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What’s the Use in Twitter? Where is the Value?

I’ve been in all-day meetings here at work, and during a break I Twittered some of my thoughts from the meeting and casually mentioned that I was doing so to someone who was looking over my shoulder. My comments drew some interesting responses from some of my colleagues:

“What’s Twitter?”
“What a waste of time.”
“Why does anyone care about what you have to say about these meetings?”

You may have had similar experiences in trying to explain a new technology, social networking, Twitter specifically, or quantum physics, for example.

The discussion really boiled down to “What is the value in a tool like Twitter?” I’m always frustrated when people fail to see the value in new technologies or the revolution occurring right in front of our faces - the use of social media, social networks, web working and so on. Some of this frustration probably stems from my own enthusiasm for such tools, but I’ll bet I am not alone.

  1. Twitter is another tool I use to communicate. Not everyone can stop what they are doing to speak on the phone, or even find the time to schedule a call. Not everyone gets to their email right away. IM is blocked in some companies. Etc.
  2. Twitter is a tool I use to find new topics. I find it to be an interesting look at the things people do with technology, and a way to discover new tools and approaches I had not yet found myself.
  3. Twitter is fast becoming the quickest way to reach some of my authors. At least one has indicated she prefers to be connected via twitter.
  4. Twitter is where conversation is happening, in real time, around the globe. I have had several interesting discussions with not only my authors, but authors from other publishers via twitter.
  5. For every 100 “Walking my dog.” tweets (and there a lots of those) there is 1-2 real golden nuggets that lead to a new author, a new book, a new topic to investigate.
  6. I am approaching 100 “followers” on Twitter - people who read what I say. 100 is not a lot, but as that number grows what a great platform for me to talk about my books, my authors, and my company.

In the end, Twitter is just another tool. It’s value is in how you use it.

Photo credit:  Safanna

  • Queenbeee94
    I personally have no idea what twitter is for!!!
  • Bridie Macdonald
    correction - Downside is that the real time conversation and ability to see what is trending because you are not involved is gone period.
  • Bridie Macdonald
    It depends upon how well adapted you are at filtering out the noise. You could say the same thing for Google (why do I care what some bots bring me - I'll use a human search engine it's "better"). If you can't do that well (filtering), or it's overwhelming, then sure, ignore Twitter and any other web 2.0 platform that is massively popular and just pay attention to the channels that have done that for you already. Downside is that the real time conversation and ability to see what is trending because you are involved is gone period. And information = value in today's marketplace.
  • Roy Rivers
    Although a tool - it is not useful. Even the next "copycat" version with advancements won't be useful either. Twitter is a waste of time! There is no business opportunties with it (advertising), which in the end will kill it. It will never go away, per say, but classified it as netscape! (period)
  • Jim Minatel
    I used twitter for a few days this spring while at Mix07. It was actually useful to follow a few people I was stalking, er, trying to get to write a book. But even in that limited setting, the noise was deafening. I do like your suggestion on search though and may give that a try even though I will happily continue to ignore the live minute by minute updates.
  • Hi Jim,

    Thanks for adding to the conversation.

    You are right, signal to noise ratio is an issue, but I'm guessing that you haven't actually used Twitter. If all one did was watch the Public Timeline, then you would definitely be overwhelmed by the noise.

    Instead, I search Twitter for specific things, and then choose to follow or not follow that particular person.

    I also tend to take a peek at who the people I have trusted enough to follow are following and sometimes add them as well.

    When you filter this way, the noise level is greatly reduced.

    I think you would be surprised how many programmers and developers - ones you know - actually discuss the projects they are working on, ask questions, point out new tools and so on.

    Try searching Twitter for the term "Wrox" - there are conversations about our products everyday. Some from readers, some from competitors, and some from our authors.

    Try to think of it as less IM, and more micro-blog.

    No matter if you use Twitter or not, I think we both agree that its one of many tools we can use to make a connection to readers, partners and authors.
  • Jim Minatel
    "In the end, Twitter is just another tool. It’s value is in how you use it." Exactly. The problem for me is, a tool that's generating a noise-to-signal ratio of 50 to 1 or 100 to 1 (by your estimate) for me, isn't useful. If I have to wade through 100 dog walking twits for 1 useful comment, it just isn't worth my time.
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