Saturday, July 9, 2011

Twitter Tidings: How Twitter Became Useful

Back when blogging began, I scoffed, and said it wouldn't last. It seemed that blogging = bloviating. Why would anyone want to read about Samantha's average trip to the market? And comment? Yeah right! But my darling wife insisted that there was value in the medium, and she began blogging on a number of topics.

Obviously, I admit she was right (try not to faint, wife). Hence the blog you're reading right now.

I've been on Twitter for a while now, but I was not an instant convert to this medium, either. Again, my wife was an early adopter, but I could not for the life of me figure out why I would want to be on yet another social networking site, telling everyone about my day in 140 characters. After all, Facebook already did that for me, and I hardly used it. I was not alone in thinking that Twitter was twaddle where people prate perpetually.

I am a social scientist. I have observed as blogging became useful. Sure, there are tons of useless blogs, but there are gobs of good blogs that are focused and have built an audience. And people have different ways of utilizing the great content. In my case, when I'm developing software or investigating ECM topics, I type a specific problem I'm facing into my browser's Google search box, and presto: I find lots of blog posts from around the world that deal with my exact issue.

Maybe we should give credit for the massive success of Google as a tool to the content creators. After all, if we weren't all out here cranking out content, Google would have very little to index. Ain't the Web wonderful!?!

But I digress: This is about Twitter.

Twitter and other social media networks have evolved into very useful tools. The market place found interesting and useful ways to use Twitter to announce breaking news, product updates, and even (gasp) blog posts. When I see people whom I follow endorsing a resource, I'm interested. And when they easily put the link right in front of my face, my chances of actually going there increase exponentially.

Twitter has soared in popularity. Jimmy Fallon has a regular bit on his show where he introduces a hashtag and invites others to tweet something funny using it. In this way, Twitter has effectively brought social networking and collaboration to television, which has been traditionally a one-way medium.

And I won't even go into how one particular Congressman used Twitter to commit political suicide.

One thing I really love (and actually predicted correctly!) is being able to connect all my social networks with little effort. When I post an update to my LinkedIn network, it automatically tenders a tweet, which also posts a status on Facebook. That's a streamlined business process!

So here's a prediction: Google+ will be super, and tons of people will flock to it. And it will flourish. But it will not replace Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn. Rather, smart people will link all these networks up (together with their blogs and YouTube friends and Flikr, etc.) so that people in all their circles can keep up with them however they choose. Linking the tools together makes it easy to remain consistent with your public (and private) persona.

So what is the real value of social media like Twitter and Facebook? One benefit is meeting like-minded people, some of whom will influence me, and some of whom I will influence. But the real value of social media—in my humble opinion—is connecting with people you already know so you can be more in touch with their lives. This includes both professional contacts and personal friends and family.

So if you can't tell, I'm a big Twitter fan. It is exciting to me when authors of books I've read, national leaders, and news outlets follow me. Suddenly, I have a voice! Since Twitter following is a variation of a free market system, I have to continue to keep my followers interested with my quips and news, and they have to do the same. So let's connect! (as long as you are a real person and don't spam me!)


  1. I do agree with your prediction although I think Google will be more thoughtful with privacy thus gaining a larger portion of the business minded users. I believe the younger crowd and gamers will stay faithful to facebook.

  2. Thanks for the comment, redkathy! Google and Privacy is an interesting discussion. I'm not disagreeing with you, especially if you're talking about how easy it is to control content going out to "circles" vs. Facebook lists.

    But I've had many of the exact same "privacy" issues with various Google products (e.g., the first release of Chrome) and their EULAs as with Facebook's terms of use. Namely, the "we own all your content, period" language that both used to employ frequently.