Why Use Twitter?

Today’s post is written by Maggie McGary, author of the blog www.mizzinformation.com.

Right after “What is it?” the second most common question I get about Twitter is “Why would anyone waste their time using it?” A fair enough question, of course; after all, if you take a strictly purist approach to Twitter, the whole thing is supposed to start and stop at the question “What are you doing?” Therefore, it makes sense that Twitter virgins would be very skeptical about the value of “tweeting” since, after all, who really cares to read about what you’re doing at any given time?

The thing about Twitter, though, is that it’s turned into so much more than a platform for broadcasting your every move to anyone interested enough to follow you. Ok, then–what else would you use it for?

This is by no means a comprehensive list but it will hopefully help give some insight into why Twitter has become such a craze that even the White House is doing it.

1) Breaking news. It’s becoming a more a more frequent occurrence: major news stories breaking on Twitter rather than in the “real” media. The US Airways crash, an earthquake in the UK, the terrorist attack in Mumbai–these are just a handful of the many stories that were first reported on Twitter and later picked up by major news outlets. Now that millions of people are using Twitter (I just tried to find the most up-to-date number of Twitter users and can’t; however, the Twitter blog did report just three days ago that active users have increased 900% in a year) and many (it not most) of those people have cellphones equipped with cameras, it’s no surprise that the first place many news items are going to break is going to be on Twitter.

2) News in general. Too many news outlets to list are using Twitter to broadcast headlines, links to videos and who knows what else. If you follow them (for instance, I follow the Washington Post, CNN, msnbc, Today Show, etc) you have basically a ticker tape of what’s going on in the world fed right to your cellphone or web page. It’s basically a mini RSS feed of whatever news outlets you want to follow, but each entry is limited to 140 characters so you can actually keep up with it.

3) Professional networking. I’m going to speak at ASAE’s Great Ideas conferencein Miami next week. How did I picked to be a presenter? A woman who was leading a session emailed me, saying two people she works with had recommended me as someone who would be a good co-presenter. How do I know the two people who gave her my name? Twitter. Well, that and blog posts/comments; I have never met either of them in real life. Networking on Twitter is becoming more and more valuable with the job market being what it is now; there are millions of people on Twitter eager and able to help those who’ve recently lost their jobs find new ones. After all, getting jobs is all about who you know, and Twitter lets you know many more people than you’d ever have time to know in real life.

4)Microblogging. I constantly come across stuff I’d like to blog about, but there are only so many hours in the day. Twitter lets me “microblog”–post a quick comment and and provide a link to something I’d blog about if I had time. My tweets then feed into my blog.

5) Customer Service.
Many companies are using Twitter for customer service: Sprint, Comcast–even Pepco. Tired of spending hours on hold only to not have your problem resolved or be given the runaround? No more; chances are pretty good that personalized customer service may be only a tweet away. Recently I had problems with Sprint and tweeted about it; next thing I know, a Sprint social media rep had tweeted me with his email address, asking me to send him the details so he could help me. He then hooked me up with an “Executive Services VIP Analyst” who not only resolved my problem this time but who is now be my permanent personal customer service rep. I have her direct phone number and her email address. More and more companies are going to be moving to this business model, so tweeting about dissatisfaction with a brand or service could definitely earn you easy, personalized customer service.

I could go on and on but I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say that even if you don’t care to share your life in 140 character bites, you might consider using Twitter as your own personal news feed or networking tool.

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