The microblogging site Twitter is celebrating its 5th birthday today.
After being someone who couldn't quite see the point of Twitter - I’ve now become a converted fan. Despite my enthusiasm and the fact that Twitter has an estimated 200 million users, I still meet many people who just don’t get it.
I was talking to a friend at work who told me he’s been thinking about setting up a Twitter account. I got the impression he thought it was something he should do, but wasn’t really sure why he should do it.
As he’s interested in politics and has ambitions of becoming a local councillor, I immediately thought Twitter would be ideal for him.
Twitter could be a great way for him to increase his political profile, by making contacts, networking, getting involved in online discussions, and sharing information.
I’m not going to deny that Twitter can be trivial and pointless at times, especially if you have nothing to say – but if you know why you’re using it, have objectives and know what it is you want to get out it; then it can be very useful.
When you join Twitter you become a member a community. It might be community of people following a particular person - or you might have a community of people following you.
Twitter allows you to talk to these people in the same way you might in the real world. You can have discussions, debates; you can share information or just listen to other people. Depending on people’s motives and objectives there are lots of different outcomes you can get from Twitter.
We’ve seen with the recent political demonstrations in Egypt, that protesters used Twitter to organise and coordinate their protests. Companies and brands are using Twitter as an alternative marketing tool; developing closer relationships with their customers by having online dialogues with them.
Politicians, celebrities, and sports stars are using Twitter as a way of raising their profiles, speaking directly to their followers, counteracting any negative or false stories circulating about them in the media.
I use Twitter as an extension of my blog, when I don’t have a 500-word post to write, I can make a quick comment on Twitter that immediately updates on my blog. It’s another good way of promoting myself and my writing.
It’s also chance for me to chat to people I know, even when they’re not in the same room as me. Today I was tweeting during the Ireland/England 6 Nations rugby match. I was only tweeting the same things I would say if I was watching the game down the pub. My followers on Twitter and Facebook then have a chance to respond to any of my comments.
This is the key for me; you have to have something to say, or have something that’s going to add to the conversation of your followers, friends, and community. If you can get that right then Twitter starts to make more sense.