It’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Social Media Done Right – Or Not at All
Our most recent episode of MediaBlather is an interview with Paula Berg , Manager of Emerging Media for Southwest Airlines and the team leading the airline’s efforts in blogging, podcasting, and other social media. I frequently point to Southwest as an example of a company that does social media very well. The company uses ordinary employees — not high paid executives — to tell its story, and they do so with marvelous candor and enthusiasm. Nuts About Southwest has a joyful irreverence that reinforces the airline’s offbeat, slightly goofy image. Recently, Southwest added video and podcasts to the mix in a manner that truly looks planned. We talk to Paula about how Southwest gives its people lots of leeway in choosing what to contribute to the blog, the online “voice” of the company and how its first Twitter-based “screenplay” came together in the past couple of weeks.
My editor at BtoB magazine, Ellis Booker, chided me recently for writing so enthusiastically about social media. “How about telling people when social media isn’t right for them?” he asked. Great idea. So this month’s column lists some scenarios when you should really think twice about whether corporate transparency is right for you.
Why Podcast When You Can Slidecast?
I’m so excited about this development in our podcast product line that I’m repeating it from last week! We’ve just added slidecasts, which are audio podcasts with slide presentations built in. Slidecasts are packaged as movie files for viewing on a video iPod or desktop computer, where some 80% of all podcasts are listened to. Here’s the first in a series we are producing for our client, Awareness.
Slidecasts are a fast and cost-effective alternative to video. You don’t need any special equipment because you probably have the slides already prepared. We use high quality software to match the images to the audio and to integrate transitions, builds and even video clips. Then we deliver both an audio MP3 and a video file in the format you choose. We can even add this capability to podcasts you’ve already posted. So if you want to try the next generation of Internet audio programming, drop us a line and let us create your first slidecast!
Just for Fun
Page Tutor came up with a fun way of thinking about the huge financial hole our banking industry has gotten itself and us Americans into. Well, fun may be overstating it, but try to enjoy this and not think about what it will take for generations of Americans to fill the hole back in! What does a million dollars look like? You’ll be astounded.