One can’t go anywhere on the Web these days without seeing some type of tool or offshoot of the popular microblogging service Twitter. It seems everyday there is a new article, blog post or rant about how to use Twitter; or why Twitter is changing the media landscape; or how Twitter’s model will be adopted by future iterations of the Internet. So I will add to the cacophony of Twits and offer up why I think Twitter should be used.
The bigger question you should be asking yourself is, “Why do I care what a random blogger (and not even a good one at that) thinks about Twitter (or anything else. But that’s a whole other issue)?” The answer is simplistically simple: the nature of social media is to learn from others. Odds are you landed on this blog because you saw my link on Twitter and you’re somewhat engaged in the learning process. This is why you’re going to read and this is why I write: to educate ourselves. Education is the silver bullet to our issues and we’re starting to relearn the educational process using these additional tools in our learning arsenal.
To start, I’ve broken down two main concepts of why to use Twitter: personal use and corporate use (please note that there may be other categories, but these two seem to be the most prevalent. If you have more to add, please add in the comments.)
When I first signed up for Twitter I was a bit confused. Learning the twitter-isms (and am still learning) my thoughts ran the typical spectrum of logic: this is pointless, this is dumb, this is interesting, this is beneficial. I was part of a burgeoning community, something that I haven’t been a part of since my dirty hippie days following Phish. As I learned with Phish, community development leads to exploration and experimentation. Only this time it was with a broader universe rather than specifics like books or music (of which Twitter is great for too, it’s just that there are other things I look for on Twitter).
This leads to why I love using Twitter. I have the ability to learn from today’s philosophers. While they may not be like Plato or Hegel or Wittgenstein today’s philosophers, in my mind, are technologists (and are leading to what Steve Baker calls the Numerati). The role of the philospopher is to question, discover and make appeals to our sense of reason so that our society can be better off. Today’s pantheon of philosophers reside on Twitter, espousing their mantras and rationales. And the best part? Being able to converse with them. Whether through @’s or DMs, having 140 characters to succinctly get your point across makes you work that much harder to engage in conversation. But the reward is great: knowledge, a different way of thinking, validation.
On the flip side of the role as student you also have the ability to impart your knowledge set into the greater universe. Undoubtedly, you will find followers. You will also follow people who subscribe to your personal brand of philosophy. All this means that you now have an arena to promote your ideas. Adam Smith would be proud of Twitter, as the marketplace of ideas will weed out those whose ideas are beyond radical and venture into the incomprehensible.
Twitter also enables fan-dom to be brought to a whole new level. You can follow famous and public figures and chat with them in purposeful ways for you, but meaningless ways for them. Example: I thanked Kerry Rhodes of the New York Jets for his hard work this season. He responded with gratitude and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. This never would have happened without Twitter.
Finally, on the personal front, the biggest reason to use Twitter is to make connections. I have met some fantastic people who are in my field and look forward to the day when I’m in D.C and can meet some of them, or in Chicago and we can go out to see music, or in L.A and go to a chic club. Twitter is the highest evolutionary form of pen-pals and making these online connections and turning them into offline friends is the best reward (and reason) for using Twitter
To that end, these connections can also help your business. You never know when someone you follow or who follows you on Twitter can help with your professional goals. The larger picture is that while you may use Twitter for personal reasons, you’re simultaneously using Twitter for your business.
Corporations are flocking to Twitter as they see it as another tool to help build their social presence, while also delivering and staying on message. There are countless companies using Twitter and even more individuals who represent their company (yes, there is a philosophical difference between @staples and @johnsmith who works for Staples communications). These companies are navigating these uncharted waters and learning about the space, but more importantly learning about their customers. They are connecting and engaging their customers in ways that haven’t been seen since early days of commerce where store owners knew their customer’s wants and needs; before credit cards where these store owners would allow their customers to put items on credit because they knew who they were.
The business world is slowly starting to adapt and participate in this social media experiment. Obviously there are those whose passion has led them to be evangelists for social media and there are those who are tepidly dipping their toes into the water, but companies need to be on Twitter. They need to have the presence of mind to at least try. There is a cultural war happening right now between those who believe in the utter good of transparency and those who are still being opaque. If we are to evolve with this transparent notion of news, politics, information, it is in the best interest of organizations to use the tools provided to be transparent (or at the very least appear to be transparent).
And that is pretty much it, isn’t it? Twitter is just a tool. It’s nothing new. People have been social for time immemorial, only they were not confined to 140 characters. This forces you to think before you type (unless of course you’re discussing what you just had for lunch, and then Twitter just becomes a vehicle for you to regurgitate your daily happenings). We live in a precarious time where all the information of human history is literally at our fingertips, where more people than ever are participating in processes like politics and activism, where the flow of messages has democratized us. Twitter is evolution and to sum all of this up, is a hell of a lot of fun!
Oh, and in case you stumbled upon this post from an outside source and are not part of the Twitterverse, come find me. Sign up is free and easy (that’s what she said). My handle is josh_sternberg. Stop by, say hello. You may (or may not) find some good conversation.