Posts tagged with “common Twitter terms”

Twitter: What’s All the Fuss?

Tuesday, 16 June, 2009

birdI’m sure a lot of people are beyond sick of hearing about Twitter (although it makes a welcome distraction from talking about the recession ūüôā )¬†When people ask me about it, their first¬†comment always seem to be “I don’t get it. Isn’t totally boring and pointless?”. I’ve also participated in discussions about this very topic on LinkedIn with other professionals and even on Twitter itself and there definitely seems to be mixed reactions.

So, should you jump on the bandwagon?

Well first the basics:

What is Twitter?

Good question. Twitter is a social networking site, but unlike Facebook, LinkedIn etc, you are only allowed 140 character posts (answering the question: “What are you doing?”). Your profile consists of¬†a¬†thumbnail pic, short description, location and¬†web address.¬†Your posts appear in a stream form¬†and to see other people’s posts, you need to follow them. Unless you have your privacy settings set to approve, you can follow anyone and they don’t have to follow you back (this includes popular celebrity tweeters like Ellen Degeneres, Ashton Kutcher and Oprah).

Each user gets a username that starts with an @, so if anyone wants to direct their message to you, they merely start their post with, for example, @geraldineeliot (my Twitter username). This will still appear in the stream so everyone can read it, but I will know it is for me. You can also send private (direct)¬†messages to someone that won’t appear on the stream, but again these are limited to 140 characters. There are lots of different conventions and terms that have sprung up, and of course people have developed plenty of different applications so you can post pictures, songs, add backgrounds, manage multiple accounts¬†etc. (For a more in-depth look at Common Twitter Terms, please feel free to take a look at a recent article I wrote on the topic for Suite101.com) but in general it is a lot more simplified than other networking sites.

SO What’s The Point?

This is where I get a bit vague with people, precisely because Twitter is one of those things that really isn’t for everyone. Personally, I find it a great networking and marketing tool for my business, for making connections with other Vancouverites in the tech/media scene, and also for gathering news, interesting articles and insights,¬†and keeping up with any new trends in the market. I am selective, however, in who I choose to follow and unlike many users, go for QUALITY not QUANTITY. I don’t want to sift through thousands of updates – I just don’t have the time.

I un-follow anyone who I feel does not add value – especially if they fill my page with meaningless posts about what they had for breakfast.¬†I¬†always¬†look at¬†someone’s updates and their follow to follower ratio before I follow them to ensure they will add something of¬†value to me. Even then, I often find the volume of information overwhelming and sometimes have to take a break. But I have made valuable work connections, gathered information, got the word out about my articles and services,¬†and have been recommended by a follower to a third party, so I would absolutely say it has its benefits.

There are also plenty of job opportunities advertised, chances to meet up with people you follow at Tweet-Ups (real life meet ups), and to share interesting information. There are already some famous Twitter stories including Lance Armstrong getting his stolen bike back through tweeting about it and Ashton Kutcher taking on CNN for the first to reach a million followers. On a more serious note, currently the Iranian Election crisis has stirred up a storm of tweets. As media is silenced in the country, Tweeters are spreading news to the outside world as well as urging other users to change their location to Tehran to confuse censors. The US Government has also convinced Twitter to delay maintenance downtime so that election news can get through via Twitter.  Perhaps this illustrates the power of Twitter is growing?

Should I bother?

I would say that Twitter is essential for anyone:

1. Running their own business

2. Trying to gain exposure

3. Looking to network with people in the same industry

4. Interested in connecting to people all over the world

5. Into instant gratification ūüėČ

6. Looking for jobs

7. Selling a product

8. Promoting their work

BUT it is not for you if you merely want to keep in touch with friends – rather use Facebook (or here’s a novel idea, pick up the phone!). And if you can’t express yourself in 140 characters, don’t go there!

Like any trend, there will always be those who hop on and proclaim it as the next best thing, but the trick always is how smart a user you are, not necessarily how smart the tool is. You have to decide how you are going to use social networking sites to your advantage, no matter the format, but bear in mind they also take a lot of time and effort to maintain and to really add value to your life.

Ready to take the plunge?

Follow me!