People come up to me all of the time and ask, “What is Twitter? I just don’t get it.” I stumble for the right words all of the time. It’s not that Twitter is all that complicated, really. I think that it is almost too simplistic that people are grasping for more. Therefore, I am going to do my best to explain simplistically what Twitter’s functions are and how you can use it personally and professionally.
Let me go back a second. Facebook, as we have discussed, was started in 2004, starting on college campuses. When it first launched, it was focused around the college connection. You could input your class schedule, for example, and other people that were in the class at your school, or had been in the class previously, would be grouped together so you could easily find them, share information, or ask them questions. It is actually a function that I have heard college students where I work (Castleton State College) ask for and attempt to build groups for their classes. Anyway, when Twitter first launched, it was immediately open for anyone and everyone. You create a unique user name and short profile. Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, wanted a SMS-based (SMS is the text-messaging component of your phone and stands for “Short Messaging Service) social media sharing sight. In his original blueprints, the examples of statuses are “in bed” and “going to park.” The reason for the 140 character limit was the constraints of SMS.
Facebook and Twitter have different functions. On a personal level, I feel that Facebook is more of a social, personal network (including sharing about and discussion with businesses) and Twitter, although can be social and personal, can also be an extremely helpful professional network. I have multiple Twitter accounts; one personal and one professional. On my personal Twitter, I follow friends, news, organizations and businesses, celebrities, and social media and higher ed professionals. On my professional Twitter account (@localsocialvt), I follow social media, marketing, web professionals, and organizations. The benefit of having both of these accounts is on my professional account; I connect with other people that provide great tips and news. These people follow me to see what information I share and advice I have to give regarding social marketing, as well.
The difference is the categorization and sorting that you can do on Twitter. Twitter has this cool function, called hashtags that group talking points into specific categories. Sometimes, they involve a topical conversation, such as #StateOfTheUnion, for when people are actively involved and commenting on the State of the Union. Last week, during the Internet blackout, many tweets had the hashtag #SOPA. Categories can also be just silly, on the spot made up things, as well. As I write this, #30WaysToMakeAGirlSmile is trending (trending refers to topics that several people are talking about). These hashtags are searchable and the searches can be saved. I have searches saved for #HigherEd, #SocialMedia, #RutVT (category about Rutland) and #Castleton, as these are categories I like to keep up with. Facebook, on the other hand, auto-sorts topics people are talking about, which sometimes does not present topics you want to read about. The search within Twitter targets exactly what you want to find out about.
“So, hey…what happened to Twitter being simple?”
Ok, it is hard to put into words. But Twitter continues to be a popular place to find information and connect with people who share similar interests without ever meeting them or having them know too much information about you. That sounds a little vague, but your profile on Twitter is extremely small and contains very limited information. Therefore, people don’t need to know lots of personal information about you. What they are interested in is the information you have to share; the advice you can give on the expertise you have in an area, for example.
Businesses have found it to be a fantastic customer service and outreach tool. Jet Blue posts their cheap flights once a week. When actor/director Kevin Smith was asked to leave a South West flight because of his “size,” he tweeted about it and started a huge boycott. When Alec Baldwin was recently told to stop playing Words With Friends on his flight, he tweeted about it, which sent fans into a tweeting uproar. Television shows, like the currently-on-hiatus Community, has created Twitter accounts for the characters of the show.
I can not put into words as well as Twitter can why your business should be using their site:
“Twitter connects businesses to customers in real-time. Businesses use Twitter to quickly share information with people interested in their products and services, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and influential people. From brand lift, to CRM, to direct sales, Twitter offers businesses a chance to reach an engaged audience.”
Check out Twitter 101 for Businesses for more information on how to use the site for your business. It is easy to set up and maintain and get real-time feed back. Set up a quick, free page and tweet your new username to me: @localsocialvt.