What the hell is twitter all about?

The twitter.com micro-blogging website has taken off in a big way over the last year. At first glance the potential and sheer power of this gem of a website website is deceptively well hidden in its simplistic interface. The twitter website asks the following question to the visitor “what are you doing”, and allows for you to type a response into a 140 character limited text field.

Every time you type a response to the question, your response is pasted onto your profile page, and also slotted in with everyone elses responses on the main twitter page, in near real time. Now some people have slated the twitter service, asking why would anyone be interested if I am ‘out shopping’ or ‘watching tv’, and why would anyone want to let the world know the fact. These people obviously have not used the system for any length of time, or thought very hard about the possibilities available. I am gonna outline a few reasons why it is such a great service, that already there are clones popping up, with big business trying to jump onto the twitter bandwagon.

Twitter is accessable on the twitter.com website, but also via plugins for your browser, or widgets for your computer. I personally have the twitter plugin for firefox running, and everytime I get an update or need to update my status, I do it from my status bar, I dont even have to visit the twitter site.

One of the great features of twitter is the ‘follow’ option. A twitter user is able to ‘follow’ the ‘tweets’ or posts of another fellow twitter user, basically keeping track of everything they are doing. How is this a great feature? One way is where two or more twitter users can keep each other updated on work or projects they are working on together, by posting to twitter. Imaging an office where everyone knows exactly what each other is working on at all times, what someone on the team is waiting for from another member and so on, all updated in near real time. Keep team members up to date on schedules, time changes, sign offs, events etc. Followers are also able to receive updates via email as well as rss feeds of your profile page.

Its possible to let followers know exactly what website you are on, supply the url, and invite them to the address. Think about that for web marketing purposes! Because your posts are added to the main twitter feed, as well as your profile page, other twitter users who arent even following you will also see your posts with web addresses. Imagine you wanted to promote a competition or something on a website, and needed loads of traffic fast, making a post to twitter could be the solution.

Twitter is mobile! Thats right, twitter can be operated from all decent mobile phones! You are able to keep track of the people you are following, as well as update them via your mobile phone. Think how cool that could be to get breaking news delivered direct to your phone from someone you are following. Speaking of news, many news websites and reporters have already made profiles for themselves, and are already posting headlines and breaking news stories. All you have to do is follow the profile, and you could be getting breaking news on your mobile from your favourite newspaper within seconds of it happening! Forget going to press, loading onto a website etc, that all takes time, now you can get a news story within seconds of it happening. Even some fire departments, police stations, community watch projects etc, have begun to use twitter to keep the public informed.

Many corporations have also seen the potential, and have started using twitter to advertise specials, sales, competitions etc to followers. Some have even started to use twitter to keep sales reps, managers and other employees up to date, and informed of orders, problems, meetings, presentations etc. Even some celebrity personalities have also seen the potential and have started to use twitter as a means to keep their fans updated with what they are doing. This goes too for industry leaders in their fields, who have almost cult like followings of twitter fans, who lap up every post you make. Some politicians have also started using the twitter service in their election campaigns! Yep, keeping the voters informed all the time, building loyalty, and continually expressing their policies directly to the mobile phones and desktops of potential voters!

One feature I like about twitter is the ability to see who is following a particular user. So I can see who a competitor / leader / celebrity / personality is following, and who they basically feel is worthy to recieve updates from. I have taken the time to in turn follow these people myself, after all, if person x feels they are worth following, maybe I should be following them too. This has worked in reverse too, where I have got notification of people following me, who live on the other end of the world, and who I have never met.

A variety of great twitter related websites have also started, all enhancing the twitter experience for the browser. From showing the geographical location of twitter users on a map, to a great one which allows you to organise and group your twitter contacts, enableing you to post updates to specific groups instead of all your followers. Even Facebook.com has been effected, with a variety of twitter plugins available.

For me, twitter is amazingly powerful, and is about to explode in popularity as soon as the rest of the web catches on to this already extremely busy web service. Currently there is around 500 000 active users of the twitter service, which incidently is running on a Ruby on Rails system for you geeks out there.

If you are not a member already, join NOW, and while you are at it, you may as well visit my profile and follow me! Visit http://twitter.com/southafricadude

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    I don’t really agree with your point of view, but I uderstand you and from where it comes… Seems I can’t really see the usefullness of Twitter in my online efforts.

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    Informative blog…