When the conversation turns to talking about Web 2.0 sites such as Facebook and Twitter, I am amazed at how different their perception of what the Twitter service is all about is to my experience with it. So my idea for this blog entry is to relate a few experiences I have had and describe the benefits I see in using the service.
What is Twitter?
If you are a lot younger that am (and who isn’t?) then you probably already understand what Twitter is. For the geezers in the audience, imagine one giant worldwide chat room feed that is search-able. A chat room where the messages are somewhat temporary and brief (140 characters or less) and where you can filter out everybody except those few who you are specifically interested in.
A lot of messages on Twitter are simply personal status updates — what the twit is doing now, his opinion of some experience that just happened to him/her etc. However, with the people I’ve decided to follow, Twitter is much more like a bunch of super-talented, super-intelligent people pointing out items they find interesting or thought provoking. In general, I’ve tended to follow famous computer programmers and science fiction authors. But I also follow people I find that are in my business or live near Vero Beach. And then there are those who I just find really odd or bizarre — purely for the entertainment value.
For awhile I followed the user @cwalken who was impersonating Christopher Walken. You were never sure if it was him or not. The tweats were quite bizarre and if it wasn’t Walken you found yourself hoping that this was what he was really like in real life. Alas, he was finally revealed as a talented imposter. I still follow the @formerlycwalken and his flashes of brilliance now seem to be fewer are farther between somehow. But every once in awhile he can turn in a doozy.
I also was amused by the recent twitter war between CNN and Ashton Kutcher – a race to see who could assemble the greatest number of followers. It was a reasonably close contest but Ashton came out on top. I hear that @mrskutcher also has quite a following.
Use Twitter to announce product availability
I read a news story this morning about Korean Taco trucks in Los Angeles (no we don’t have those in Vero Beach yet :/) that announce their current location and menu specials via Twitter. Trucks that don’t tweat are losing out to those that do. Restaurant advertising is the most often cited example of using Twitter to attract more people to your business.
I have installed an extension in this WordPress-based blog that generates an automatic tweat each time I publish a blog article. So that’s another example of announcing product availability on Twitter. To do this successfully you must have either a very large following or you must imagine what people might be searching for and use those terms in your announcement. For example, if you are a local retail business you could include the words “vero beach” somehow in your announcement so that people searching will find it. Or many will use tags like “get 20% off any menu item at Happy Family #verobeach next 3 hours”.
In the wake of the Boston serial killer who used Craigslist to find his prostitute victims, that site has now deleted its “erotic services” section. Is it any coincidence that I am now seeing my “Vero Beach” search feed featuring prostitutes alongside the real estate brokers normally lurking there? I think not.
This brings up a major point about Twitter… there are an awful lot of commercial messages on Twitter and this would tend to spoil a medium to some extent. But on Twitter things are a little different. You would normally never see such messages unless you are performing a search. So consumption of advertising is managed by the reader to a very large extent. Twitter advertising is much more highly targeted to the interests of the reader than, for example, the context driven ads on Google search results. This is a huge advantage.
TwitterHawk is a very interesting new service that is basically a bot that watches the entire Twitter feed looking for telltale words and phrases that you might want to respond to. The service is a little controversial in that it could be used to assist with the insertion of a blatant commercial message into what would otherwise be a somewhat private coversation (private in that it would be lost in the tremendous deluge of the public feed). Such a use of the service would be a violation of the terms of service, but still….
But you can use this sort of service to look for people who share your interests or your business focus. Its akin to having a friend at a party tell you that that guy over on the other side of the room is a computer programmer looking for work. You have an open position so you might want to go over and introduce yourself. This can be a great tool to finding new friends and expanding your horizons. And its free unless you use it to send automatic messages — something I don’t think is very useful anyway (unless you are a spammer, of course).
The twitter experience is much enhanced if you use a capable and feature-rich client. I use TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop, depending on my mood. With each of these programs you can set up a separate feed windows, each with its own search criteria. TweetDeck also has a window that suggests some search terms deemed significant from the public feed. Its seems that this should be a more useful capability than it actually is in practice. I don’t understand why or how it selects some things over others. But these two clients do add significantly to the Twitter experience over and above using the web interface.
My Favorite Twits
Oh, and don’t forget to follow @bitlizard if you get involved with Twitter! But be warned… it will be a bit boring when compared to those mentioned above.