Twitter … a whale of a tale

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Perhaps it’s only me, but has anyone else noticed the sudden ‘arrival’ of Twitter as the mainstage social media player in the past week or so? It’s a must-have app it seems. There has been a flurry of activity and chatter which has included the creation of a niche blog called TwiTip. Problogger Darren Rowse, TwiTip’s creator is getting out the word on how to use the app to newcomer and power-user alike. The potential of what once was considered a limited application … scorned as a time waster and useless by some (ahem) … is only just beginning to make sense. These days the 140 character-limited little app is punching way outside its original class, and we’re taking notice.

Twitter’s gone beyond the social use for which it was first intended … telling the world what you’re doing … though you still can of course. It’s typical for a bunch of contacts to greet one another at the start of whatever day and in whatever time zone they’re in. Occasional posts on meals, links to news, and music shares are sprinkled amongst a stream of notifications on blog-posts, tips, and a string of ideas which are just floated out there for someone to pick up. If you’re a Twitter user and you work from home, it’s a substitute for the tearoom (or water cooler if you live up there) or a bit like the banter that goes on when a colleague sticks her head round the door and tosses in a joke, a bit of news, gossip, or asks for help.

Twitter first showed how powerful it could be as a serious communications contender when users kept one another up to date during the course of several natural disasters a year or more ago.  I wrote late last year that I found the constraints of 140 characters just too limiting to be of much use … I was thinking inside the blog-square of course.  My opinion was also coloured by the pain of having to log in to the website to leave a post;  I hate any unnecessary extra clicks to get to where I want to be.  As Twitter continued its development and millions took to using it, there were not infrequent server downtimes and crashes. The notorious ‘fail-whale’ emerged as an ongoing joke, and we fickle users ranted at Twitter’s inability to keep up with our demands.  How a year has changed things.

Twitter hits the deck occasionally, but still manages to get back up again. It’s no longer tethered to its website and that’s a good thing … it’s mobile via phone apps like Twitterific which I use on my iPhone, whilst a host of desktop clients like Tweetdeck and Twhirl mean that the messages keep flowing. You can in fact, appear never to sleep!

Academic colleagues shared the keynote sessions from a conference a week or so ago via tweets, and fielded questions from some of us out here to the presenters. The development of hashtags as a tagging device means that messages can be collated and searched later on … a great idea!

Twitter’s also gone all business-like, serving another kind of clientele. Any group or team can contact its clients and membership with the latest news, deals or advice and followers can hang out and receive the push messages that are sent.  I’m using Twitter this way as we grow our niche market consultancy business. We’re building business equity and at the same time making contacts; a dedicated Twitter account is one of our tools of choice. You can find us on our Twitter webpage or via a widget on our business webpage. We push a tip of the day, queued via Twuffer along with news of upcoming seminars and workshops.  Of course our contacts can choose to follow us via an RSS feed.

Developers of other apps have come up with nifty add-on helpers that use the Twitter platform; I line up and schedule the release of a series of posts with Twuffer, and send out automatic welcomes to my new followers with Tweetlater. This social media stuff is getting more and more sophisticated, and we’re getting more creative with their application to our particular needs.

I rarely if ever access my personal Twitter account via the website. I use Twhirl to keep me in touch with my contacts. I aggregate my social media via Friend Feed, which then pushes out a selection of my choice to Twitter. In this way I can push, pull and chat throughout the day. Is it distracting? Yes … and no. I love the flow of ideas that Twitter generates, and I can always switch it off if I need to work on something urgent.

I’m thinking that it has another use that it’s probably not been put to yet, and that is to provide the sort of social intercourse that shut-ins can miss out on. Like its video-chat cousin Seesmic, Twitter is proving to be a far more flexible tool than we first supposed. I mean, just look at the links below to just a few of the zillions of articles that are hitting the blogosphere right now. This little lightweight is here to stay.

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3 responses to “Twitter … a whale of a tale”

  1. CocteauBoy Avatar

    I was just talking about this on Seesmic when someone asked how she could wrap her mind around the practicality of Twitter and my response was something along the lines of:

    Twitter has morphed into a text messaging network that can be used for professional or social circles. It's not limited to text messaging, of course, so one can post links, video, images, and even music.

    The practical application and benefit of Twitter comes when you consider that it transcends the limitations of FEES. It's free and anyone can use it. For some people, text messaging is expensive, so they are not required to be a part of any plan or pay any fees for all of the communication that might happen through Twitter. It also transcends the limitations of National or Continental boundaries. To be able to text to anyone in the world at any time, AND not have international fees, is a huge perk of Twitter, not only for keeping in contact with people you already know, but in meeting others connected to people you know. And finally, it transcends the limitations of DEVICES. Twitter can be used by cell phone, computer, laptop, pda, iTouch, and a multitude of other electronic devices.

    Some people might argue that this is what email is, too, so what's the big difference? Well, email inboxes are already overwhelmed for a lot of people, so this keeps your networking separate from that, AND each message is limited to 140 characters, so people are far more specific and to-the-point in their messages, which is far more beneficial than one might think!

    Beyond all of this, contact among people connected through Twitter has helped people to escape disasters, be rescued from danger, and report on breaking news long before the mainstream media can catch up!

    It's pretty amazing… give it a chance, but if you don't like it, you can stick with email or other messaging options found left in the dust of Twitter.

  2. Stephen Avatar

    I have been using Twitter since not long after it started up. It can be a challenge to make a statement in less that 140 characters.

  3. Kate Foy Avatar

    Depends on the 'statement' of course. Recent storms in Brisbane and SE
    Qld saw weather news and disaster reports being tweeted faster than
    media could get out the news. I also took part in a conference
    presentation via tweets from colleagues quite recently. Questions were
    asked and responded to, and then tweeted out to others. I think we're
    only just beginning to work out the potential of this app.

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