A good friend of mine, who also happens to be a twitter newbie, asked me a really interesting question the other day: “How do you use twitter?” I never really thought about how I “use” twitter. I just do. But, this got my brain going and I started to really think about how I engaged with twitter.
I’ve seen some interesting posts from people on how they use twitter. Some of their opinions I agree with, while others…not so much. Jeremiah Owyang has one of the best write-ups on twitter usage. I don’t agree with a lot of what he writes, but honestly that’s the beauty of sites like twitter. You get to decide how you interact with it; the site doesn’t dictate your usage. It’s open ended.
The more and more I thought about my own personal habits, it became amazingly clear that I use twitter for 4 reasons:
- Learn: Sites and services like iGoogle are great, but they rely on other sites to update information. As I’ve written before, I feel like people are blogging less and the quality of blog posts are decreasing. I can learn anywhere from 10 to 20X more in an hour on twitter than I via iGoogle. Twitter also brings into the equation multiple perspectives on an issue or topic. Frequently, I’ve had one take-away initially after reading a tweet, but then an alternate POV after seeing the real time discussion.
- Share: In general I like offering my thoughts on a topic and helping people out. I love being able to answer a question or offer up my POV to someone who’s asked it of the community. Sometimes they take it, other times they don’t, and often my perspective starts up nice dialogue. As I come across things I think people will find interesting I post them. What I post varies though. Everything from links to an article, a retweet of someone else, or simply what’s going through my mind are fair game.
- Connect: I’ve met new people, engaged with old friends/colleagues, and recruited through twitter. Some of the new people I’ve met have opened my eyes and expanded my brain to alternate ways of thinking. The real payoff has been when I’ve met these people in person. Michael Leis is a great example. I met him via twitter. Then I recruited him to speak at my company. He flew out to Minneapolis and we had a great discussion over dinner. The dinner conversation was just the tip of the iceberg though. Thoughts and theories from his presentation have stuck with me and I’ve used them still. Very cool.
- Research: This is the best part about twitter. I can ask a question and get near instant feedback. From car advice to city specific information (eg does downtown Pittsburgh still have free WiFi) I’ve been able to get people’s feedback. Often, not always, I’ve listened to the “crowd” and based my decision solely on their opinions. That’s only half of the research part. The search function in twitter lets me query keywords against all of the tweets that have been posted. I can see people’s opinions (even the ones I’m not following) on cameras, phones, movies, new CDs, and even Beyonce’s outfit at the Oscars. Yes, I could use Google for that type of research, but the information wouldn’t be as current as it is with twitter. Also, it would be hit or miss on my ability to ask the opinion maker for feedback. On twitter asking someone for more information about a tweet is commonplace.
So, there you have it. Those are the 4 ways I use twitter. My guess is you use twitter for at least one of the above reasons. I’d love to hear how else you use twitter. I’m sure there’s something I’m missing. I’m also going to work on a list of ways I don’t use twitter. This is fun.