How Twitter can...
In a recent inquiry to dozens of online friends, I discovered one truth about Twitter. People either love it and use it daily (even hourly) or they absolutely hate it. Few people fit into the 'moderate feelings' category when the topic came up.
Either way, there are literally hundreds of advantages and disadvantages to spending time on the site and 'falling into the stream.'
Many of the uses are obvious. A few that I heard were not. Most were positive, some were negative, and a couple were off the wall. Here are some of the highlights of my expedition into the world of tweets.
How Twitter can...
- ...expand your social circle.
By its very nature, Twitter is a social entity. It allows users to follow others' activities and be followed in return. The more you use it, the more friends you will have and the more followers you will accumulate. It is extremely useful for those who use the Internet in some way or another, whether professionally or as a hobby. Growing your circle can be a crucial part of any Internet endeavor.
MSaleem said, 'Twitter is great for increasing your social circle and/or simply your online presence because as long as you're creating value, your following (and of course your presence) will grow in geometric progression. You start off with let's say 2 fans, both of whom tell 2 more people about you (or 2 friends from each discover you through their everybody streams and start following you) and you have 6 followers, and then 18, and then 54, and before you know it, you're head to head with Scoble.'
Clearly, Muhammad has an understanding of how to grow a social circle. With over 1300 followers and over 4000 updates, his is a name that is synonymous with 'Social Media'.
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- ...give another avenue for spam to seep into your life.
Luckily, the spam is easy to fix on Twitter. If you don't like what someone is sharing with you, you stop following them. A push of the button and the spammer is gone from your life forever (at least on Twitter). One marketer found Twitter too spammy for him.
Paul Rushing said, 'Many of those that inhabit Twitter have their own agenda to push. Far more pitchers than catchers - it was like marketing to marketers.'
While marketing is a fact on Twitter, the user has the control. Unlike most sites, you are only marketed to when you allow it.
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- ...serve as an information resource.
It is well documented that when the massive earthquake hit China earlier this month, Twitter broke the news before traditional media. While this doesn't happen often, it is still possibly the fastest way to get articles that you find or write out to a lot of people. It doesn't have to be breaking -- even simply interesting stories can get a lot of play from Twitter.
Reem Abeidoh said, 'Twitterers share interesting stories they wrote or found online. That article can prompt a great dialogue amongst users. Twitter is also great for breaking news faster than traditional media.'
News sources are now checking Twitter for scoops and posting to Twitter when they get them. The speed and ease through which it works is unmatched amongst other viral methods of spreading information. Expect Twitter to break a few more stories during its time.
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- ...allow you to converse directly with customers/fans of your brand.
Internet advertising has shifted from going for conversions towards the easier goal of gearing towards branding. By having the right name, the right message on Twitter, you have an opportunity to talk to your people directly.
Brian Wallace aka NowSourcing said, 'Twitter gives you, the brand manager, a pulse on what people are saying about you and your brand. Fans and customers alike can see what you are up to, and you have the potential to extend excellent customer service in real time. You can also save the day and take care of quick damage control. It takes old school data mining to a new level. That is, when Twitter is actually up and running.'
It would be nice for companies if advertising on the internet was like it was in the 90s. It isn't. You have to control your brand in innovative ways. Twitter may be the perfect option.
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- ...help you pick up chicks.
Sound crazy? Maybe it is, but here is a true-to-life anecdote that describes how Twitter helped one guy connect with a girl. Twitter truly has become one of the 'signature' pieces that people use to establish initial and ongoing relationships with others. Why not for dating as well?
Mr. America said, 'Although I've never personally had success with picking up chicks via Twitter, I'm fairly confident that it can be done - it's only a matter of time, luck, and very low standards.'
With the old style of Internet dating starting to fade and a new generation of online exposure replacing the 'photo and a paragraph' Twitter is a crucial part in getting to know someone for who they are rather than the planned out, edited version that comes on most dating sites.
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- ... keep your friends in sync with your life.
Letting people know about your life as it happens is often easier than compiling it and telling it over the phone or via email. As it happens -- that's the key to using Twitter to let people know what is going on with you. Whether you just had a great meal at the new restaurant down the block or if you just got married, lifestreaming through Twitter can let the people you know understand you in real time.
ob81 said, 'I recently grew quite fond of twitter. I probably only have a few friends that actually care about what is going on with me, but it feels good to post my daily activities. I enjoy frequent updates from close friends as well. Twhirl ftw.'
One thing that is a byproduct of sharing so many life-details is that people can grow to like you, not just as a name or a profile, but as a person. It is distinctly possible to forge a lasting relationship with someone that you meet through Twitter.
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- ...teach you to think before you speak.
Because Twitter forces people to express themselves in 140 characters or less, it mirrors verbal communication very well. Okay, it's a stretch, but the quote from Jaybol was too classic to pass up.
Jason Lankow aka Jaybol said, 'Twitter can help you think before you speak, and be embarrassed when you don't, except right now you luck out because most likely within one minute it is on to the next page, and pagination is disabled.'
It brings up an issue with Twitter than annoys most active users. The site itself is overburdened with users and activity and often goes down or loses certain pieces of functionality. They are aware of the issues and are actively working to fix them. Promises, promises.
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- ... save you money.
The secret is out and more businesses and websites are starting to integrate Twitter into their marketing plan. It was bound to happen with intense growth and the viral potential of the platform. The good news is, some of the things that get marketed on Twitter can actually benefit you.
Free Coupons said, 'Twitter is a great way to share deals and freebies that are time sensitive with friends.'
Sometimes, the important, money-saving marketing pieces can get mixed into the jungle of garbage marketing. We might miss a freebie, skip passed an important message, or not notice something that can truly help us. Messages on Twitter get read a lot more than banner advertisements or adwords.
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- ...keep you in touch with people you barely know.
One of the bad parts about Twitter is that some people end up sharing information with people who aren't exactly 'friends'. Many add followers just because they get added back and will occasionally receive responses or share information that isn't meant for strangers. Since few post anything that can be completely embarrassing, the risk is minimal but still exists.
Michael W. Jones said, 'There are some amazing people on Twitter, some that you feel like you have known for years, others that are more like people you see once in a while down at the corner bar.'
Twitter at your own risk if you are adding people you don't know. You may end up putting your foot in your mouth without understanding who is watching.
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- ... present unexpected opportunities and treasures.
This part is my own contribution and was the inspiration for this article. Before last weekend, I would never have looked at Twitter as a way to get something that I really, really wanted.
I was Twittering late at night when I came across a tweet from Guy Kawasaki. He has a new book coming out and was wanting people to read it and send him notes. I followed the instructions on the tweet and received an email the next day with his unreleased book on MS Word.
Coming from the perspective of a big fan who reads both his blog and his books, this was a completely unexpected opportunity and treasure that I would never have even known about if it weren't for Twitter.
Tweet away, my friends. Tweet away.