As promised, here’s where I’m going to discuss the pros and cons of the microblogging platform known as Twitter. One of the interesting things to point out when discussing this service is that it is widely agreed that this is not the most technologically advanced microblogging site out there. It has relatively frequent downtime (periods where you can’t access the site at all) and doesn’t offer all the functionality of competitors like Jaiku and Plurk.
What it does have though is people. Some people put the user figure at almost a million, although it is tricky getting conclusive hard data on the subject. The platform also has a number of celebrities like Barack Obama, Shaquille O’Neil and John Cleese. It also has a number of media organizations like Fox News, CNN and NBC News.
This very high number of prominent people using the service has its advantages. It is attracting more and more media attention, which in turn which attracts more users in an accelerating cycle, at least for now. The important question for you to jump on board is what is the point of all of this attention. The first thing I’ll point you to is a list of the top 20 posts in 2008 on the subject of Twitter. There’s a lot of great information there, but I’m going to focus on one article in particular that talks about the top uses of the service. While this list was voted on by a group of marketers, I think it holds for a variety of different types of users.
- Sharing links to items of interest to your network
- Networking for new contacts
- Reinforcing current network contacts
- Promoting specific content
- Re-distribution of content from blog, web site
- Twitter cat posts: flight delays, eating habits, who knows what and why
- Replacement for Facebook updates
- Influencing your network to do and think what you want
- Group and project communications
- Microblogging conferences
- Shilling for Digg and other social news votes
- Pitching journalists and bloggers
As you can see, this list shows a lot of different potential uses. They basically break down into two areas. Social networking uses and work uses. These aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but it helps to break it down in this way.
For me, using Twitter as a socially networking tool fails. As item 6 shows, a lot of this can devolve into fairly irrelevant information that everyone who follows you will now see. This can result in a lot of valuable time lost while trying to get to the useful content like the first two items.
However, as a business tool there is a lot to be said for using Twitter. You can attract attention to your product. You can market yourself as a brand, which is especially useful if you are on the job hunt. You can direct traffic to particular areas of the Internet that you’ve found worthwhile, showing your prowess in getting things done.
So for my money, which in this case is actually none, since Twitter is a free service at this point. Twitter is a very useful business tool, if only because other people are paying attention to it. I find it to be a very poor social networking tool when compared to the powerful integration of something like Facebook, which technically offers many of the same function Twitter does in a closed environment for just the people that you choose.