I get this question a lot, so in an effort to answer the question once and for all, I thought I would write a blog post about it. To start out, I have to admit, I had the same question. I made fun of Twitter for a year before I started using it. Like I always say, I don’t even find myself mildly interesting let alone believe anyone else will. I am going to echo something that you often hear when people refer to Twitter – “you don’t understand it until you try it.”
First of all, I don’t like the way Twitter explains itself. They say it is a network of people answering the question, “What are you doing right now?” However, the people who only do that have few followers since nobody wants to read “I am eating a sandwich” 10 times a day.
The best description for Twitter is that it is THE aggregation tool. It is one of the best tools available for short snippets of content along with links to rest of the content. It is a phenomenal tool for blog promotion. It is a great tool for finding and sharing great content with others. I read all of my news and blogs on Twitter. It is the portal to all great content.
From a marketing perspective, Twitter is like having your own TV or radio station. You have a group of people raising their hand saying they want to receive your content. It is the ultimate in permission marketing. People can choose to follow or unfollow based on much they like your content.
But don’t take my word for it. I threw the question out on Twitter and Facebook and asked, “Why do you use Twitter?” Here are some of the answers:
Norris Kreuger said: “3 reasons: #1: Missed too much that’s not posted elsewhere, #2: Another way to connect with out of town folks, #3 Need a new addiction”
Brandy said: “I’ve got to have SOME outlet for these random thoughts! It iniates conversations between friends that may not normally happen.”
Richard Paul said: “To expand my circle of influence, connect with people interested in my subject matter, and create new friendships.”
Sharon Fisher said, “1. To get and give pointers to information. 2. To keep up with my friends, news, and people in Idaho.”
Tobin Rogers said: “It’s so quick to connect with people within your industry for networking. You can see what other local professionals are working on. It’s just another great tool.”
Jen Harris said: “Because those are the people I REALLY want to be around.”
Tony Courtwright said: “Simple and real-time communication with industry experts.”
Mark Brummett said: “I follow celebs. (none of my friends have it) But I like knowing what people are up to in real time.”
Dave Bourff said: “‘Cause I can.”
Edward Dunn said: “Socializing, networking, sharing business ideas, learning new ideas, letting everyone know what I had for lunch. Cuz who wouldn’t want to know that?!:-)”
Christopher Barger said: “Because audiences are there.”
No matter what your reason for using it, there is value in Twitter for many different purposes. The only thing I can say is try it. I’ll be your first follower.
How do you use Twitter?
Update: I just saw a great presentation on Twitter by one of its founders, Evan Williams, at the TED Conference. Twitter evolved from what they had initially thought it was going to be and this 8 minute talk does a great job of giving you the history of the evolution. Watch the video here.
I am exploring public policy uses for Twitter, specifically tracking discussion of issues. For example, one of my clients is a nuclear power plant developer. It is truly amazing to be able to see in real time what people are saying about energy and power issues, to provide correct information, engage opponents, find supporters and learn from people on all sides. I can’t think of anything else that does this.
By the way, in an effort to remain “fair and balanced”, I did want to share an opinion in the contrary. The author shall remain anonymous, but it does show another side of Twitter, “I honestly find it the most narcissistic collection of self-important puffery and vanity in existence, and I cringe every time I have to go out there. I don’t deny that there’s business value in engaging with consumers where they choose to reside, and that we have seen benefit from doing so… but personally, I utterly despise it.”
I have to say that I agree with this person as well. Just because you give someone a microphone doesn’t mean they have something worthwhile to say. That is why I recommend applications like TweetDeck that allow you to sort your Twitter stream to filter out the crap. Twitter is a gold mine, but you have to do some digging at times. That is where Twitter search comes in, but that is another blog post.
Great article, Brian. I’m just getting in to Twitter and it’s so true that “you don’t understand it until you try it.”
And I agree with Norris Kreuger – I had no idea that I was missing out on so much!
Hi, Brian. I am having just a heck of a time trying to adapt and understand Twitter for what I perceive I would like to see it do for me. You mention “permission marketing” and “blog promotion” but I am under the impression that doing so is considered to be “bad manners”. And, I hate people who have bad manners (smile)
I do see a lot of “I had a good lunch” and things like that and I’m like, why would I care?(smile). On the other hand, I must admit that I see a lot of interesting links coming across and do see great value in that. What I don’t see is interaction and exchange. Much of this likely has to do with my limited followers and ones that I follow or, is Twiiter designed primarily for the one way only dispersal of information?
Sorry to ask so many questions. I’m way to old for this brave new world and just trying to figure it all out (smile). But then, you already know that (smile). Likely, I need to adjust my expectations.
The key is to be helpful, Craig. There is a difference between shameless self-promotion and producing great content that you share with others. It is pretty easy to see the difference.
There is actually quite a bit of selling that goes on within Twitter. You just have to have permission. This starts with offering something of value (education, links, connections) and includes asking if they would like to know more. There is absolutely nothing wrong with answering a question on Twitter with a link to a related blog post you wrote.
Produce great content first and look for ways to share it.
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Yikes! You quoted me from something I just posted on my site. No place to run, fewer places to hide (smile). Fact is, I really am not well designed for promoting period let alone the shameless kind. Maybe that is why I am in sales and not marketing (smile). Still confused but will press on.
Thanks, Brian! And thanks for the mention on Digg. It was still #1 when I last checked. That number is a ranking. Correct? (smile)
Some god points and perspectives about Twitter. I’ll have to admit that I’m still trying to completely wrap my mind around it…like setting the clock on the VCR, once it makes sense it will be a epiphany type moment I’m sure.
I can see some of the potential power, but feel a bit uneasy about passing along some of the same drivel that I’ve read over and over again from some users – which I suppose is why being able to ‘un-follow’ someone is such a great feature.
At this point, I am going to continue to sit back an d watch how others use it and take some notes and somewhat emulate their updates/behavior.
To: Brian Critchfield
Thanks for the great article and the
discussion about Twitter on LinkedIn.
Charlie Shipp (and Lynnette)
Keep up the good work.