I’m using the service for almost a year now and still this is the first post I write about it. It’s significant how my attitude about Twitter has changed over time. I was very sceptic about Twitter before I got on the service and even when I started using it sometime early April of last year, that feeling was still very strong. I need to see for myself though, before making forming an opinion so I tested it anyway. The coverage at SXSW last year made me do that, and at MIX07 I got the first signs that Twitter was more than people ‘brushing their teeth’, ‘preparing client meeting’ or ‘waiting on the train’ etc etc
Because that was what Twitter was to me in the beginning, a lot of insignificant personal messages or people bragging about stuff. Literally telling other people ‘what are you doing?’. In an interview I did with Twitterati (a blog on Twitter) back in early May 2007 I said:
“I mainly enjoy blogging because of the conversations that it allowed me to have, rather than to read about people’s personal lives in all details. Twitter offers the same but in microformat.”
And it’s just that what has changed over the course of the last few months and what made me almost a Twitter addict today. Twitter is very much a tool that enables conversation today, and does quite a bit more as well. Probably because we started ignoring to just post about what we’re doing I guess :)
So what did I get out of Twitter so far then?
- The community improves the usage of Twitter a lot more than the Twitter team does. Think of the @replies which was an idea the Twitter folks picked up since people were using it. Think of the hashtags which is an outside initiative. Think of www.twitstat.com/m which is a much better mobile web version of Twitter than the original m.twitter.com is. Think of how clients like Twhirl and many others offer a much better experience of Twitter than the web version.
- The community builds interesting stuff around Twitter as well and Tweetscan – the Twitter search engine – is a very good example of that. Or the recently launched Tweetmeme for instance. The community also builds more silly services around it like the Tweeterboard top 100 or Twittervision but it can’t all be brilliant right ;)
- The client people use can tell you more about how much conversation people are willing to get into. If people use the firstname.lastname@example.org buddy to post from Live Messenger they probably aren’t up for a lot of conversation. Why? Since they unfortunately don’t see their timeline in the client so just post stuff from there.
- The client people use can tell you how fast (or not) people will see your replies, but more importantly your direct messages. In Twhirl they show up in your timeline, whereas in the webpage there’s not sign at all (almost) that you got one unless you go check your email.
- The quality of the links people share tend to be pretty good. I click a lot more on the links sent out via Twitter than anywhere else because of that. When people share a link, even to their own blog posts, they tend to have thought it through a bit more an decided to send only the best.
- Don’t put your RSS stream into your Twitter account, that is bad. It’s counter to the point I just mentioned, it is not enabling any conversation, it’s cluttering ‘my timeline’. I have a blog, so do you and we all got feed readers to read them.
- A ‘corporate’ Twitter account can work. But don’t push out your RSS stream to begin with (as in the point above) and make sure it’s personal. Why is @marketingprofs interesting? Because we know it’s Ann Handley who’s behind it and we know Ann and we like the conversation we’re having.
- Size doesn’t matter, focus on quality instead of quantity. I hear so many people talking about their 3000th, 5000th, … tweet. Who cares, if none of them were interesting that’s not really very good is it. We don’t brag about the number of blogposts we write per month or year so why would it matter for tweets? Another number that gets mentioned a lot is the number of followers. Again that number is not so significant. The ‘oh my god I have 2000 followers’ when you follow more than 6000 people yourself, what does that say to you then?
- Twitter can serve many kinds of communication purposes. One day I was asking if anyone was interested in going for a drink in the London area, the next day you’re looking for help with your blog or to find the name of a song. Or maybe you help someone else out, get people’s opinion, … etc etc whatever you can think of.
- You don’t have to follow every one back that follows you. I know this is not everyone’s opinion but that’s what I think at least. You should check out your new followers though, see what they talk about and then make the decision. I think Shel Israel (but can be wrong) once said that you can also get a good idea of what people’s interests are by looking at their Twitter favorites as well. Good idea indeed.
- But, you should make sure you keep an eye out for people talking to you though, even if you don’t follow them if answer them if needed. Maybe you’ll decide to follow them anyway because of that.
- Twitter needs to get it’s act together. How much the community loves the service, and keeps preferring it to Jaiku and Pownce (which might even be better actually to some extend) the constant breakdowns and lack of innovation of the services start to get really annoying.
Nuff said, I’m hooked. If you think of other things you have learned from Twitter that you don’t see in my list, or when you just agree (or don’t agree), drop a note in the comments.
Oh yeah, and you can follow me at http://twitter.com/crossthebreeze. And if you don’t use Twhirl yet, download it right now, you won’t regret.
Great stuff here, Kris. I found myself nodding along on almost all of them.
The key to gratifying Twitter use, which is an undercurrent of most of your points above, is to give as well as receive. The Twitter community has no patience for participants who simply push out their own headlines all day… you’ve also got to join the conversation and participate when you don’t want something in return.
(Now that I think of it — that’s pretty much a recipe for success anywhere, on most any platform, isn’t it!)
I’m one of those linkdumpers…
And yet I don’t feel sorry about it.
When I annotate my links in del.icio.us, I in fact try to make the first 100-something characters that will be dumped to twitter as meaningful as possible so it servers both purposes… My twitter account is mainly those links, apart from some @replies to some people… which means that people who follow it, do it for the links.
(on the other hand: I _do_ hate daily del.icio.us postings in blogs :-D )
Great round up, Kris. I have been a bit quiet on Twitter recently … but I do still find it valuable. If only to listen in to the conversation.
Thank you for posting this experience Kris. Until now I have a very strong feeling of not using twitter – simply because I can’t understand my own personal usage of it (I can understand it for others). I find the facebook status more that sufficient, and they have badges to propagate that around (wherever you put it).
So, yes, I still can ask if people wants a drink, or what’s good book to read, and get replies. Please tell me, why twitter ? When I have a hectic work life, and family life. Plus, my RSS reader is full blogs from professionals, and friends. Also, all the RSS from websites – so much to read!
Maybe when I was studying.
I’d suggest new Twitter users also make sure they understand exactly what they’re getting into when it comes to their privacy; who can follow their stream, whether they’re able to block particular users from following, and whether they’re able to undo or delete twitters once they’ve been published.
Here’s my post on the subject. It’s not all bad news, but it’s really worth keeping in mind.
@Ann & Gavin: Thanks for the comment, and yes Ann I do agree that some of it isn’t a recipe for succes on Twitter only.
@Pascal: That’s right, people follow it for the links in your case I’m sure, I’m just no big fan. But that’s alright, I won’t drop my daily delicous either ;)
@Nicholas: I wouldn’t compare the Facebook status message with tweets. Apart from the fact that they’re both short, both concepts are quite different. There’s a genuine conversation on Twitter these days, it’s more than just saying where you’re at or what you’re doing at the moment… which is pretty much all you can do in the Facebook status message.
@Alan: Totally agree on privacy, although not related to Twitter only probably, but people indeed tend to forget (or are unaware) of how you all you say is stored and searchable on the web. It’s attached to your identity sort of. Totally right.
Regarding privacy, yeah that is a bit of a bummer. I’d like to perhaps mention my thoughts on career, goals, prospective employer, interview result, ??? on Twitter but it’s not possible because my latest 1-2 tweets show up in Google results.
I too disliked Twitter at first, I signed up in Dec. 06. But after I tried it again in October and had many more people to follow/be-followed-by, in addition to using an AIR client, it became fun. I was first using Tweet-r, but saw from one of your posts that it hogged memory…I checked it out myself and sure enough. You and Luc were using Twhirl and that’s now primarily what I use. The browser version is boring.
Recently the World Podcast Forum needed to find a firm in the United States to
help them with a project in Israel ! I had them contact Chris Brogan a Social Media Consultant, who sent them to a connection of his in the United States !
I met Chris through Twitter! Twitter has a definite place in the business community !