Tuesday, April 27, 2010

#11: 10 Reasons Twitter is not just for kids

I'm going to be honest. When I first heard rumblings about Twitter, I had a single and instantaneous, from the gut, instinctive, ancestral, no doubt about it reaction.

What a stupid idea.

Yep, it's true. I was a non-Twit-liever. I couldn't understand why anyone would want to read 120-character updates from millions of different people all at once. More than that, I didn't understand why anyone would want to post updates about their life in rapid succession. If grocery shopping was meant to be a spectator sport, one of the big television channels would be all over it. Believe me.

There's a lot about Twitter that is ideal for those of the younger crowds. They're used to texting, so tweeting isn't that much of an adjustment. It's kind of like how us old-timers (but I'm only a 30-something!) used ICQ and AOL IM. Boy, some of the conversations I had with those tools should totally have been preserved by the Library of Congress. Heh.

Anyway, I've drunk the Twit-Aid, as it were, and I now see a lot of value that it can offer. So here are my ten reasons why Twitter is not just for kids.

1) Verbosity Stinks! As a person who tends to write in a Dickensian fashion (pay me by the word, PLEASE!) I can tell you that updating Twitter in 120-140 characters is a real challenge for me. But it's good. It's kind of like a verbal Sudoku. How can I fit words together so that they convey my point?

2) News Abounds: Because so many people have taken to the fair lands of Twitter, there are great founts of knowledge just tweeting away, waiting for you to dive in and grab what you want. In my own little world of Twitter, I follow sources ranging from The Drudge Report to MSNBC to the Wall Street Journal. I can always read more, but it's a great way for me to keep updated on what's going on in the world.

3) Your Crowd is Out There: While tweens, kids, and teens come to Twitter with a merry band of friends already set up a lot of the time, it's definitely possible to stick yourself to groups and individuals who are on your same wavelength. I can post about how great a documentary is and have people say "Darned right." Through these kinds of engagements, it becomes apparent who you might jive with and who you might not.

4) Professional Development: This might not be true for every profession, but as a marketer, Twitter is kind of like the mixer that keeps on giving. There is so much information, useful information, posted every day that I often feel overwhelmed. And in a world that often seems vacuous and just full of bad news, seeing a fire hydrant of information splashing towards you that will actually help you swim in the waters you like is a nice change of pace.

5) Humor: Some people have the gift to write literal one-liners on Twitter that are so subtle and brilliant that it just blows me away. I can't do it. I am lucky if I can get away with a 1-pager most of the time!

6) There but not there: People are increasingly tweeting live from seminars or conferences. While this might anger the person whose presentation is being peppered with beeps and clicks, it's great for busy pros who can't make it out of the office. The essence of the experience is capture, conversation can still happen, and it's all right there, easily accessible.

7) Voting: I don't necessarily mean voting in the traditional sense, although that kind of works. With every tweet, a person really has the potential to vote. A mention of a product, positive or negative, can be a vote. A retweet of someone else's post can be a vote. Expressing anger about a law or injustice, expressing support for a cause or candidate, all can be done in a setting that is mined constantly by Google. What could be a more powerful vote than that, other than actually going to the polls?

8) Spreading the Word: Whether you are a company, an artist, or just a concerned individual, Twitter is a tremendously powerful tool for spreading the word, not only because of the retweet feature but also because it's so darned open. I follow PBS, the New York Metropolitan Museum, UNICEF, and the ACLU, among others, because I think it's important to help them maximize their use of Twitter. I can assist them in getting their messages out, and that makes me feel like I'm doing something useful with my time.

9) Twitter is a car, and you're the driver: If you are a budding artist or a Fortune 500 Company, Twitter can help you drive people to a hub, whether that's a blog, a website, a Myspace Music page, or something else. Teaser posts, enticing questions, maybe even controversial comments can get the ball rolling. They don't use the word "follower" for nothin.

10) It's FUN! That's right. I said it. I am thoroughly enjoying seeing up-to-date posts about what PBS is going to be showing, what the News Hour is going to be talking about, or what's on the radar of everyone from The ACLU to Simon Pegg. I enjoy analyzing what posts people find interesting and what kills off 20 of my followers in one fell swoop. I enjoy trying to make every word meaningful. It makes me feel, well, like a kid again.

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