge via Twitter. So for example, I might be shopping for a Nipon camera. I simply would send a Tweet to Shopzilla (or any shopping comparison service), and Shopzilla could reply with their list of prices and availability (keeping the retailer honest ☺ ). How about other knowledge bases (they ALL could benefit)…Flighttracker, could let me get updates about a flight via Tweets “American #4364” would return “American Flight #4364 landing LQA 4:30pm (on time).

    Location Based Services (LBS) will make it even MORE interesting as more and more people enjoy GPS enabled phones. Ya, I know there’s already Twinkle, but LBS is around version .5 right now, not even 1.0. We will see realllly fun ways of interacting with the platform then. For personal use, I will be able to know who (from any of the many social networks I belong to in and out of the Twitterverse) is nearby me. I will be able to filter all of this; “Show me just my LinkedIn contacts, only those who are marketing executives, and only within 2 miles. How cool is that?

    Businesses will benefit even more from LBS running on Twitter. Want to show me a coupon for a pizza as I walk by pizza hut? Go for it, I would welcome that (just make certain I can opt-in & out)!

  2. Andrew -

    Wow, thanks for all those thoughts.

    Yeah, more and more, I see creative uses of twitter. Heck, I just found a car dealership today who was advertising their vehicles over twitter.

    The great thing about twitter is that it's super flexible and can be whatever you want it, the annoying thing about twitter is that it's super flexible and isn't really anything.