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Twitter for Dummies – Part 1: more than a microblog

Posted on Jul 17th, 2009 by

Stop, he is twittering

I realize how difficult it is to explain what the Twitter phenomenon really is all about. Does “Twitter is a micro-blogging tool” associate it too much with “blogging”: “I publish, you read, and if all goes well, you might even comment”?

Maybe this is what Twitter was originally intended for, but how do you explain to anyone it is much more than just ‘publishing 140 character content’. How do you explain the dynamic and the power of a Twitter social community of “followers”?

Another challenge is to explain that apart from ””, the web interface for Twitter, there are hundreds of add-ons and tools that make Twitter work for you.

I use Twitter for:

  • yep, publishing “content”: links I find interesting, updates about what I do (with text, pictures and video)
  • build a social community with people who have similar interests by interacting with my followers
  • get people interested in my blogs by tweeting links to new posts
  • get help and feedback by asking questions, posting polls
  • give help and feedback by answering questions and polls
  • monitor news and trends
  • reading up on what others are reading and find interesting
  • monitor the latest updates from sites and subjects I am interested in, almost as an alternative to an RSS reader
  • get inspiration
  • live blogging from events, workshops
  • have fun

But the person next door might use it for something completely different:

  • fundraising
  • announcing where you can get free Pizzahut coupons
  • rallying up the masses to protest against the Iran violence
  • bash CNN, just because they are such an easy target
  • broadcasting what second hand items she has for sale
  • stay in touch with friends

Is Twitter worth the trouble?

Yes it is. Here are three cases which showed me the power of twitter:

1. Late one evening, someone in my Twitter users’ community tweeted me:

Are you guys expelled from Sudan? This article (link) says so!

The linked article indeed stated the organisation I work for was expelled from Sudan, around the time 13 NGOs were forced to leave the country. Which was incorrect. As this issue was very sensitive for us, I contacted our Public Information people, who called the publishers of the website. Half an hour later, the –potentially damaging- statement was corrected. Without Twitter, I would never have caught that article.

2. A few months ago, I tweeted:

Looking for a webguru to help us analysing a complicated portal development project

Sure enough someone from my community replied. He was available within two weeks. We started communicating via Email, and in the end, he actually found a grant from the Gates Foundation to fund his trip. I not only found a webguru, but got him fast and for free.

3. Last week, I tweeted:

Writing a post about blogplatforms. I know Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr but looking for a TypePad geek to help me out

Three people responded and assisted me in the article, filling in the blanks I left. Two were part of my followers’ community, the other one was just searching Twitter for the keyword “TypePad”.

Twitter for Dummies

In my series, “Twitter for Dummies”, or call it “A Twitter Primer”, I cover this social media phenomenom from the bottom up. What Twitter is, what the different components are, best practices, the tricks of the trade, and a list of the most useful add-ons. How to make Twitter work for your nonprofit purposes?
In the tradition of BlogTips, I illustrate these posts with my own experiences.

In the next post we tackle “How to explain Twitter as a social networking tool?”

Interesting links to wet your appetite:

An analysis of fundraising with Twitter
Using Twitter for nonprofit and advocacy
How to use Twitter as a Twool
7 uncommon uses for Twitter

Cartoon courtesy Boston Globe (Mike Luckovich)

4 Comments to “Twitter for Dummies – Part 1: more than a microblog”

  1. Jonny says:

    “Interesting links to wet your appetite”. The correct expression is with “whet” not “wet”

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