What is Twitter for?

by Dave on January 11, 2009

in Twittering

Whenever I mention Twitter to anyone who wasn’t previously aware of it, the first question they ask is always ‘What is it for?’

Like many social web services, it can be difficult to explain the concept of Twitter. I find it is best to respond with another question: ‘Well, what is talking for?’

‘Er, telling people about stuff. Asking questions. Finding out what’s going on.’

That’s what Twitter is for, too. It’s just like talking.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andrew January 11, 2009 at 4:48 am

"But what's talking for? Really? How do you monetarise it? All those people talking is surely a drain on profits?" – and other clueless comments we get when trying to explain what talking/Twittering is for. Some people get it and others …

2 Paul_Evans January 11, 2009 at 10:23 am

Here's a possible answer: It's good to have a lot of people telling you what they're up to in your peripheral vision – and it's good to be in lots of other people's peripheral vision. It makes you more interactive and interactivity is a public good.

So Twitter.

3 NeilWilliams January 12, 2009 at 7:06 am

My usual response is "try it, then ask me again".

4 Liz Ixer January 12, 2009 at 10:12 am

twitter is not easy.
Sure it's talking, like entering a massive room full of others talking and you're stood in the corner. Some Tweeters are fab at drawing you in, others seem incapable of hearing a word you say. Just like real life, eh?

Being a newbie on Twitter, I found it hugely difficult to pick up. There is an art to it and its full of tumbleweed moments when you tweet at someone and the silence is deafening.

I think once you've 'mastered it' , its a very valuable source of information, a good way to connect and to share but when you are trying to convince people of its value, especially those less confident with social media, saying 'just try it,' isn't enough.

Especially if when they get there, they feel like the new kid who's just joined the class halfway through the year…

5 jim January 13, 2009 at 1:24 am

It's for sad people.

6 Jon Worth January 13, 2009 at 9:14 am

Also have a look at this from the Commoncraft Show – a sweet way to explain it.

7 Liz Ixer January 13, 2009 at 11:55 am

Yes I've seen that. It's great isn't it? It was one of the things that convinced me of the value of it (that and a persuasive friend) but (and there is a but), I still think there is a set of skills to getting the most out of Twitter (and the need for a fairly thick skin).

Dave has said its just like talking, well, actually it is talking and the art of Twitter is the same as the art of conversation. Invite people to participate and acknowledge their contribution, make them feel welcome, engage with them and show some interest, draw out what is interesting from them, give them the confidence to start new conversations.

There's a lot of advice out there on what not to do to 'annoy' your fellow tweeters but very little on how to master the finer points.

8 Andrew Beeken January 15, 2009 at 9:47 am

I think that talking is a great description of Twitter, however I find that I also use it more for listening. I've picked up loads from listening to people on Twitter, following links, learning new things and taking things on board. So it works both ways! I just need to find something interesting and new to say myself… :(

9 Liz Ixer January 15, 2009 at 2:15 pm

I agree.

After all conversation is a two way process and listening is also a skill. I too find lots of new blogs/websites, useful info for the site and my own professional development, news of events etc on Twitter (as well as a few laughs).

I'd add another definition of talking to Dave's above which is building relationships with people. Tweeting to people about personal stuff they mention helps to start that process. I actually believe Twitter is a very complex process (like talking) although looks easy on the surface and rather a fascinating one.

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