How to “Get” Twitter

Twitter - like sands in the hourglass...

Whenever I tell people that I consult businesses on social media strategies, by far the biggest response I get is:

“I don’t get Twitter.”

I’ve conditioned myself not to roll my eyes.  Not because they don’t understand microblogging, but because people seem to equate social and digital media with only Twitter and Facebook.  That’s like equating book publishing with Harry Potter or Hollywood with the Twilight films.

But I’ll save that rant for another day.

On to Twitter.  The “I-don’t-get-Twitter” response is generally followed by:

“Why would anyone want to read about what some guy had for lunch?”

My reply back is generally:

“Well, if the writer is the restaurant critic for the New York Times maybe you would want to know what she had for lunch.”

There’s no doubt that Twitter is easy to explain, but difficult to understand.

So let me give it a try.

Twitter is the modern day equivalent of the telegraph service – if the telegraph service had been free, accessible and operated by anyone.  Quick, pithy missives of 140-characters that can be fired off from computers or mobile devices.  While the messages can, indeed, be about what someone ate for lunch, most of of the time they are about what activity has captured their attention.

So think of Twitter as a sharing mechanism.  A collective of news and information that has people talking.

The power of Twitter doesn’t lie so much in the condensed missives, but in it’s ability to link users to the content that has gripped their attention.  Those are the tiny URLs that often accompany the messages.  These links have the ability to direct people back to news articles and blog posts, news and information, photographs and videos, jokes and parodies and even to other social networks.

Twitter is instant and at any time gives an aggregated view of what more than 10 million people view as important – or least worthy of their attention.  From the latest celebrity gossip, to sports scores, to important breaking news.  All of it is being tabulated and observed on Twitter – in teaspoon-sized scoops.

There’s is no better medium in the world for discovering the “gist” of what is happening – globally – in a few seconds.  And if you need more information – then there are hundreds – if not thousands – of tiny links to click that bring you more details.

That’s all you need to “get” Twitter.  It’s the headline with the link to the details.  It’s the quick, concise version of what’s happening – of what is capturing our attention.

Tweet that!


Photo courtesy of Rosaura Ochoa’s Flickr stream

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8 Responses to “How to “Get” Twitter”

  1. I just posted this on Facebook. I was going to Tweet it, but I was afraid I’d rip a hole in the space-time continuum!

  2. Now that made me laugh. Thanks Alan!

  3. Excellent post! I get the same response whenever I mention twitter. The service is an information engine and an attention barometer.

  4. yeah, i guess so..

  5. It was very helpful (not)

  6. It was very good and intresting (not really)

  7. Thanks, Bob (not).

  8. I do not create a great deal of remarks, however i did a few searching and
    wound up here How to Get Twitter | HighTalk. And I do have a couple of
    questions for you if it’s allright. Is it simply me or does it seem like some of the comments come across like they are coming from
    brain dead visitors? 😛 And, if you are posting on additional sites, I’d like to follow everything
    fresh you have to post. Would you make a list of all of your social pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

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