Tuesday, 3 November 2009

What is this Twitter thing?

I was asked to write an insert for Brainstorm a while ago on "what twitter means for me", and just recently I have some really smart people ask me too. Like lots of completely new tools it is sometimes hard to articulate on the fly. Here is the Brainstorm post, hopefully it helps...

Like most tools, it depends on how you use it. Many people use it as the ideal timewaster in the name of communication. This I call “noise”. Noise, like spam, can ruin the experience of twitter. I spend a great deal of time policing whom I follow to ensure my “signal to noise” ratio is very high. As such, twitter is invaluable to me. It has replaced my RSS feed (a web feed with writers and websites I wanted to hear from) and I have been able to opt out of most of the email subscriptions. The net result is that the amount of noise coming into my inbox is much, much less. This is a good thing, if only to help manage work anxiety.

But it is more than this. It is also a valuable tool to receive good information because it is qualified, by people I value, with an attached, albeit implied, referral. Thus the information has this other dimension of value. And referrals are the most powerful form of marketing.

Lastly, twitter is a great networking tool. Again, at a more subtle level, the people you follow are a vote for that person in most cases. Yes there are those that follow everyone in return for followers themselves. This kind of popularity quest is actually a good sign that you shouldn’t follow that person as they don’t value the real power of twitter, by implication are likely to be "noisy". Those that follow fewer people generally have a more powerful voice and it is these that implicitly pass on a more powerful referral when they speak.
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