The Secret of Twitter and 10 Unique Ways to Use it

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I finally get Twitter. Notice the italics on get. That’s the best emphasis anyone can come up with. Twitter is an odd bird*.

It’s taken me over 3 months (it is said the learning curve is 30 days, I’m slow, as usual) to really understand how it works and why the hell I should be using it (I already have a blog!). I’m sure many of you out there are wondering the same thing.

What? You just sign in to Twitter.com get an account and type in a sentence and hit enter, what is there to get? I’ve been doing this for years on MSN/Skype/AIM/Yahoo/FluffyPuppie** already! What’s so different?

That’s what everyone thinks when they first look at Twitter. They then try it out for a couple days and lose interest. This is also the reason why many polls that pop up every few weeks in the media say twitter is a fad and will go away soon (same with blogs). Then why are millions of other people still using it? The answer is, of course, not so easy.

Twitter, on the surface is simple and its allure makes no sense whatsoever.

Some people, like the famous Wil Wheaton, like it due to jotting down ‘Aha!’ or ‘Haha!’ moments, people like Guy Kawasaki use it as an auto-marketing tool. Many people use it as a personal log of what they’re doing (every 5 minutes). I’m sure some people even use it to write down their grocery list in 140 characters.

Twitter is also fantastic for language learning. I’m following several random Japanese (and Hungarian) people simply to read their chatter as it comes up and see if I can comprehend it.

But the reasons why it is so great for the online world (and how it benefits everyone) relates to why blogging is so great. The more things anyone writes about, the more things will get indexed by sites like backtype.com, and by extension, the more words and relevant topics will show up on Google. And Google rules the world.

Along similar lines, it also gives opportunities as an outpost. Chris Brogan touched on outposts a few times on his Social Media blog here. An outpost is basically a Free billboard for potential people to notice/follow you. this includes sites like Facebook, Linked-In, or any site that allows you to have a profile. You can put your contact info and website in there, go do it.

But unlike Facebook, Twitter is limited to 140 characters and Following or Not Following (this simplifies things in such a good way). You want to follow your celebrity idol and send them an @ messages? Go ahead, it’s possible they might even read it and repsond. Even if they don’t respond, you can skip buying your local gossip magazines and read what that celebrity ate for breakfast, directly from the celebrity.

Of course, you have an even higher chance of them responding to your @message if it is simply someone you admire in your field. Like Ron Gilbert.

Honestly, using @messages is a little weird and embarrassing the first few times, but you’ll get used to being ignored and super happy when someone responds (at first) so it’s a pretty good trade off :)

# hashtag topics are another beast and I still haven’t quite figured their potential. The general idea is you can follow a hashtagged # topic as you would follow a person or event. Do you have any tips on why hashtags are awesome?

An amusing warning: Even if you aren’t doing an @ message, what you say can still be found with real-time searches such as backtype and worse, bots which are crawling them. I found this out recently when I heard the news on the radio of a Vanity Fair sponsored poll which, once again, said that Twitter is a fad, and 1/3 of the people think it will fade away (just like blogging and that crazy internet thing). I quickly typed in the following thought (not as an @ message) :

‘Wondering how the target audience of Vanity Fair magazine has anything to do with Twitter. Aside from doing a skewed poll on it, that is.’

@vanityfair picked this up immediately and of course had to make my thought public and set me straight with: ‘Ask our 33,940 followers. RT @Jaybot7: Wondering how the target audience of Vanity Fair has anything to do with Twitter.’

Touche I guess. I don’t blame them either, I probably would have done the same thing. Even if that wasn’t the point I was making (if the polls were correct, it would be *bad* for the VF twitter account) I was a little disconcerted that thinking aloud on twitter, even without an @ or a # will get picked up on and blasted, but then again, this is the internet :)

I tried to make light of it. By saying ‘@vanityfairmag Given that 1/3 of the people in the poll say it’s a fad that will fade it would be 11,313 followers ;)’ just to point out that I really was simply wondering and it’s not earth shaking news. But I still had to deal with all the ‘Zing!’ and ‘Snap!’ and ‘Ha!’ and uh, ‘pow!’ from the 6 people out of 33,940 and my ego was of course hurt a little.

If it ever happens to you, just let it roll off your shoulders and don’t get bent out of shape.

Because there are always smart people like @LibertyLndnGirl who remark:

‘It’s simple: Twitter is just another vehicle to engage with readers. He’s confusing the medium & the message’

Perhaps I was confused. In all fairness, that’s why I didn’t say it directly to @vanityfair and I used the word ‘Wondering’. Then again, let me reinforce this: it is the internet. There is no privacy. :)

If you don’t want people looking at picture of your (anything) that you posted on Flickr, don’t check the privacy box, just don’t upload them in the first place.

That was a bit longer than I expected. And I still have so much more to say about Twitter. I’ll have to continue this in another post later :)

I hope that enlightened you on how and why to use Twitter. That’s at least 10 ideas on how to use it. I didn’t bother to number them, sorry :)

If you’re super curious and wish to follow me, I’m easy to find: jaybot7 ;)

*This is a pun, of a play on words. If it offended you, by not stating that it was a pun, or if it offends you because I do state it is a pun, you are the type of person who ruined the fun of puns in the first place and the world hates you for it. :)
**FluffyPuppie is not real. I made it up.

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