Twitter is a micro blogging and social networking service that allows people to communicate using posts of 140 characters or less called tweets. The tagline is: “What are you doing now?”
This might seem like a useless question, but what if what you were doing was reading an interesting article, or watching a funny video or discovering a new band? Not so useless anymore. So you just tell Twitter what you are doing and by doing so you tell your friends, your followers, the world.
Twitter is basically a smaller, more stripped down version of Facebook. Imagine Facebook made simpler to show status messages that can be only 140 characters long, no photos, no long descriptions of links. With Twitter, you don’t have to accept friendship like Facebook. You just follow whoever you feel has tweets that might interest you and they can follow you.
My first exposure to Twitter was on June 13, 2007 while researching social media as a way to build brands. My first follower was my friend @emanzi. So why do I do it?
I tweet to provide and share information to followers who might be interested in the same subjects. I tweet about the latest trends in social media, gadgets, web 2.0, new media, news and any other information that might interest my followers. I tweet to learn and stay informed.
I learn all kinds of things from Twitter, but more especially fields I’m interested in. I follow social media gurus, celebrities, news organizations and corporations whose products I want to keep tabs on.
Twitter can keep you informed in ways you never imagined. You just have to follow the right Twitter accounts. News breaks on Twitter faster than anywhere else: when Michael Jackson died, I got to know within an hour through tweets posted by celeb gossip blog TMZ and Kim Kardashian.
My followers on Twitter got to know about the Kyadondo terrorist attack on July 11, 2010 as soon as it happened because I tweeted about it as I had been there. I tweeted a graphic picture (you can tweet pictures) of my jacket which had come in contact with human tissue and blood thereby increasing credibility in my story. I was called for firsthand account interviews by CNN, BBC and CBS news organizations; all because of that one powerful tweet.
Many people, especially Ugandans, still tweet about what they had for breakfast or random thoughts on the bus or their whereabouts. This is all good but it should be mixed with some information that is beneficial to the followers. It can get boring and they will eventually “unfollow”. The majority of people on Twitter want to learn and stay in the loop of what’s going on in the world. They follow you if you have something of value to say.
Twitter can be used by businesses to market and manage brands and/or monitor what the world is saying about their company or products. Great examples of success stories are Zappos and Dell. Twitter can push sales and help companies manage customer queries instantly.
If ignored though, Twitter can also break a business. Many companies tend to concentrate more on traditional media and ignore social media. A few friends have changed Internet Service Providers because of comments we have posted on Twitter. I have noticed people advise friends to change cell networks and they follow through.
In Africa and in Uganda particularly, social media especially Twitter has not fully caught on but now that Internet access is becoming cheaper and more widespread, more people will jump on.
Social media, such as Twitter, is transforming the way we work and interact with our friends, family and the world at large.
An although Twitter can be boring in the beginning before you fully catch on the concept, it can be very fulfilling and beneficial when it has been totally understood.
And you will soon realize that the wider world has much to offer in the global quest for understanding. And you can be a part of it.
By Stone Atwine, a business owner and social media enthusiast.