I confess to having been a Twitter skeptic. I only decided to give it a try in December because I was trying to increase my “sphere of influence” to help an organization I support win a Pepsi Refresh grant. I figured I would probably stop using once the goal was attained…but I didn’t.
Everybody’s heard of Twitter, but if you have never used it, you may be among those who, like I did, doubt the value of Twitter. After all, you and your friends probably use Facebook, so if you wish to share a status update, you can just post it there. Why would you need Twitter? Most of your friends probably don’t use it anyway. You may well be correct on that count, but Twitter use is increasing every day, and chances are if you aren’t using Twitter now, you will use it eventually.
You are doubtless familiar with celebrities who have caused themselves headaches using Twitter. You probably remember a year or so ago when Miley Cyrus announced she was closing her Twitter account. (To the best of my knowledge she has not resumed using Twitter). Still other celebrities like Alyssa Milano are well-known “tweeps” who boast many followers and have morphed the way Twitter was “intended” to be used–for posting status updates–to becoming a valuable source of up-to-date information. Twitter has evolved; it has become as some have said, a “micro blog.” It has become a means of advertising. Twitter has become a very real means for communicating news and other data immediately and from anywhere.
Here are some interesting applications for Twitter that extend its capabilities and allow users to do more with less:
- TweetChat — as defined at the TweetChat site: “Hashtags identify specific topics and those hashtags allow TweetChat to connect you with people talking about similar things. Choosing a hashtag directs you to a TweetChat room. Each tweet automatically gets the hashtag added and the room auto-updates” (TweetChat.com, accessed 1-30-11).
- Bit.ly — Bitly helps you share, track, and analyze your links (bit.ly.com, accessed 1-30-11). Bit.ly is a URL shortener.
- HootSuite –allows a user to “Add a Social Network,” so you can manage all of your social networks and blog feeds from one dashboard. “Create a New Tab” allows you to choose how your information is displayed. (This is too complicated to explain here, so if you want more info, try Joe Hage online for a description of TweetDeck, a similar app). HootSuite also allows a user to schedule tweets in advance! It is difficult to explain how beneficial it is using an app like TweetDeck or HootSuite until you have tried Twitter in its original form for a while. Basically, these apps make Twitter easier to manipulate in the way many of us are using Twitter now. An additional advantage to using HootSuite is the ability to shorten or to not shorten links within your tweets as you choose without having to rely on an external link shortener like bit.ly.
- TwitLonger — TwitLonger is an easy way to post long messages to Twitter without the need to write a blog post. “Write what you need here and we post the link to Twitter for you” (http://www.twitlonger.com/index.php/main_new, accessed 1-30-11).
There are a number of other apps for Twitter, but the above are the apps I use and with which I am most familiar. As you can see, the above described applications significantly change the ways in which Twitter can be used by allowing “real-time” collaboration and communication; allowing for “tweets” longer than 140 characters when needed (not recommended to overuse this ability); shortening links to allow for a longer message or a complete URL; and the ability to schedule messages–highly useful for marketing purposes or reaching users at peak times!
Twitter is no longer just for status updates. You may have noticed that as businesses establish pages on Facebook, they are establishing a presence on Twitter, too. I enjoy using Twitter to communicate with followers and people I follow in addition to my primary purpose for using Twitter: to obtain information from important and reliable sources.
Here are two recent local anecdotes from Rochester, Minnesota that display the value of using Twitter. Many local media personalities are on Twitter. I follow one of the local meteorologists and came upstairs the other day and informed my wife it was snowing before even looking outside. She looked, and indeed it was snowing! In another situation, I had checked my twitter feed after work and found out that one of the three local cinemas had just closed. I mean “just closed” when I say it. About an hour later, when the story broke on the news and someone else made a comment, I already had all of the details!
I recommend checking out Twitter if you haven’t already. You may be amazed at what you can find and do with Twitter…it’s not just for status updates anymore!