Twitter is one of those tools that you either "get it" or not. It’s really that simple. With that in mind there are ways for you to learn how Twitter can be a tool for success for you, you & your peers, or your organization.
While I dislike the "why Twitter is bad" articles that pop up around the net, this post by Michael Krigsman over at ZDNet does bring up a good point. Like all social networking and media tools, it can be used for improper uses as well as productive ones. Had to get that out of the way before we continue – I do recommend you read Michael’s post though.
Ok, it’s more than that. You’ll not only need to participate, but have people on Twitter that you want or need to participate with. The key to Twitter is to recognize that it is an unfiltered conversation stream. Having people to converse with, whether that’s special interest groups, friends, coworkers, project teams, departmental groups, or an entire enterprise – it’s having the people there that brings the value.
Imagine having geographically diverse project team in a live conversation outside of a conference room during the entire business day. Set aside the "time waster" argument for a minute (it is valid) and look at the communication and thought-sharing aspects.
Additional features of Twitter, help enhance communication and build community. Here are a few;
- Public – It is, in essence, a public forum so a person needs to think more about things before committing them. Or at least realize that what you "tweet" can be transmitted to as many followers as you have, and optionally to the public Twitter stream.
- Brevity – This is my favorite one. Twitter imposes a 140 character limit for each post. What this does is keep interactions short and quick. It also encourages you to (again) think about what you are trying to say. It really helps a person become a better communicator and writer.
- Unstructured – Your "Twitter stream" will have tweets from everyone that you follow (your friends list) that can sometimes appear out of order. There are also no "threading" tools (though many request these) to sort conversations into manageable threads. Also, there are usually several conversations going on at once. It can be a bit overwhelming.
Overall, if you find the reason to give Twitter a try, you will likely find value in the tool. If you just want to see what the hype is all about, you may not. However, if you do jump in – use the search tool to look for people you know – that helps the learning curve a bit. Also, look for your favorite bloggers – they may already be there! There is also some great search tools as well.
Finally, you can find me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/rickmahn – I’m on every day and am happy to answer any questions or help find people on Twitter if you like.