What I got out of Twitter so far

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 msn@msntwitter.com 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.