Still Don't Get Twitter? Maybe This Will Help

twitter-logoIt’s okay to admit it.  You’re among friends.  You’ve been on Twitter for a couple of months now and you still can’t figure out what the heck all the fuss is about.  It took me a while to “get” Twitter, too, but now I find it an indispensable part of my toolkit for gathering information and promoting my work.  Here are some things to think about.

The 140-character limit is liberating.  Writing blog entries is a time-consuming task.  I’m not the type who fires off one-sentence posts, so I like to put some thought into what I say on a blog.  In contrast, Twitter’s 140-character limit lends itself well to quick thoughts that I believe are worth sharing with others but that don’t justify a full-blown blog entry.  Very little of what I tweet makes it into my blog and vice versa.

The 140-character limit can also be frustrating. If you have ever engaged in an e-mail exchange using Twitter direct messaging, you know it can be disjointed.  At some point, you need to jump to e-mail.  That said, 140 characters does force you to focus your thoughts and to write succinctly,

Public conversations.  Twitter gives everyone the option of making discussions public.  You can’t do this with e-mail, and it’s difficult to accomplish on a blog.  If you believe that your exchange with others would benefit from public input, or if you just want to expose the discussion to others, you have that option.  You can always take things private via direct messaging if you wish.

Immediacy.  When you just can’t wait for information, Twitter can’t be beat for getting your question to a large group.  It’s impractical to do this with e-mail. People’s inboxes are already cluttered with spam and you have no way of getting your message to people you don’t know.  Also, through “retweeting,” a message can reach a large number of people who aren’t on your follower list.  This brings new perspectives to the conversation and gives you the opportunity to discover people you wouldn’t have otherwise met.

Retweeting. While we’re on the subject, don’t underestimate the power of the retweet.  When someone picks up your message and forwards it to their followers, it magnifies your reach and often recruits new followers in the process.  Sending provocative messages that others retweet is a great way to build your following and your contact list for information-gathering and promotion.

Discovery.  Twitter is the most efficient mechanism I’ve ever seen for discovering interesting information.  I could literally do nothing all day but monitor the “All Friends” feed in TweetDeck and read interesting articles that others recommend. If it weren’t for Twitter, for example, I wouldn’t have known that Travelocity has hotels in Las Vegas for $22 a night.  This discovery process is not unlike scanning the pages of a newspaper, but it’s much faster and more encompassing.  Also, you know that comments and recommendations from certain people will be of particular interest to you, so you have the option of drilling down on individual profiles to see what they’ve been saying recently.  Chaotic?  Sure, but that’s part of the discovery process.

Searchable. If you want to find out what people are saying about you right now, services like Twitscoop and Monitter enable you to instantly track mentions of your company, product, industry or whatever and to save them as RSS feeds for later browsing.  You can do the same with Twitter Search. Google Alerts currently doesn’t index Twitter feeds, but Filtrbox does.

Twitter is a deceptively simple idea with remarkably powerful applications.  People are only beginning to tap into its potential, and I hope visitors to this blog will contribute their own thoughts on what they find most compelling.

16 thoughts on “Still Don't Get Twitter? Maybe This Will Help

  1. Reminds me of the early days of the web before it became overrun with bloatware. Surfing was an apt metaphor. Web pages were light weight and easy to scan, and following links was often fruitful.

    I think the key to high return on Twitter, is discovering, through search and referral, whom you want to follow.

  2. I can’t seem to ever get enough information on how effective Twitter is. I am a quick learner in most technologies and I know I will see the benefit of Tweeting some day but haven’t had enough success yet to really see it. I’m currently testing this medium to see how it might help raising money and awareness for some of the non-profits I’m involved with.

  3. A superb article and explanation of Twitter. And being succinct is not all bad, in fact far better than verbosity. Guess it’s time to join the crowds – Twitter, here I come!

  4. It took me some time also and I have been hooked on it for a week now certainly because I met heavy users. I noticed that I don’t subscribe to RSS but would rather follow twitter. I have to admit that I was wrong about Twitter, I thought it was a geek snob stuff.

  5. No offense, but everything you just mentioned, you can do on Facebook, with more options, plus you already have your network set up. You can choose to make your entry public, viewable just by your friends (thousands in some cases), a handful of select people, ect. It can be one character long or paragraphs long. And Facebook Mobile takes care of those instances where all you have is your phone. I see twitter as something more for the over 30 crowd (as myspace is becoming). Most 20-somethings (“Milleniums” if you will, myself included) and teens that I interact with (I work in education) see twitter as somewhat redundant compared to FB.

  6. Great post, Paul! You’ve hit on all the reasons Twitter is such an exciting marketing tool. It took me about 4 mos to understand how to use it for what I wanted to achieve. I spent a lot of time just hanging out and listening to see how other peeps were using it and also how it would work with Facebook. Once I understood that, I jumped in.

    In the first month, I noticed a big drop in the number of emails I get every day, and that’s continued. I now save at least an hour a day on email, sometimes more. Add in the immediacy of Twitter and the huge viral factor and it’s hard not to become a fan. One caveat: without an app to organize who you follow, Twitter is less than ideal. I find TweetDeck to be a must for organizing tweets into easily scannable columns. I can now drop in, scan my tweets and move on to other work. I love it!

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  10. It’s very simple folks…
    Twitter is a Mac and Facebook a PC.
    It gets the job done without the bloat, hassle or hype.

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  12. It’s rare that a link I follow from Twitter doesn’t lead me to something interesting.

    I find Twitter is filled with people I don’t know but find interesting, where as Facebook is full of people I do know, a major differentiator between the two.

  13. Hi, I’m here via the Google results for “I still don’t get Twitter “! It’s 2013, I’ve been trying it on and off for the last year but I still don’t get it! I get the basics, like hashtags and such, but the conversation moves way too fast. But I really WANT to get it, cause sometimes I have good ideas that can’t really hold their own in a blog post, so I’d love to tweet them, but I feel stupid tweeting to nobody (the 7 or so followers I’ve accumulated only seem to want follow – backs or something) . And the hashtags aren’t used like on instagram or tumblr, right, where you can tag posts based on content? I see “trending ” and ironic tags, mostly. And I use reddit for links to articles. So is there something I’m missing or is it just not for me? (BTW,

  14. There are endless resources out there that can help you grow your following. This slide presentation is one of them, and many others are findable by search. It comes down to saying interesting things, using hash tags to get your comments in the right Twitter streams and retweeting and commenting upon others’ contributions. Be persistent, use Twitter every day and don’t overdo it. Five to seven tweets a day is about right.

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