What is that Twitter thing?

June 14, 2009

In the last few weeks, a bunch of my less-than tech savvy friends took a leap of faith and decided to try out 'that Twitter thing'. Since then, I've heard them try explaining to their friends/family/co-workers what it is and why they're 'doing it'. Almost always, their attempt fails and the person is left more confused and just as uninterested.  

After hearing their attempts, I thought I'd give it a go at breaking Twitter down for those of you who are either wondering what it is or how to explain it to the people you know.

For your friends:

Twitter lets any average Joe hear what famous people of all shapes and sizes are doing on a day-to-day basis. It brings these celebrities down to earth. Does knowing that Oprah saw a Broadway play today really make a difference to my life? Probably not. But it's interesting. And that's what your friends are probably looking for, a reason that you, and maybe they, can get value from this new, unfamiliar phenomenon that's sweeping the internet.  

A buddy of mine put it well when he said, "It's worth it to me just for the sports."  He's a sports enthusiast.  Hearing personal messages from sports figures like Shaq, John Calipari and Lance Armstrong (just to name a few) gives him a real personality outside of press conferences to put with the face that he sees on TV and in the media.  But it doesn't stop with sports.  There are hundreds of musicians, comedians, actors and politicians on Twitter as well, not to mention a growing number of people that you actually know, sharing tid-bits that they think you might find interesting.

For your family:

When you go to twitter.com, the first thing you see is "Twitter is 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?" 

At its core, Twitter let's your mom/dad/siblings keep up with what's going on in your everyday life, what you're doing at work, what you thought of the last movie you saw or what interesting article you're reading online.  We're all busy and sometimes we just don't have time to call mom and catch her up with what's new. 

For your co-workers:

Twitter has gained much of its popularity because of its marketing capability.  Whereas Facebook is inherently about interacting with your friends, Twitter is more about content discovery.  This makes Twitter the more oppurtune venue for social network marketing. Almost every company should be using Twitter to inform potential and current customers who want to know more about that company by:

  • Announcing recent blog posts
  • Talking about upcoming events
  • Sharing relevent online stories
  • Asking questions/Getting feedback
  • Or simply showing the human side of the company

Each of your co-workers has the ability to do one or a combination of these for the people who request to read them.  

Here's a quick example: For complicated online forms, we use a third party service called WuFoo. A week ago, their server went down unexpectedly. I immediately went to Twitter and began following @Wufoo to hear what the company had to say about the problem. I got updates the minute they were occurring, knew the expexcted time until the server was going to be back up, and what they were planning to do to prevent the problem from reoccuring in the future. Without Wufoo's participation on Twitter, I would have lost faith in their company as well as been slower to begin working again once the problem was solved. 

So what is 'that Twitter thing'? 

The beauty of Twitter is that it's all of the above. Your friends all have families, your family has friends, and hopefully they're all working somewhere. Twitter allows you to read short thoughts and click on links from the people and companies that they want to hear from. And because everything is written in 140 characters or less, you can skim through hundreds of updates in seconds. 

We at New Media Campaigns have a Twitter account (@nmcteam) for our company as a whole but each employee has their own account so if they want, people can hear about what each of us is doing on a day-to-day basis.

What else are you using Twitter for? How do you explain it to people who ask you what it is?

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