11 Different Things People Use Twitter For

In: Social Networking|Twitter

8 Apr 2009

“What are you doing?”, that’s the premise on which Twitter was originally created for. Share to the world (or at least your followers) what you are doing in 140 characters. It’s such a simple idea that in the beginning many peopla just didn’t ‘get’ it (many still don’t). Why would people want to know what I’m eating, or if If I’m walking my dog, or doing my weekly shopping? It’s such a waste of time, not to mention useless.

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3 years on (Twitter had it’s 3rd birthday on the 21st of March), in a typical spirit of Social Media, which we’ve witnessed time and time again; give people a set of tool and they will use it in so many ways unimaginable that are far from what it was originally intended to do; Twitter has evolved.
People use Twitter not just to share what they are doing at any point in time, but much .. much more than that. From having a casual chat to researching for a thesis, from sharing news to ad-hoc bookmarking, from finding a new job to making money (trying anyway), the list is endless.
As a matter of fact, I think the new Facebook redesign sums this up quite nicely, it’s not “What you are doing” anymore, but “What’s on your mind”.

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Here are some of the things that I found people use Twitter for:

1. Getting in touch with Friends and Family

New Twitter Users usually sign-up to Twitter because someone persuade them to. They join because somebody they’ve already known has joined first (and tell them their experience). Here we see the viral nature of Social Media’s word of mouth in a full gear. People go where their friends go. “Birds of a feather flock together”. They don’t want to miss the latest gossip. So they join Twitter, to get the latest news from their circle, and to have a casual chat with each-other.

2. Networking

The great thing about Social Media in general and Twitter in particular is that suddenly we have a ‘direct’ access just about everybody: Domain Experts, Leaders in particular fields, Connectors and Mavens, all sorts of Celebrities, even the President of the United States!  Have you got this nice feeling when one of our Heroes (whoever that means for you) follows you back?

‘Direct’ is the powerful word here, because provided that they follow you back, an exchange of conversation with them is only 140 characters away :) For myself, Twitter enables me to connect to many ‘new’ friends from the country where I come from (Indonesia). Prior to this, the only way I could get contact with them would be via Mailing List or Forum (the slower Social Media). But with Twitter I can communicate with them instantly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
And then there are people who are coming from all sorts of fields of expertise, whose opinion I respect. In fact my TweetDeck Column Groupings are a testament for this, as I group my followings according to their domain of expertise, such as Blogging, Social Media, Marketing, Design, Development, etc.
This connection that we have, has made possible many many great and wonderful things. It truly opens up new opportunities that we could never imagine before. It puts the ‘King’ back to Networking :)

3. Gathering Information, asking question, researching on specific topics, or similar activities

In Social Media term, we call this Crowd-Sourcing. As a result of the special connection that I described above, we have now, if you like, a super-highway access to this wealth of knowledge of, what we call, the Crowds. James Surowiecki in his book The Wisdom of Crowds tells us that Many are smarter than the Few (or even individuals). You can ask these Crowds anything, and they always have answer, usually the right one.

I recently converted to Mac after so many years using Windows, so, naturally there are many things that I have to re-learn.  Here is where my Twitter friends come to the rescue, and because there are a lot of Mac Geeks among them, I usually get immediate help most of the time, not just from one but several of them at the same time.
One Twitter friend also had the same experience when she was working on her Master Thesis. She said that Twitter counted for more than half of the success that she had when she wrote the thesis. Without Twitter, she might not have finished her thesis in time and with such quality.

4. Replacing Instant Messaging

One of my Twitter friend proclaimed that he would never open his IM again and only use Twitter exclusively for Instant Messaging activities.  Twitter does remind me of the days when I used to do a lot of IRC, except that with Twitter there are no servers to choose, nor channels to join, everything is in one long timeline and everybody can join into any conversation whenever they want.

5. Replacing RSS Feed Reader

We’ve heard many Tweeple testified that Twitter has completely replaced their RSS Feed Reader and that they now rely on their Twitter network to deliver them good links and breaking news.
Chris Anderson, on his book The Long Tail, describes that one of the three forces of the Long Tail is Filters. In the case of Twitter, the filters are the people we follow, they deliver to us things that they ‘think’ would be worth to share, hence we have this stream of already ‘filtered’ information, specially hand-picked for our niche consumption.  Consider the contrast between this and the raw aggregations which we usually get from our feed reader.

6. Replacing Long-Format Blogging

Then there is the impact of micro-blogging itself. Let me ask you, when was the last time you write a post on your blog since you join Twitter? :) Many of us would reluctantly confess that we just don’t have time anymore to write long-format blog-post. Twitter’s 140-character limitation, which we resented at first, turns out to be ‘long’ enough for many of us. Some said that it actually makes us to write in a more concise way, and forces us to be a bit more creative in what we write.  Though the skeptic in us would say that it’s just laziness.

7. Replacing Personal Bookmark

I do this all the time, whenever I see a good link being Tweeted (or Re-Tweeted), I immediately set it favorite. Now, if only I could send this favorite to my Delicious account … anyone?

8. Breaking news, acting as a hub of information

We have seen this scenario time and time again.  Somebody in Twitter broke a piece of news, faster then the ordinary Media could, just because he/she happened to be in the right place, in the right time, and … Twittering.

More importantly though, Twitter had been seen as being able to play the role as information hub when disasters struck or during emergency.  We saw it during Hurricane Katrina, the Mumbay attack, recent Earthquake in Italy, and many many others.

Personally, I like this part of Twitter where it can actively and practically helping people, taking part in the global humanitarian effort.  I really like it.

9. Advertising/Marketing

This could mean in a very broad sense. It could mean marketing on a certain brand, a particular product or service, a new blog post, an event, or really just about anything that worth to be advertised.
This is the time when Twitter is not more than a Broadcast medium. The bad thing is, now that the Online Marketer had discovered this new way of marketing their product, suddenly you get an influx of spammers who create their Twitter profile (sometimes using an automated bot program) with the sole purpose on getting as many followings as possible, for then to push whatever they offer to these users and to grab as much traffic as possible to their real sale page.

10. Keyword Monitoring

By using Twitter’s own search (discovery engine), or other Third Party apps that provide searching feature, we could setup keyword listening outposts. This is really a great way to catch all the chatters that mention the keyword. This keyword could be a brand name, a particular product or service, website url, a hashtag, or any possible keyword we want to track.
For companies, it’s a good way to get in touch with their customer and to anticipate anything in regards to their products and services.
It works very well in conjunction with hashtags, where people tag their tweets with a particular keyword to make it easier to find.

11. Looking for new job

Another good thing that resulted from having a large and diverse network connection, especially at this time of economic recession where people are loosing their job by the thousands, is that somebody somewhere in your network would know somebody else, if not him/herself, who’s got an opening for a job.
There have been already success story about Twitter users who got hired via Twitter.
For people who are hiring, Twitter has been a good place also to get directly in touch with the job-seekers, conveniently bypassing the recruitment agencies.
Though head-hunters are becoming wised up, they started to create their own Twitter account and made their connection there.
I’m sure that there are more ways that people use their Twitter other that what I have already mentioned here.
So, what about you? What are you using Twitter for? Any strange or funny experience that you’ve encountered in your Twittering life?
Please share them with us :)

[This post was written as part of '31 Days to Build a Better Blog', Day 2, organised by @problogger]

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Beirut

April 9th, 2009 at 10:17

Great article…

I only have one more thing to add:

People also use Twitter to find new services, products or applications that they can use and be related with :)

Consumers are constantly searching for ways to improve their overall experience whatever they do and wherever they are and Twitter helps make that possible :)

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Social Media Auto Cross-Posting is Bad! Really Bad! - Media Sosial

April 9th, 2009 at 11:32

[...] 11 Different Things People Use Twitter For [...]

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May 6th, 2009 at 00:13

Good post! Twitter is still emerging as a platform and the more people understand its features and benefits, the better.

I wrote a related post, 10 twitter tips for professionals: http://betterdot.wordpress.com/2009/04/26/10-twit

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