When noise first started being made about Twitter, I immediately dismissed it as a nonsensical waste of time that only the geekiest of social media geeks could ever love. Finally, I gave in to all the talk about microblogging and figured that if I should at least try it before clients started asking me about it. I figured I would give it a chance for a month and see where it went from there. I have to say… I’m a convert, and have been evangelizing it to many people for the past few weeks. These are just some of the reasons I think it’s worth at least trying:
- The connection is much more genuine. I’ve found that it’s very hard to get a sense of who someone is by their blog. There’s a certain amount you can tell about their sense of humour, but in most cases, people have blogging personas. With Twitter, the combination of the profound and the banal leads to a much more personal connection with the people in your network. It’s not as personal as IM, of course, but it’s as personal as a public conversation is ever going to be.
- It has a low barrier to entry. I don’t know about you, but writing blog posts takes me a long time. There are times when I have a lot to say, but cannot bring myself to write it down. There are other times when I have something to share, but don’t feel that it warrants a blog post. Because it’s easy to produce and consume, Twitter is an ideal forum for these situations.
- It’s easy to connect. I have a lot of respect for far more bloggers than I can realistically read in one day. Connection also has a low barrier to entry, and unlike subscribing to yet another RSS feed, it’s easy to deal with the content, since it only comes at you 140 characters at a time.
- It’s a persistent connection to your social graph. I’m connected via blog only when I’m writing or have my nose in my feed reader, which, depending on how many of those pesky clients want me to earn my day rate, can be very little. The fact that it is tied into your mobile phone, via SMS or data, allows me to keep on top of things on the road, driving down the highway or waiting to be pried out of a smoldering car wreck caused by Tweeting while driving down the highway.
- News travels fast. Thanks to being connected to extremely plugged-in individuals and those who live-tweet events, I’ve found out about a number of things I’m interested in before they even hit the web. In reality, does it matter if you don’t find out about who’s buying Livejournal for another 10 minutes? Probably not, but it’s one of the most efficient social news networks I’ve ever seen.
- There’s a real community. I’ve asked for help and I’ve helped people who asked. The blogosphere has that vibe too, but there’s less of a chance that someone is going to ask for help via their blog. Before I left for Singapore, I asked via Twitter if anyone had any tips for presenting to an Asian audience. Shel Israel emailed me a few minutes later to introduce me to Jeremiah who gave some invaluable advice and James Seng, who I met and had an excellent talk with when I was there. This probably says more about Shel being an exceptionally nice guy than it does about Twitter, but this is but one example of many.
Within a few weeks of using the service, Twitter had already become one of the most powerful connection tools I used, and continues to be useful. Certainly, it has its downfalls – the ease of posting has made me lazy about blogging regularly (which Brendan was quick to chastise me for at Third Tuesday) and if not properly managed, it can become an honest-to-goodness time sucker.
I honestly believe after my experience that if you haven’t given Twitter (or microblogging in general) a chance, you haven’t really joined the conversation. The motto of the blogosphere is about conversation, but it’s not really suited to honest-to-goodness conversation. We write blog posts like articles, and the responses, either in comments or in the echo chamber are time-consuming to keep track of. There is a real conversation going on within the Twitter community that includes blogs, photos and everything else – and is inherently a dialogue rather than monologue with some follow-up.
If it helps, just think of it as a persistent chat room that’s invite only and completely public.
Bonus links: What the Web strategist should know about Twitter.