My friends who are not on Twitter constantly ask me, “Why are you on Twitter?” Yesterday I attended my first 140 Character Conference — #140conf — and like Twitter, it moved quickly and in short bursts, on various unrelated topics. Speakers had 10 minutes each, panels lasted 20 minutes each. Someone unfamiliar with Twitter may have felt that the conference had no direction or purpose. On the contrary, I left with a feeling of empowerment. Twitter, social media and the real-time Internet in general, can help one do many great things.
Listening — Hear what your neighbors, customers, clients, target market or constituents are talking about. Should you know more about some topics? What are they saying about you? Can you offer a solution? If you are in customer service, or looking for more business, this is a great way to use Twitter. But as @JustinKownacki reminded us, when you’re a business person trying to join the conversation around the community water cooler, don’t go into a hard sales pitch. Have a conversation like adults.
Discovery — Find news as it is happening. Read about it from primary sources or from your favorite investigative journalists. Discover stories (or restaurants or recipes or hotels) through recommendations from friends. Those on the media panel said they use Twitter as their personal news wire, both to know what’s being released by news media, and to get ahead of their competition.
Revelation — Find out more about yourself, your likes and dislikes. Do you have an expertise you’ve been keeping quiet about? You’ll be able to find a group of people on Twitter that appreciate your specialties. There are regular chat groups, like the #edchat education group, that bring together experts and interested folks around certain topics. Search and you shall find.
NOTE: People are often concerned about falsehoods on the Internet, but @acarvin of NPR said that Twitter is often where “rumors go to die.” Since so much information can be passed around so quickly, as fast as a false rumor is started, it is revealed to be a hoax.
Volunteer recruitment — Non-profits are having great success at getting volunteers and donations of time and resources (outside of cash donations) through Twitter. It’s easy to be specific and local. Even investors have been found, as @MelissaPierce found making Life In Perpetual Beta.
Amplify your voice — Remember that old ad, “I told two friends… and they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on…”? Twitter works like that, but it can be almost immediate. Instead of waiting for you to run into a friend, people can re-tweet ideas as soon as they receive them. And they are often telling hundreds of their friends as soon as they hit send.
Research — Some people argue that “lunchies” (thanks for that word, @doctorjeff) — those that tweet about what they’re having for lunch — are the problem with Twitter. But a writer like @girlinblack can use these minute-by-minute journals for character development, and our host @jeffpulver pointed out that these Twitter accounts may belong to someone’s grandfather one day. As the Library of Congress is going to archive all our tweets, even these little throwaway tweets may give us some valuable historical, biographical information someday. No? Well, imagine if you could read your grandparents’ tweets. Was your grandma excited to change her name or was it a hassle? How excited was grandpa on his first day back from World War II? Maybe not everyone wants to read their grandparents’ tweets. But check out @bus2antarctica.
Many people are hesitating to log on to Twitter because they anticipate it may be too involved, too much like Facebook, or because they feel they already get all the information they need from websites and e-mail. In actuality, Twitter is less complicated than Facebook, websites or e-mail and that is its strength. Some of the interesting new websites I learned about from the 140 Character Conference (#140conf) follow. I hope you’ll check them out. Know that you wouldn’t have found out about them without Twitter.
Also read: Getting the most out of Twitter, Tips on being a corporate Tweeter, 10 tips to help you learn to fly on Twitter