Adam Gartenberg's Blog

Business Analytics and Optimization, IBM and Social Marketing

What I get from Twitter (and advice for getting started)


I've now had a few colleagues and friends ask me about Twitter, so I thought I'd post the thoughts I'd shared with them on what I get from it and how to get started.

1.  What is Twitter?

It's commonly referred to as microblogging (e.g., for sending out short updates that others might find interesting but for which a full blog post might not be warranted).  The kind of discussions I find take place on Twitter are those that I might have with coworkers or friends in the hallway or in line at the cafeteria... were we actually in the same building (or state or country).  (And personally, I often find it can resemble CB radio - for those of us old enough to remember it.)

If you haven't seen this already, I think Common Craft have done the best job of explaining what Twitter is.  (See embedded video below.)

2.  Why is this worthwhile?

Personally, I get a few key things from it:
1.  By observing what other people are saying, I find interesting links, videos, insights or opinions that I might not have come across otherwise.  (I think Robert Scoble said it well - the value isn't how many people follow you - it's how many people you follow.)
2.  It gives me a chance to interact with a community of peers (inside and especially outside of IBM) with whom I don't have regular interaction otherwise (e.g., those "hallway" conversations when we don't share a hallway).
3.  It gives me a chance to share information (both professionally and personally) with others without having to create a full blog post
4.  I can keep track and respond when people say things about my products.

3.  What if I still don't get it?

Don't worry - I really don't think it's for everyone, and my own experience really fluctuates - some days I'm following along and tweeting up a storm, and other times I'll go days without reading or updating.  Try it out - if you find it useful/interesting, keep up with it.  If not, let it go.

4.  My advice:

Try it out, find friends and colleagues who are already using Twitter and go through their following/follower list to find other people you may know that are also already it.  (Which is largely how I built up my own following list).  If you find someone isn't interesting or is posting too much about things you don't care about - stop following them.

5.  Tools:

http://www.tweetscan.com lets you search for (and subscribe to via RSS) keywords
http://www.summize.com is another Twitter search engine
http://www.twubble.net will go through your twitter followers and the people they follow and suggest people you might know based on who you have in common
http://dossy.org/twitter/karma/ will let you compare who you're following and who's following you.
http://quotably.com will let you see threaded conversations (although in my experience it's been rather hit or miss in accuracy and completeness.

Here's Common Craft's explanation of Twitter that I referenced above: