Before I launch into the main topic, I have to share an actual tweet that appeared in March from a very well-known social media expert:
He might have been tweeting from an iPhone and the spell checker changed “Twestival” automatically. (FYI, Twestival is an event held by the twitter community to raise money for charity.) It’s easy to make mistakes like this when you’re on the go. I feel for the guy, but his followers are a very forgiving crowd.
Anyway, I have many friends and colleagues who think “twit” is the operative part of “Twitter.” This blog is not going to convince them—especially after that opening story—but it might interest those of you who are on the fence.
Last fall, the Pew Internet & American Life Project published a study about Twitter users. Interestingly, the results showed that Twitter usage is fairly evenly distributed across genders, races/ethnicities, education and income levels, and among people ages 18-49.
What else do we know about these people? In a recent blog entitled Behaviorgraphics Humanize the Social Web, Brian Solis wrote about Forrester Research’s “Social Technographics” ladder, which visualizes and categorizes how consumers participate in the social Web.
There are several different types of people on this ladder, but the newest is what Forrester calls the Conversationalists—people who update their status on any social network with an update window, and on Twitter, at least once per week. Conversationalists represent 33% of today’s online social behavior. That’s a lot of activity.
Brian Solis also wrote a recent blog about Twitter and its future. In it, he said that although many people criticize social networks for “fanning the flames of egotism and narcissism, I truly believe that Twitter empowered a new generation of individuals to listen, learn, and communicate with vigor, consciousness, and passion.”
Brian works in the business realm but in the nonprofit world, there are a lot of Twitter enthusiasts, too. For example, Idealware.org did a detailed study of Twitter for nonprofits and made some great recommendations. They started out as skeptics and ended up as believers because of how fast and far Twitter spreads the word about their activities—and for the constant stream of knowledge and resources it delivers to them.
That information stream is what keeps me plugged into Twitter. I follow a wide variety of people, from social media experts to nonprofits and social activists, other writer/bloggers, and the Harvard Business Review (one of my favorites). It’s like a ticker tape of ideas, research, breaking news, inspiration, and humor. I’ve discovered some of the best reports I’ve read and webinars I’ve attended through Twitter. To me, it’s not a distraction, it’s a gold mine.
I think David Carr of the New York Times said it best in “Why Twitter Will Endure,” in which he explains his own journey from skeptic to serious user. “Twitter becomes an always-on data stream from really bright people in their respective fields, whose tweets are often full of links to incredibly vital, timely information.”
Of course, one person’s noise is another person’s information. It takes time to “curate” this stream, as David says, and tailor it to your needs. I’ve been at it for many months, and I’m still honing my strategy. But I’m learning more every day.
Just curious: what’s your opinion of Twitter? What criteria do you use when deciding whether or not to adopt a new technology tool (or toy)?