To be honest, my first impression of Twitter was that it was for folks who had way too much time on their hands who narcissistically wanted to broadcast every random thought that crossed their brains.
While this may be true in some instances, there are also some very smart, professional, forward thinking people whom I respect who are using Twitter intelligently.
Yep, you heard that right–I just used the words “intelligently” and “Twitter” in the same sentence. :)
Like cell phones, email, and blackberries, Twitter is a tool that can either add value to your working life or become the perfect interruption machine, depending on how well you use it.
To keep yourself from falling into the Twitter abyss, it might help to focus on these 5 smart uses of Twitter:
1. Marketing and Communication. The absolute tipping point for me taking the plunge into the Twitter pond was seeing that my friend Gavin Heaton, a very bright guy involved with the marketing/advertising world, was waxing poetic about the marketing and communications potential in Twitter.
I found this insight from Gavin in the comments of this post at The Viral Garden:
The way that you can use Twitter is what fascinates. If conversation is king then Twitter is great… watch the way David Armano uses it to instantly update his “followers” and move from conversation to action. The potential for brands is enormous.
As we continue to invest in the constantly-evolving story of our brands, then conversational enablers like Twitter will become integral. I don’t think Twitter is for everyone, but for a targeted niche (even a large one), it could be a knockout.
And from David Armano himself:
If you are interested about marketing, conversations and the ways which we communicate with each other (and how this is changing and evolving), you should at least investigate what the hoopla is all about. My recent experiences with Twitter tell me that the service is morphing due to how users want to use it. What was once initially designed to answer the question “what are you doing?”, has turned into a free-form communications service where people are having burts of shorthand conversations, sharing links and information in rapid-fire fashion…Personally, I think Twitter is a pretty powerful tool for anything involving promotions, events and communities.
While not many of us are marketing masterminds like these two fellas, those of us who are online entrepreneurs should always be on the lookout for new ways that we can market our businesses and create a dialogue with our target market.
I haven’t completely wrapped my brain around the marketing potential of Twitter for businesses, but my ears are perked to hear how folks in the marketing/branding sector of the blogosphere are using Twitter.
2. Microblogging. For a news blogger, the 140 character limit in Twitter can be extremely liberating. No need to labor over a post or look for the perfect image. Itâ€™s â€œjust the facts maâ€™amâ€, and although Twitter will never replace blogging, sometimes the bare basic facts are all we need.
Folks using Twitter as a scaled down blogging platform where they provide a link to a hot fresh news item and include a few words of opinion are being very helpful at providing info and story leads and saving us time.
It’s much easier for me to get ideas for story posts by looking at a microblogger’s Twitter feed than by trudging into my Bloglines account. Good-bye RSS feed reader! (If you’d like to see what microblogging looks like, check out Techmeme’s Twitter feed.)
The extra cool thing is if you subscribe to the feed of someone who is microblogging news and you put the Twitter Timeline in the sidebar of your blog, you and all the visitors to your blog can see the steady stream of fresh news items.
3. Business Networking. Twitter is a social software, so itâ€™s super easy to meet new people and bring people together. Over the course of my first Twitter outing, I was able to easily, casually introduce two friends of mine via a light hearted Twitter session. I had actually wanted them to meet each other because I thought they could possibly do a joint venture together, but I didnâ€™t want their first meeting to be â€œbusiness-yâ€.
Could this initial meeting have been done via IM or phone? Yeah, sure, but not in such an informal way. The strength of Twitter in networking is that itâ€™s like meeting someone at a backyard barbeque, as opposed to a formal business meeting or networking luncheon. The informality is a great ice breaker, and it encourages folks to let their guard down a little.
I feel like two folks who meet via Twitter (or a backyard barbeque) will be able to get comfortable with each other more quickly than if they met in a more business-y setting.
4. Breaking news & getting scoops. The first time I heard of this happening was when Duncan Riley observed that the story about ScribeFire signing Chris Finke was broken exclusively on Nick Wilson’s Twitter account.
It’s actually not that surprising that some tech news is being broken via Twitter. Twitter is informal chatting with friends, and it’s only natural that if you’ve just brokered a blog sale or you’ve just added a new member to your team that you’ll share the news with your friends.
The interesting thing about Twitter is that it feels like an intimate IM session, but it’s actually not private at all. People let their guard down on Twitter, and if you’re in the tech news reporting field you might get some juicy leads via Twitter.
The kind of news that’s likely to be broken via Twitter is tech news, and in order to scoop it you need to be Twitter watching the movers and shakers in the tech world. (In order to Twitter watch someone, just add them to your “friends” list.)
5. Streamlining your electronic inboxes. When you start using Twitter, youâ€™ll probably find yourself using IM, social bookmarking, RSS readers and email less.
Aside from the public chat feature Twitter has, it also has a private direct messaging feature, so you could use that if you had a private message to send. You could also use Twitter direct messaging instead of email, which I’ve noticed some of my colleagues doing.
By using Twitter you may actually be able scale back on the influx of incoming information and electronic devices you use, which is something we can all appreciate.
As for those people who have been completely turned off to Twitter because of some of the more frivilous, immature uses of this global communication tool–I hear ya!
There’s only one way to deal with those annoying folks: Ignore them.
Instead, imitate the people who are using Twitter intelligently.
If you do, you just might find a new way of connecting with your target niche, scoop a story before your competitors, meet a future business partner, or streamline your arsenal of electronic communication tools.
If you’re still not convinced of the merits of Twitter, that’s fine.
Twitter is not for everyone, but if you’re the slightest bit intrigued as to why smart folks are singing the praises of Twitter, the only way you’ll ever satisfy your curiousity is to try it out for yourself.