Say the word twitter" and , of course, birds come to mind. For many of us, so does a quirky little social networking app that's taken off in popularity, much to the surprise of many.
I say surprise, because many people have yet to figure out quite what Twitter is supposed to be. According to the FAQ page, it's a "service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?"
Only thing is, nobody answers that question. Which, in my view, tells me that Twitter is an app open to interpretation. It can become almost whatever you want or need it to be... so long as you can express your message in 140 characters or less. That's because it was designed to be used primarily via SMS (text messaging) or IM, which it's not. Most people use their Web browser.
The real point of this point was less about explaining what Twitter is and how it works, and more about making some observations based on my experience with the application.
I've been a Twitterer for several months now joining at about the same time the likes of Jeremiah Owyang and Robert Scoble did more or less. That's about the time a lot of social media marketing wonks joined, in spite of the fact the app has been around since October 2006. (It was only when Twitter won the 2007 SXSW Web award in the blog category that the app really took off.)
1st Observation: How Twitter is being used
When I first joined it seemed most people (at least those I began to connect to) used Twitter more for general announcements or personal anecdotes. The real estate news organization Inman used it to keep attendees updated about their upcoming Inman Connect conference. (That was back in January 2007. Gosh, I've been twittering longer than I thought!)
It quickly morphed to where people were using it to talk to each other (at everyone else's expense mind you. (I mean by that, if I'm connected to one person and they're talking to someone I'm not connected to, I can only see half the conversation.)
People began using the "@username" to reply publicaly to each other, a behavior Twitter didn't officially support. In response to this Biz, Evan and Co. changed the platform so that it did support that activity. Now, if you include "@username" in your message, it will go to that person and show up under the replies tab.
Again, this reinforces the notion that "Twitter is as Twitter does." And, it's creators are paying attention to what its users are doing, making changes to adapt all along the way. Good job, guys!
2nd Observation: How Twitter is not being used
This is totally personal conjecture, but I'm getting the impression that people like me who use Twitter to broadcast a new link to a new blog post I've written is considered "spam" and falling into disfavor with the community. I'm not 100 percent sure that's the case, but my gut tells me so.
If that's the case, I believe it's an outcome of the way people are beginning to use it... as a more personal means of communication and less as a broadcast mechanism.
I think that now, if you want to pitch a blog post, it's probably better to do it to individuals than to the community at large. I could be wrong.
3rd Observation: Twitter vs. Pownce
You remember Pownce, don't you? It's the app that Digg founder Kevin Rose created, along with a few other young genius geeks. In many ways, it's a more elegant app than Twitter and, for a time, I thought I'd use it more. That's not proven to be the case... for me and lot of others.
Take, for example, Alexa rankings. Twitter has a traffic rank of 644, while Pownce palls in comparison with a paltry 10,480. Blogpulse shows similar results. And Technorati, same-same.
English posts that contain Pownce Vs. Twitter per day for the last 30 days.
Some suggest that it was because Pownce lacked an all important element that Twitter contained, an API. That problem has been remedied and one now exists. Still, it's not received the same attention as Twitter's.
4th Observation: Twitter vs. RSS feeds
A lot of Twitter users have indicated they are using Twitter much more now for finding useful links, and using their RSS reader much less as a result. I know I am.
My conclusion is that, since the people I'm following tend to be interested in the same things I am (or vice-versa), it stands to reason the links they share would be of interest and relevant as well. Hence, that lessens the need for me to refer to my already overly-bloated RSS reader.
5th Observation: Twitter vs. Facebook
I know we early adopter types tend to be fickle. We get all hyped up about the app du jour and make out like it's the 2nd Coming. Then, a few weeks or months later, we pass it over in favor of the next.
Maybe that's happened where Facebook is concerned, because I find myself visiting the site much less than I did only a couple of weeks ago. Or, maybe it's that I'm tired of Funwalls and silly little apps that serve only to take up time I don't have to give. Or, maybe it's that the emails I receive through the system aren't personal ones, but announcements such as "Teleclass correction," "How to keep a positive attitude when you work with an idiot," and something about Obama in 09.
The old school marketers and pitchmen have found a new, social media way to hawk their wares, but I'm not buying! There's so much less of that at Twitter, and even what of it does exist is limited to 140 characters. Plus, the community does a good job of policing itself in this regard.
Why all this fuss over Twitter? Because I think the app has some level of importance from a business communications and marketing standpoint, though I'm not sure I've cornered the market on just what that is. That's where I need your help. What do you think of the observations above? Is Twitter important? If so, why?
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