The Twitter addicts amongst the readers of this post will know all about Twitter, so they may as well skip reading. Now.
For the rest of us, here is the story. I discovered Twitter a few months ago (Why don’t we ever remember the exact moment we heard of a new thingy/fad? When did you discover Facebook?). For the uninitiated:
Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send “updates” (or “tweets”; text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) to the Twitter website, via short message service (e.g. on a cell phone), instant messaging, or a third-party application such as Twitterrific or Facebook. (Source: Wikipedia)
Twitter’s tag line is ‘What are you doing now?’. Crisp and to the point. But when I created my Twitter account I was not too enthused. Why bother updating people with what I was doing at that precise moment, several times a day? Sheesh. Why should I tell the world whether I am at a client meeting, visiting a book store or browsing the web? And why would they care?
I have slowly been drawn into Twitter again (sorry I am late!) and I must admit it is bloody addictive. What works for me is it’s simplicity. Unlike Facebook (to which I am not addicted at all) there aren’t 200,000 things trying to grab your attention. When I checked last, I had 263 ‘other requests’ on my Facebook. Yawn.
On Twitter you can get updated on your friends (it’s called Following in Twitter-language) and send updates on your activities (and those who follow you are called, er… followers). I have miserly 5 followers now. The top Twitterholics (Barack Obama, CNN) include upwards of 20,000 followers!
It sounds inane to keep track of what friends are doing, but I discovered that this is a great way to get insights into what is occupying people’s minds. From the little time I have spent on Twitter, I have discovered several cool links (most of the tweets are about links posted with the help of TinyURLs). Maybe it’s just giving meaning to the term ‘global village’ – where everyone used to know everyone else in a village. Also it so damn easy to tweet. Apart from the several applications, you can tweet on the site or through you mobile phone. In India, you can simply SMS to 5566511 to update (it does not work on Airtel as of now).
Brands like Virgin Mobile and Fastrack have Twitter pages. Even 10 Downing Street has one! The San Diego Fire Dept broadcasts alerts on Twitter. Others include BBC News, NYT, Amazon and Brand Republic.
From the brands POV, it could be a great tool to reach out to the “Linkerati”, viral marketing, product announcements, driving traffic to an event or store. Despite the banal nature of some of the conversations, I think Twitter is here to stay. Why do you think Twitter works? Does it work? Have your say.