Micro-blog service Twitter is the social networking flavor-of-the-month, and with good reason. According to Nielsen Online (through the BBC) Twitter grew 1,689% from February 2008 through February 2009. While still a fraction of Facebook's size, Twitter is getting a lot of buzz.
However, when I discuss Twitter with people I find that more often than not I'm told, "I don't really get Twitter". This is true even for people who are full-on participants in Facebook and so are open to social networking in general. A lot of folks seem to think it's just a lot of noise. "Why do I care what some random person had for lunch?"
So, I thought it might be helpful to explain how Twitter has benefited me. I've had a Twitter account since July 2007 but only started using it frequently in the last few months.
1. Got immediate help when the iPhone 1.11 software upgrade temporarily bricked my iPhone
When Apple released its updated iPhone software in September 2007, I had all sorts of problems. I wrote about my experiences on Twitter and immediately got feedback that a) I wasn't the only one having the problem and b) there were ways to fix it. While I ultimately figured out how to get the issue resolved on my own, it was fantastic being about to troubleshoot in real time with other people going through the same thing.
2. Received feedback about Abstract Edge's website
My company, Abstract Edge, is in the long overdue process of redesigning its website. I've already had a couple of Twitter conversations about what works and does not work on AE's current website. This is fantastic! It's like a free focus group. Of course we can choose to do with the information whatever we want, but how else could we get semi-random feedback for free outside of something like Twitter?
3. Re-built my professional network
Last summer I moved to the Baltimore area. As I had come to realize over time, one of the great things about my company was that it affords me the ability to live nearly anywhere, as long as I have easy access to the Internet. The pros and cons of that decision may make it into another blog post (or several), but one consequence of the move was that I was no longer super-close to my professional network, which was (and largely remains) based in New York. I've been absolutely determined to build up my network in Baltimore, and Twitter has helped enormously. I have literally communicated with dozens of locals within my industry, have become aware of local industry-related events, and have even met many of these people face-to-face. As one example, just this past week I attended Outlet Baltimore, which is an event specifically designed to allow people who meet on Twitter an opportunity to meet in person. Fantastic!
4. Attended a conference virtually
I was interested in attending the BRITE conference in NYC a couple months back but couldn't get away. Nonetheless, I was able to follow several of the talks in real time because a reasonably large number of people were 'tweeting'. I could participate in a back-channel conversation with people who were actually there, could ask questions and received plenty of answers from different points of view. I had a similar experience while attending an online webinar a few months ago. I LOVE this use of Twitter.
5. Helped my sore back
One of the people I'm connected with on Twitter complained of a sore neck, and then later tweeted that Tiger Balm had really helped him. I asked him about it since my upper back has been killing me the last few days. He gave me a recommendation and I'm planning to try it. One thought I had on this though. Wouldn't it make sense for the Tiger Balm company to monitor Twitter for anybody who complains of a sore back, sore neck, sore whatever and actively suggest Tiger Balm to them?
6. Support help from DirecTV
Speaking of companies that seem to be doing at least SOMETHING right on Twitter, I present DirecTV. I had a pretty big support problem recently and several technicians came out to investigate over the course of a couple of weeks. Turns out that the dish itself was not properly attached to our roof and was close to actually crashing down. Two of the technicians had previously claimed to have gone up to the roof to make sure the dish was secure, which as it turned out was a lie. Given how dangerous a situation this had been, I publicly complained about it on Twitter. Within an hour, a DirecTV representative contacted me, asked several questions and launched an investigation. Ultimately, I received a refund. Frankly, just the fact that they seemed so proactive and interested in my problem was comforting and made me feel a little bit better. They handled a crisis situation well, simply because they were monitoring for it.
7. Learned about the Austin Website debacle
Recently there was an outcry in the city of Austin about a local government contract that was about to be awarded to a Californian company to produce a Plone-based website. The contract was for more than $700,000 and many in Austin felt that it was ridiculous to give such a large contract to an outside vendor when there are so many good local tech companies. It turns out there was a lot more behind all of this and some of the facts are still coming out, but I found this entire story fascinating. I got to "speak" directly with Austin locals and defenders on both sides. There was a lot of misinformation going around, in particular about Plone, and I had an opportunity to help educate people on Plone's strengths and weaknesses.
8. Provided Plone education globally
Along the lines of #7, Twitter has given me an opportunity to educate people throughout the world about Plone, a particularly useful open source content management system that Abstract Edge has long used. I have also learned more about Plone (and other CMS platforms) from others - both those inside and outside the Plone community.
9. Found out about new the U2 album
I'm a big U2 fan, and I'm sure I would have learned about it eventually anyway, but the place I first learned that they had a new album coming out was on Twitter. I even learned a bit about how the album compared to previous U2 albums. I was told it was more like Pop than the last two albums - I'm not sure I agree now that I've heard it.
10. Was introduced to the Harmony Universal Remote Control
This one just happened today and I haven't acted on it yet, but I asked on Twitter a simple question about how to get DirecTV's remote working for my audio receiver. I got several responses that pretty much all suggested I replace my remotes with a Harmony remote from Logitech. More than one person gave me specific advice on which model to get, what to look for, etc. Without Twitter, I likely would never have known about this in the first place, let alone been armed with such specific real-life information about the product. Still, again, I wonder where Logitech is in this conversation?
So there you have it - ten reasons why Twitter has been wonderful for me.
Please let me know how Twitter has benefited you.