A lot of people have explained what Twitter is about but I would like to show how it was a natural outcome of what the web has done to our reading habits.
Of course, some people use twitter in the way it was intended – to keep in touch with friends and family. And they actually tweet every hour or so to let us know what they are doing. But some people have 1000s of followers. And some have 10,000s. One of my followers has 120,000 people following him.
One of my followers has 124,542 followers. Can they all be interested in what he is doing all the time?
All these people do not care what a person is doing every hour of the day. In effect, what many of these people are doing in using Twitter as a way of keeping up with what is happening with subjects that interest them. Which begs the question – why use Twitter? We already have RSS feeds.
Twitter has one big advantage
It is well known that on the internet the most important words should be at the beginning. This is because:
- People skim and read the first words more
- If the test is in a feed or in a subject line the trailing words can get cut off
- Search engines look at the first words first
What Twitter does is impose the discipline of being concise. If we get a feed we don’t always get the complete thought because the writer was unaware that she will be cut off. However with Twitter the writer is restricted to 140 characters so they must put thought into every word. Much in the way the Readers Digest would provide concise versions of longer articles; Twitter provides a short synopsis of articles, blogs, and sometimes complete thoughts.
So the main advantage of Twitter is that instead of lopped off sentences, we get short tweets that are well thought out. And all of us prefer to scan short versions before we commit to longer versions, right? There are other advantages also. One example is that when you scan your Twitter, you view many feeds all at once-saving time–whereas if you have RSS feeds to your email client you have to click and review each one separately.
That is why if your business doesn’t have time to deal with Twitter, you can still use it as a feed from your blog. That way people can quickly scan your blog’s first 140 characters on their iPhone, Blackberry or even on Twitter. And if the Tweet is good they will click through to your blog.
Of course, the Readers Digest was often accused of skewing the meaning. No doubt, after you click through some tweets you may find that the longer version does not meet the promise of the first 140 characters. Nothing has changed except that everything is getting much shorter.