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Why I use Twitter

Lately I've been getting more questions from friends and family about Twitter. The fact that my Twitter feed automatically posts to my Facebook status updates might have something to do with it.

Anyway, the conversation usually starts something like this:

Friend: "So, what's this Twitter thing all about?"

Me: "It's a social media tool to connect with other people with whom you have shared interests. It's also a great way to exchange information and learn."

Friend: "So you can only type 140 characters? How can you get anything across in 140 characters?"

Me:  "You'd be surprised. Sometimes, the shorter the message the more relevant and powerful it can be. And, you can also include links to other information, like articles and blog posts."

Friend: "I just don't get it. Seems like a big waste of time. I don't really care about reading about how Mary just washed her dog or about Bill's nasty case of hemorrhoids."

Me:  [frustrated and annoyed at this point] "That's not what it's about..."

You get the idea. I often find it hard to explain the value and benefits of Twitter, from both a personal and professional perspective. In fact, more often than not I wind up resorting to saying, "Trust me. I didn't understand it at first either. You just have to check it out." But, I'm realizing that this isn't enough, and I need to better articulate why I use Twitter, and what its value has been for me.

So, with that in mind, below is a list of the main reasons why I use Twitter, and what I get out of it.  But, before I get into that, a definition is in order. Wikipedia defines Twitter this way:

"Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read otherGeo2geo twitter home page users' updates (known as tweets),which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length. Updatesare displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other userswho have signed up to receive them. Senders can restrict delivery tothose in their circle of friends (delivery to everyone being thedefault). Users can send and receive updates via the Twitter website, SMS, RSS (receive only), or through applications such as Tweetie, Twitterrific, and Feedalizr. The service is free to use over the web, but using SMS may incur fees."

Not bad, but a bit incomplete. I recently stumbled across a video of one Twitter's founders, Evan Williams, speaking at the TED Conference: http://www.ted.com/talks/evan_williams_on_listening_to_twitter_users.html. This is definitely worth watching if you want to learn more about the various uses of Twitter today, and how it is continuously evolving.

Here are some of the reasons I use Twitter. Now, these are just my reasons, and I'm sure other Tweeple (note the Twitter slang; it means "twitter people" -- you'll get used to it) would have other points to share:

  1. Professional networking - Twitter has something for everyone. For me, it is a great way to connect with individuals and organizations in public relations, social media marketing and the technology fields: other PR/SM practitioners, bloggers, press/analysts, potential clients, recruiters, etc. It takes time to build the network, but it's well worth the effort.
  2. Connect with press/analysts - From CNET reporter Charles Cooper (@coopeydoop)to Wall Street Journal's Personal Tech. reporter Walt Mossberg (@waltmossberg) to industry analyst firm Gartner (@Gartner_inc), more and more press and analysts are joining the ranks of Twitter users. As a PR professional, my job is to build relationships with the media on behalf of my clients, and Twitter provides a great avenue to do this. It should be noted that, it's not about using Twitter to 'spam' these individuals, as some PR folks have already tried. Like the 'traditional PR' approach, it's about building genuine, mutually beneficial relationships.
  3. Leverage others' experiences - Twitter provides access to a wealth of information from some very smart and insightful individuals. I've learned a tremendous amount of information relevant to my personal and professional interests. For example, the social media marketing realm is constantly evolving, and there are a number of individuals on Twitter that regularly share interesting insight, research and perspective.
  4. Share my knowledge/experience - As a PR and social media professional, Twitter is a great way to share my personal knowledge with other professionals, as well as with potential new clients and business partners. Twitter, like all social media, is all about sharing, and I enjoy helping others by sharing my successes...and sometimes, failures.
  5. Get feedback - Twitter represents a vast knowledge base, and is a great way to get feedback on communications strategies and programs I'm developing. You can easily receive input via a quick, informal Twitter poll, or ask industry influencers to provide their opinions on a Web site or blog.
  6. Keep current on tech, PR and social media industry developments - I've come across great news and information about the tech and communications markets, some of which I may not have found otherwise. From how to set up a Facebook business page to the latest Green technologies, it's all available via Twitter.

So,there you have it. Again, there are many other potential uses for Twitter, but these are the key ones for me. The cool thing about Twitter is that, because it is an open platform and forum, new ideas and uses appear almost daily.

I can't wait to see what Twitter is like a year or two from now. I'm sure it will have evolved in a number of interesting and unexpected ways.



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