Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Twitter- What is it good for?

I don’t have to tell you that everyone is talking twitter. If you haven’t heard about it from your friends, co- workers or social media guru, then you have certainly heard it via the news, Oprah, the morning show and countless other media outlets constantly talking about it lately.

Twitter is a micro-blogging application that allows you to send messages the size of a SMS of up to 140 characters. Twitter took off on the web-scene a few years ago, and ultimately it is all about broadcasting information.

So is twitter a communication service for friends, a means of expressing yourself freely as an online journal…or simply a marketing tool?

Shawn Burns a journalism lecturer at the University of Wollongong is an avid user of Twitter.

“I try to keep my head across new media and it is part and parcel of teaching convergent journalism. Twitter has been around for a while now and I can't exactly remember how I heard about it. It is fair to say, however, I have embraced in more in my role at the university.”

However, Burns also believes that twitter is a good media platform for companies as it is quick, it is a new media outlet and it reflects a company's understanding and or appreciation of the changing media environment.

Although twitter was originally intended for communication among individuals, a number of organizations have begun to actively participate on the platform. However not all companies are using twitter in the same way. Some are tweeting, some are listening, and some very savvy companies are doing both.

Sarah Perez has been an IT Professional for many years. A technology enthusiast, Perez’s passion and enthusiasm for technology were channeled into blogging, starting with her personal site sarahintampa.com.

Perez has concluded that companies use twitter in four basic ways, directly, indirectly, internally and as inbound signaling.

“Some companies use twitter directly, much like an extension to their corporate blogs, indirectly companies will use twitter so that employees can enhance their own personal reputations and there for the companies reputation, some companies use twitter internally to share ideas and communicate, and some smart companies just “listen” on twitter, they tune into micro-conversations to get early warnings on product issues or ideas.”

Prokofy Neva a professional gamer and twitter user only see’s marginally limited value for Twitter.
“Twitter seems to me a broadcasting system catering to those seeking attention for whatever reason. Men are known for having bigger egos than women and Twitter lets them ‘hold court’ and have ‘followers’.

And Neva is correct. A study was conducted by Jan Piskorski at Harvard business school. Piskorski found that although men and women follow a similar number of twitter users, men have 15% more followers than women. Men also have more reciprocated relationships, in which two users follow each other.

Even more interesting is who follows whom. An average man is almost twice more likely to follow another man than a woman. Similarly an average woman is 25% more likely to follow a man than women.

These results are stunning given what previous research has found in the context of online social networks. On a typical online social network, most of the activity is focused around women- men follow content produced by women they do and do not know, and women follow content produced by women they do know.

Gareth Wong who focuses his energies on financial/insurance marketing innovation believes at present Twitter may be a broadcasting system, “But there might be more cases that promote and enable more one to one communication, like how I use it, my feed is private and only people I know and am interested in or met can see and interact with me.”

Although some have described Twitter as Facebook ‘on crack’ with endless micro updates, the positives can not be ignored.

Twitter is a great platform to build your own personal brand; it has the primary benefit of developing a casual persona and establishes you as a social personality which is connected and approachable. Twitter can be used to get traffic to your websites or the site of your friends, the message will spread faster and further with twitter as other active users pick it up.

Ari Berman wrote in The National that no other major American "news" network was able to get the latest on the opposition protests in Iran, accept from Twitter updates from Tehran, minute-by-minute.

“Some absolutely riveting and thrilling reporting has been done over Twitter by a university student in Tehran who goes by the moniker Tehran Bureau. The Iranian authorities shut his website down over the weekend and he was attacked by hard-line militias but he's been able to send short posts around the world over Twitter.”

The State Department asked social-networking site Twitter to delay scheduled maintenance earlier this week to avoid disrupting communications among tech-savvy Iranian citizens as they took to the streets to protest Friday's reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The move illustrates the growing influence of online social-networking services such as twitter, as a communications media. Foreign news coverage of the unfolding drama, meanwhile, was limited by Iranian government restrictions barring journalists from "unauthorized" demonstrations.

Obama’s Twitter account was a great example of how politicians can use this micro-blogging service as a one-way communication channel and work it to their personal advantage. Rather than trying to message back the 133,000+ people who follow him, which would have been logistically impossible and ended up hugely impersonal (a social-networking crime), Obama’s campaign team used it as a broadcast tool, which aided him in becoming the president of America.

Breaking news seems to pop up on twitter much more quickly than in other media. I’ve learned about different breaking news stories more quickly in the last few weeks using it, some people have already created specific channels for breaking news like ‘daylife_feed’, that you can start following and this then helps to connect people in the same industry.

Twitter is also a great to use as an organizational tool, it can be used as a to-do-list, business management where workers can liaise with one another in group projects, to notify customers of upcoming products and event updates. It’s also an easy way to record important ideas or concepts you want to explore later.

Howard Rheingold of smartmobs claims there are many flaws. Twitter has well-documented technical interruptions when the site can not cope with too many tweeters, That most people do not have their contacts on twitter yet, which reduces its intrinsic value and that it is a huge time waster as trying to make sense of the conversation feed is confusing at the best of times.

But with Statistics showing that twitter grew 25% between April and July and is continuing to grow at break neck speed, it would not surprise me that in the next few months twitter will really catch fire with more people joining, trying it out, finding utility and transforming it into a vibrant worldwide conversation based community.

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