Monday, July 13, 2009

Getting Twitter!

In Recent times, Twitter has been enjoying massive adoption.It has moved from a service that appeals to only geeks; the early adopters to one that celebrities now flock to. People are signing up in multitudes. Between Feb 2008 and Feb 2009, twitter grew by 1,382%. Presently its user base exceeds 10 million.

But despite this huge adoption of twitter, a whole lot of people still don’t get it. A lot of people don’t see the utility in the service and they wonder why the Buzz. And this is why we have a lot of people signing up on twitter only to abandon the site after a sparing interaction with it. There are quite a lot of dormant accounts on twitter; according to Neilson Online More than 60% of Twitter users stop using the site one month after signing up for the service. Even amongst my circle of influence, I see this trend. I know an ample amount of people who get on twitter, wonder what the big deal is, leave a couple of tweets and then just abandon the site for the next couple of months.

The issue is that Twitter is so d*mn easy to sign up for but far much harder to figure out what to do on it and how to get benefits from it. It is in the figuring out “the benefits” which is seemingly not that apparent, that a lot of people miss it. I will quickly outline why I think this is so.

It Starts from having the right expectations!
Getting twitter starts from knowing what twitter is not. Twitter is not a social networking utility. A lot of people brand Twitter as a social networking site, but that is not the case. And this is where the problem starts. We have people moving to twitter with the expectation of getting the social networking experience sites like facebook,hi5 or MySpace provides but only to be disoriented when all they see is a “what are you doing” sign, with a slew of twitter lingo: hash tags, @ replies and shortened urls.

An analyst once described twitter as “a broadcast medium rather than a [medium for] intimate conversation with friends”.

I know folks who wouldn’t have taken interest in Twitter if not for the fact that access to Facebook has been blocked during office hours. So they move on to twitter expecting the same user experience they get from Facebook...

But Twitter is not a Social Networking Utility!

Then who do you follow on Twitter.
The quality of utility you derive on twitter is directly related to the quality of tweets of your twitter following. A lot of people have express sentiments similar to this:

“I don’t care that someone is going to take a shower, eat a sandwich, or go workout. That doesn’t make a difference in my life. Twitter is just a time waster”

Well, what are you doing following folks who only tweets about eating amala for breakfast? And what happened to following “stock quotes, project status, thought leaders, breaking news etc”

For example, my interest tilts more in the direction of technology, so if you check out my followings on twitter, you will see it is made up of people who largely tweet around technology. This is where I get to discover new tools, read interesting articles and generally stay on top of what is going on where technology is concerned. As previously describe: Twitter is more of a Broadcasting medium, so if I want to enjoy it, I tune my receiver to channels that broadcast contents that interests me. That is, I follow folks whose tweets, I find useful.

So you want more utility from twitter? Cut off the noise, find folks who tweet on issues that interest you and start following them.

How do you Access Twitter
I would say this factor is the most important factor in determining the level of usefulness one derives from twitter. It might sound kinda strange, but pointing your browser to is not the best way to consume twitter. (But sadly, this is the first way starters get to interact with the site) But when a little thought is put into it, then it becomes obvious that using the web is not the optimal way of accessing Twitter. To enjoy twitter, I would, instead, advise the usage of third party applications.

The thing is this; the very nature of a service would dictate the way it is best consumed. Twitter by its very nature which is centered on tweets, calls for a non intrusive user notification paradigm.

Compare the ease between having to go to every now and then in other to see your tweets, to having a third party application do the checking for you.

So I’ll say, sign up on twitter and then go find one of these third party applications. Since I am a die-hard fan of Firefox, I have found TwitterFox as my Twitter client of choice. It is a Firefox extension that brings my tweets to me via Firefox as I surf the web, meaning I can go ahead with being busy on the web, doing other things and on having new tweets, I get to see it via a pop up; very non intrusive.

And whenever I have a thought I want to tweet, doing so is as easy as clicking on the Twitterfox icon to start tweeting away...

You can also find other interesting ideas on how to utilize twitter, here, here and here, but it all starts with having the right expectation of twitter, follow people with quality tweets, and start using TwitterFox.(or any other third party client for twitter) ;)