Finally! I found a purpose for using twitter… 7 of them!

Posted Friday, July 31, 2009

Yes it’s true!  I have finally figured out what the purpose of twitter is.  For months now I have had a twitter account and have been having a problem figuring out exactly how to use it.  Please keep in mind I am not talking about how twitter works, rather I am talking about how to do something with it without  it being a huge waste of my time.  Keep in mind that the actual original purpose of twitter seems like a huge waste of time to me.

The original purpose of twitter, which is still posted on the website, is to post small and frequent answers to the question “What are you doing?” throughout the day in 140 characters or less.  Your followers will then be able to see your answers to this question and will easily be able to keep up with what your doing and whats going on with you.  What a time suck idea!

Really I thought to myself, who could possibly want to know what I am doing at any given moment?  More importantly why would I want to waste my time reading what other people are doing at any given moment?  It’s not like I am a celebrity where people would want to read what I am doing and I certainly couldn’t care less what the real celebrities were doing.

I honestly didn’t think I would find anyone SO interesting that I would want to know what they are doing at any given moment.

So after signing up for twitter I managed to follow a whopping 3 people.  These just happen to be the same 3 people that I worked with at a previous job and still do a fair amount of  business with today.  Over time I continued to meet people with twitter accounts that seemed interesting and starting following them as well.  Now I am up to following 30 people.  All of which I now read every tweet, that’s what they call those 140 character posts, they put into their twitter accounts.

So What Changed?
That’s easy.  None of the people I follow were answering the question “What are you doing now?”.  Instead they were using twitter for a number of different purposes and all revolving around topics I am interested in.  This made it much easier for me to swallow the red pill and decide to fall further into the twitter rabbit hole.

Each of the people I follow use twitter a little differently, however they all seem to use twitter for one of the following purposes:

  • News/Information Sharing – It doesn’t matter what kind of news your deciding to share.  It could be industry news, personal news or even main stream media type news.  Using twitter for the purpose of sharing news is easy because you can post it once on your twitter and others who follow you can all be notified at the same time.  Some of them may actually re-tweet your news and share it will all of the people who are following them.
  • Micro Blogging – Everyone knows what a blog is.  Your reading one right now.  People use twitter for the purpose of micro blogging because the it’s just easier to write 140 characters of content then it is 500+ words or so.  Whether this is interesting content or not is in the eyes of the reader.. That’s always something to keep in mind.
  • Blog Notifications – This is a great purpose for twitter.  Until twitter and Facebook status updates were available people had to rely on RSS feeds to notify readers of their new blog posts.  By now you could be scratching your head wondering what an RSS feed is.. Well that’s exactly the point.  The masses don’t know what these are or how to use them.  By using twitter for the purpose of blog notifications your followers can now get notified of your new blog posts with little to no effort just by reading your tweets.
  • Link Sharing – This is another great one!  Using twitter for the purpose of sharing links with others is a great idea.  You come across a funny YouTube video or a interesting article written by someone else.  Send out a tweet and let other see it’s greatness.
  • Human Computing Power – I have seen this happen a number of times on twitter with the people I follow.  The general idea is to send out a tweet with a question in it and your followers help you out and try to answer it.  A friend of mine did a tweet 20 minutes before I started writing this post to find out  if there was a “beer and blog” event happening in Portland tonight.  Within minutes he was able to get multiple answers letting him know he was on the wrong side of town and was already missing the event.  This is probably the most powerful purpose of twitter and certainly the most amazing.  This generally only works if you have lots of people following you though.
  • Advertising – This is great idea for businesses.  They can use twitter to offer their followers “twitter only” specials, good deals they have available and even announce new products.  If promoted correctly offline their good customers will certainly follow them on twitter when they are notified that twitter is where the company will be posting the best deals they are offering.
  • General Nonsense – Of course this has to be listed.  Many many many users use twitter for the purpose of posting random general nonsense that you will care absolutely nothing about.  Probably because they are trying to answer the question “What are you doing now?”.  The only thing you can do with these is decide whether the good things they post out weigh the garbage posts you don’t care about.  If they don’t.. you always have the nofollow button to help you.

While the above may seem easy for some to figure out.. It certainly took me a while to figure out.  Since I signed up for twitter I have been fairly quiet on posting new things to the network.  Now that I figured out the above from watching other people use twitter, I will certainly be using it more in the future.

What do you think?  Are you using twitter or avoiding it like the plague?  Have you found any other purposes for using twitter that I missed?  Share your twitter knowledge with the masses below!  Also be sure to follow me on twitter as I need to increase my human computing power network!

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