Twitter: still misunderstood by many

I’ve just read yet another article on Twitter: an insight into the goings on at the company’s San Francisco headquarters. While it was interesting enough, I certainly agree that the media’s been saturated with Twitter stories recently. As with any topic repeatedly reported on, people are getting a bit, well, bored of it all.

So, the comments left by readers at the end of the piece were not a surprise. However, they did show that despite all of this coverage (and the millions that use it already), many people still don’t really understand Twitter and how it can be used.

I really don’t care what most of the 35million people who have Twitter are doing in their everyday lives, whether they can put it into 140 or 20 words, I don’t want to read about it.

I just don’t get it. why would I be egotistical enough to think anybody would be interested in my random thoughts?

It’s a site where you can post a status, this has been around for ages. It’s a Facebook but where all you can do is update your status.

I don’t think it’s important that everyone ‘gets’ Twitter or even uses it, but I think it’s interesting how its potential is misunderstood.

If at first you don’t succeed…

What’s my personal perspective? I’ve been using Twitter since the end of 2008, and it’s my second attempt. The first time was a result of feeling I should give it a go to find out what all the hype was about.

Like lots of people, I thought it was basically like the status update on Facebook, so I started out with similar comments to those I would post to my friends. I also looked for my friends on Twitter, but didn’t find many, and so I lost interest. I wasn’t sure what I was getting out of it and it felt like a waste of time.

Second time around, I decided to approach it from a business angle to benefit my knowledge and profile as a web copywriter. So, with an objective in place, I started tweeting about work-related subjects and news that interested me and, more importantly, people I didn’t know.

Facebook for friends, Twitter for business

And it’s here that I think the difference lies. For me, Facebook is for my friends – people who understand and want to read (!) my inane comments about what I’m doing because they know me and have a personal interest.

Twitter has professional benefits, helping me to connect with individuals who I would not otherwise be in touch with. Many are experts in their field and I want to know what they think on related topics. It’s purely a business interest; I certainly don’t care what someone’s eating for lunch and I won’t follow them!

And if you’re thinking of using an example of a celebrity as a ‘friend’ on Twitter, forget it. It’s a business decision to maintain their public profile; would anyone really follow Demi Moore if she wasn’t famous? Of course not. Although Stephen Fry might cut it – but he writes useful tech-related Tweets.

Sharing, spreading and breaking!

So, I don’t think Twitter will ever take off among people such as those that left the above comments. It’s not a Facebook status replacement, which would never work without all of those other elements – photos, comments, etc – that help it all make sense.

Twitter is about sharing information, spreading knowledge and helping to break news rapidly. And, yes, maybe it is an instrument for social change too. Only time will tell.

My Twitter tips

So, if you’re new to Twitter, here are my tips for getting the most out of it.

  • Firstly, don’t use it because you feel you have to; if you have no interest in it, you won’t get anything back from it. But there’s no harm in giving it a try, is there?
  • Decide what you want to get out of it; I wanted to learn more about accessibility, but it’s expanded from there into general copywriting, usability and language.
  • Don’t use Twitter as a way to blatantly market yourself or your company, and don’t expect to find work directly from it.
  • Write thoughtful, useful Tweets (which is possible in 140 characters!) that link to good resources and which provide value to your followers. You’ll soon find interesting contacts in your area following you too.
  • Keep the number of people you ‘follow’ to a minimum (I follow around 175, which is probably too many), to make sure you only hear from the people that really interest you and to avoid too much ‘noise’.
  • If someone follows you (and they’re not following 10,000 other people) take the time to say ‘thanks’. Don’t feel obliged to follow them back though.
  • Try to keep its use under control; it’s easy to lose time on Twitter, especially if you work from home and you’re looking for a distraction!

What do you think? Do you have any additional tips? And if you’re on Twitter too, follow me!

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