But is Twitter Useful?

One of the people that Gorgeous and I connected with in Chicago this past weekend was Christine Kane. It probably didn’t hurt that the three of us were all seated in close proximity to a very wild and obnoxious three year old on the same flight into Chicago. That got diverted to Columbus for more fuel after holding too long for bad weather.
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But that’s a story for another time.

I also had the pleasure of sitting at the same table as Christine at the conference. As speakers like Chris Brogan, Liz Strauss, and Terry Starbucker were talking about the people in the room who were using Twitter to communicate with one another (and with folks half a world away) during the conference, Christine would ask the rest of us questions on the side.

They ranged from the basic to the technical, for example…

  • What’s the point? to interact with others
  • Why would you bother? because I like people
  • Can everyone see what I tweet @ someone? Oh, yeah
  • How does the direct message thing work? “d your_friends_twittername” and they’ll get a private message

Prosteletizing

Now I’m a big fan of Twitter. But I don’t try “convince” people that they “have” to use it. Though I do confess to most folks that I was a Twitter skeptic for months. I only started using it after a heavy bout of peer pressure brought to a head by Jim Turner.

You know the kind I’m talking about. “All the cool kids are using it. There’s so much going on there. You’re missing out if you don’t join in.”

I caved over a year ago. It was as much to prove to myself that Jim and the others were wrong about Twitter as anything. Since then Twitter’s grown on me. I’m glad Jim persuaded me.

Pluses to Twitter

Yesterday Christine asked the question How do you use Twitter? It’s a good question which begs the follow on question, Is Twitter even useful?

One of the things I did this past weekend while I had some one on one time with so many prominent social media folks was ask them which social media sites they preferred. Twitter was one site that was mentioned every time.

Here are some of the advantages mentioned.

  • Light Weight – works right in your web browser with a (most times) fast loading page
  • Portable – Easy to use from your cell phone
  • Broad Reach – With so many folks using Twitter you can reach a lot of people with it
  • Diverse User Base – People with incredibly different backgrounds Twitter from all over the world
  • Focused – With its 140 character limit Twitter forces people to get to the point
  • Fast Response Time – People can get real time responses on Twitter

But is Twitter Useful?

Those are all good attributes, for sure. But do they translate into usefulness?

Or is Twitter just a colossal distraction and time waster?

I think the answer to these questions is different for everyone. Here are a few examples of how Twitter can be useful to individuals and businesses alike

Network Expansion
Twitter is an easy way to connect with a very large pool of people very quickly, many of whom would be unreachable through other means. For example I first met Joanna Young on Twitter and had the opportunity to meet her in person this past weekend when she flew to Chicago from Scottland.
Get Quick Answers
Some folks throw questions out on Twitter to get instant feedback. Sure the big names get tons of responses to their queries. But even those of us with more modest Twitter followings can get some light shed on a subject if they are willing to engage the community.
Insight Into Trends
There are so many thought leaders and influencers using Twitter that you can gain an insight into where various communities and technologies are heading just by following them on Twitter.
Increased Profile
With a steadily growing friends list on Twitter you can raise your own “brand awareness” by connecting with more people. The increased interaction can ead to increased visibility over time.

But What About Businesses?

Is there an possibility of a business seeing any value from a presence on Twitter? Absolutely!

Zappos
Just ask Zappos. Their CEO has a Twitter account where he’s actively engaging the Twitter community. But they’ve taken their community involvement a step further. They set up a Zappos Twitter page on their web site with it’s own RSS feed so anyone can track any mention of the name Zappos on Twitter. (Talk about your finger on the pulse of the conversation!)

But Twitter interaction isn’t just a top down thing with Zappos. They obviously encourage their employees to engage the Twitter community. There’s even a page on their site where they list every one of their 286 employees who have Twitter accounts. Note that only 20 of those accounts have more than 200 followers so we’re talking about many smaller circles of influence rather than a few massive ones. Seems like a sound strategy to me

JetBlue
Another corporate example is @JetBlue. JetBlue is an airline that has had customer service egg on its face in the past and has decided to address their issues head on in the effort to put those struggles behind them. Jonathan Fields has a great example of JetBlue’s Twitter Interaction that he posted the other day.

Suffice it to say the story Jonathan shares with us is a tremendous example of how a large corporation like Jet Blue can successfully engage the social media environment. Read his whole post and let us know what you think.

Bottom Line

In the end I have to say, “Yes, Christine. Twitter can be immensely useful, especially to businesses.

Are their potential pitfalls? Of course.

But a sound social media strategy incorporating Twitter and executed well can be a very powerful force working in the favor of a business, regardless of size.

Twitter Follow Me BadgeWhat are your thoughts on Twitter?

And if you want, go ahead and follow me while you’re at it.

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