Thursday, July 9, 2009

What's all the Hubbub with Twitter?

Close friends will probably tell you that I stay on Twitter. Tis true, although I'm sure I could do even more. With guys like Robert Scoble, Wayne Sutton, Louis Gray, and Zee, who appear to be online 24 hours a day, I am barely scratching the surface.

Today, I would like to spend some time writing about Twitter and my fascination with it. In a recent Facebook conversation, I ran into a group of people that equated Twitter to the Black Plague of 1347. Ok, not really THE plague, but it was clear these individuals disliked the idea behind microblogging. One or two admitted they didn't understand the fundamental concept of Twitter, so for you, Cousin Amanda, I dedicate this entry.

Like many of you, I first heard about Twitter from a friend, or was it something I read. Sorry, doesn't matter. Knowing me the way I do, I immediately signed up to see what the all the hype was about. I recall viewing the tutorial that described Twitter and how best to use it. My initial idea was to use Twitter as a single method of updating all my friends and family with what I was doing. At this point, I was using e-mail and text messaging a lot. I tired of repeatedly writing the same things over and over, so Twitter seemed like a perfect solution.

It didn't take long to figure out that none of my friends or family had any plans of actually using Twitter, so posting to it seemed like a waste of clever and humorous updates. As a result, I returned to the usual e-mail, texting, and Facebook. I even remember thinking to myself, why would anyone really care what I eat, watch, or do throughout the day. It's boring.

Things changed for me after I dug deeper into reading technology and web related blogs. I noticed that many of the leading personalities were using Twitter to communicate with each other. I thought to myself, "How fascinating!"

Immediately, I returned to my old Twitter account, which lay dormant for quite some time. I began making connections with known bloggers and forcing my closest friends to follow me. When necessary, I can be fairly convincing. At that moment, the sales pitch focused on Twitter. If that didn't work, I would just bully them into submission (sorry, sis!).

It didn’t take long to realize that simply reading was not enough. No, I had to begin contributing. The more I shared, the more people responded. Of course, I made certain to respond to other people as well. Doing so made the interaction much more enjoyable.

Soon, I was "tweeting" left and right. I talked about what I ate, watched, did, and heard. I remember thinking that I need to be an equal opportunity tweeter, so I spread my topics around. One moment I might talk about business, web development, movies, quotes, news, and then back to more personal things. I realized that by doing this I had a nice variety of followers who looked for me to share random thoughts and hyperlinks.

For a moment, I fell into the mimic mode, copying what I saw other popular people do. They seemed to share links and news a lot. So, I followed suit. I jumped online and began posting links to everything I read. For a while, it looked like I was taking over people's computer screens. This was even truer after I connected Facebook to Twitter.

Yes, I received the occasional "dude, don't you ever sleep?" comment, but it didn't stop me from sharing. In fact, I gained a huge following because of it. Well, it was sort of a combination between sharing good information, Mr. Tweet, and following everyone. Quick note, following everyone resulted in pure chaos. I had so many tweets flowing across my screen that I couldn’t keep up with those I cared about most. Much later, I decided to strip the large number of people I follow in an effort to increase interaction between a few. Yes, it caused a loss in numbers but I’m happy with my decision.

Anyway, after reading another article on common types of Twitter users, I found that I was progressing through a number of types. Some of them I liked and others were more annoying. I didn't want to appear annoying so I slacked off with the number of news articles I shared.

Also during this time, I found a bunch of great resources to accommodate my extensive Twitter usage. I used Tweetdeck, Digsby, and later Peoplebrowsr. Each one had its benefits, but they also gobbled up my computer's memory. It got so bad that I just uninstalled them all and returned to the Twitter web site. I was a little disappointed in the lack of tools, but at least it didn't lock up every hour.

The lesson I gained from using those tools is that people talk shop online. Many think Twitter is only for mindless chatter, but there are a number of good connections you can find online. I often learn about the latest web trends and world news as it happens, remember the terrorists in Dubai? Well, trapped hotel guests tweeted their positions and the positions of the terrorists to law enforcement officers while the world watched. That was incredible.

Since that time, I have increased my support of Twitter. I have attempted to attract friends at work and home to join the fun. Today, they too are realizing how enjoyable Twitter can be. How do I know? They all get this blank stare on their face and type frantically. It’s hilarious! Now, if you have a smart phone (i.e. Blackberry, iPhone, etc.) then it gets even better because folks are taking pictures, video, and tweeting throughout the day.

Another quick story, I went to a Triangle Tweetup in Durham, NC a few months ago. Essentially, this is an event where Twitter users within a geographic area get together in-person. We put our Twitter usernames (@damondnollan) on a nametag and walk around to meet old online friends or get acquainted with the new. The event was a blast and I learned that online conversation is cool, but it only enhances the connection we have offline.

There is so much more I could say about Twitter and the supporting web applications, but I'll save those for another day. For now, if you haven't done so already, take this opportunity to stop by Twitter.com and create an account. Be sure to look me up and follow me.

Remember, Twitter is only a tool. The real fun begins when you seek to connect with others in a new way. I look forward to seeing you online.

Until next time...

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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