About a month ago, I decided to re-try Twitter.
I made a stab at using social networking media a year or two ago, and it just didn’t click for me – partially because I didn’t really use it, and maybe because the media itself hadn’t reached the tipping point among my peer group. I was on Pownce, Facebook, LinkedIn, BlogCatalog, etc, but did nothing with them.
This time, though, it’s been a fun – and I’d say successful – experiment.
What is Twitter? It’s a microblogging platform, allowing users to post short, 140 character posts via web or cell phone text message to their own user-ID branded page. Users can follow, reply to and direct message each other, giving Twitter feeds the feel of a public instant messaging forum.
Why use a microblogging platform like Twitter? For me, the reasoning was simple – it’s an augment to my blog, a way to say short, snarky, stupid things to the universe and my circle of friends that wouldn’t really merit a blog post of their own.
Others use Twitter to market their blog, to connect with their customers and readers, to solicit relatively timely think-tank feedback from a broad follower base, and to network with a larger circle of acquaintances than they’d typically encounter online.
Why was this try successful?
First, and most importantly, I jumped on the platform at the same time as several other friends, which gave me a built-in conversational group. Twitter is most enjoyable as an interactive medium. I don’t follow everyone indiscriminately, only friends, colleagues and a few highly entertaining authors – the fabulous (and evil) Kate has a superb post on that subject.
Second, I downloaded a third party Twitter application to my desktop that behaves like an IM client. I chose Twhirl – but others use different applications they’re equally happy with. I wouldn’t remember to go check the website nearly as frequently, but checking an application that’s open on my desktop is pretty easy. I also added a Twitter-Facebook connector so my updates flow to Facebook, and a Twitter feed sidebar on my blog.
And, third, I think that this particular type of media has hit its tipping point. While it was popular with early adopters a year ago, it’s becoming fairly widespread; middle-of-the-road techies are now using it as well. Stats show that the user base has grown from 650,000 in Dec 2007 to over 4,000,000 in December of 2008 – that’s huge.
The sad downside of this equation is the growing view of the Twitter userbase as a potential advertising market. The question is out there, on the table – how do advertisers and top Tweeters monetize Twitter? I offer the revolutionary observation that just, maybe, you *don’t*. The conversations about snowpocalypses, grocery store lines, cats and cookies are of far more value in our overstressed, technologically adept society than one more ad-saturated media channel.
Don’t advertise on Twitter pages and feeds. Don’t spam via Twitter. In fact, as much as I value my friends, if they choose to use Twitter to send spam or ad media, I will unfollow them pretty darn promptly because I am not a volunteer ad subject.
In spite of the small spam issue, at the end of the day, I’d say my Twitter experiment has been successful, primarily because it’s been *fun*. I don’t have enough fun things in my life, so I think I’ll keep this one.