What is Twitter for?

7 minute read

The first tweet many people make is “Wondering what Twitter is actually for”. This is often a tweet that goes unanswered because there is nobody following them yet to be able to read it, and at that point Twitter isn’t much use at all, or is it?

Before I speak about what Twitter is for I’ll try to explain what Twitter is. Twitter, for me, is a window into the inane conversations that each of us have on a daily basis. It is the opportunity to eavesdrop on a huge number of conversations at once, and whilst the vast majority of what is said will be of no interest to you there is no denying the value of being able to hear the honest opinions of your current and potential customers or clients.

This is just the beginning, however, even more valuable than listening is the ability to have a two way conversation with people you ordinarily wouldn’t. I’ll speak more about that in the next blog post, for now I’ll focus on some of the ways Twitter can be useful for the passive user.

There are many ways to use Twitter that don’t even require a Twitter account. Monitter, for example, allows you to follow what people are saying on Twitter. By searching for individual words or terms you can see a live stream of everything being said about that particular subject. This is useful for keeping up to date with an event or for market research.

Try popping in your company name to see who is talking about you and what they have to say, or enter keywords which are relevant to your business to see who is making the most noise in your field and what the latest buzz is on the scene. You can even limit your search to a particular location.

Personally, I use Monitter to find people who are tweeting relevant information to me, I then follow those people and use desktop software to be notified of new tweets. For me this means I get to see blog posts about Web Design and Social Networking but the beauty of Twitter is that you are guaranteed to find somebody talking about something that will interest you.

Another useful site is Twit Scoop which allows you to see which words are being mentioned most in the Twittersphere. At the time of writing the most mentioned word is Comedy (when I started the article ‘Hangover’ was the most popular word in use) and delving deeper I can see that several people are talking about Ealing Comedy Festival. This is where Twitscoop can be useful. In terms of tracking conversations: you can see in real time as topics gain momentum through ReTweets or discussion. If you wanted to check the viral success of a youtube video, product launch or even a real life event such as the first showing of a television advert, this would be a good place to start.

One of the things that had pushed Twitter firmly into the limelight is the number of celebrities using the service. Celebrity Tweet lets you stalk your favourite personalities online. Their tweets give you an insight into the mundane parts of their lives you wouldn’t usually see. For instance, I am now aware that Lilly Allen came home from her US tour this morning, went through her post ignoring all the bills and had her mom make her some breakfast. How useful this is to your business is for you to decide but for anyone interested in celebrity gossip Twitter should be your first stop. You can choose to follow any celebs you want to see all the updates for, but beware, some celebrities such as Russell Brand are so popular that they spend a vast majority of their tweeting time sending replies to people, and these can quickly become annoying as they start to crowd your feed.

If you are interested in finding local Tweeple, perhaps you run a local business and want to see what other companies in the area are saying, or maybe you want to market yourself directly to those people who live nearby, you can use Nearby Tweets to find people within your postcode or a set radius. A quick search for everyone tweeting within a 10mile radius of the office not only finds users in the office, but also old colleagues from my previous company, and several local businesses. Who do you think you will find?

If you feel up to it you can start following some of these people and receiving their updates. If following them all through the web interface starts to get a little confusing try installing Tweet Deck. This handy piece of software will split your updates, replies and direct messages into separate columns and you can even add a custom column to monitor a particular search term, such as your company name. Tweet Deck allows you to view peoples profiles, reply to their messages and follow new users all without even opening your browser.

Once you start following people you will start to collect a few followers of your own, be they existing contacts who have found you by your email details, new people that you have started to follow or just people who have found you along the way. This is where things start to get interesting, and also where I will continue next time.

Thanks for reading,

Gareth.

Glossary:

Twittersphere – Everyone on Twitter and everything they say.

Tweeple – Twitter users, People who use Twitter.

ReTweet – To re-post another users message to your own followers. eg. RT @signupto: Dreams (New Templates Available!): Sign-up.to are pleased to announce three brand new templates for use in your.. http://tinyurl.com/cgr7t2


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