Twitter 101, Episode 2: Faster than earthquakes

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Today, welcome back Mr. Attack Resistance for his second guest blog about Twitter–why Twitter is faster than earthquakes.

Here’s the second installment of my three part series on the ins and outs of Twitter. If you missed the first part, you can find it hereor you can read this brief recap:
First there was fire. Then shadow puppets. Everyone hates shadow puppets now, unless you’re this guy. 45,000 years go by until it occurs to someone to write down their thoughts. Most probably a husband trying to document what he actually said. Another 4,000 years brings printing presses, so we can blame Gutenberg for US Weekly. Then telegraph, then telephone, radio, TV, fax, ARPANET, Al Gore’s Interwebz, e-mail, Sixdegrees.com, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter.
So let’s talk about why you should use Twitter. The most prevalent piece of feedback I get about Twitter is from people who claim they don’t “get it”. One person even said, publicly, “What is the point of Twitter? Only 140 characters? I don’t get it.” It’s worth noting that this statement is 66 characters long and was made as a Facebook status. The point, of course, is that most people already get it, they just don’t understand how to function in a social media realm that isn’t constantly bombarding them with ads or invitations to milk a pink cow that exists strictly as a series of 1s and 0s. Let’s strip Facebook down to its core and see what is left after the fluff is removed:
  •  Status updates – Small snippets of text used to start conversations or make declarations. Typically just a couple of sentences.
  • Photos – People take a picture, then upload it to Facebook. Little known fact: This was, originally, one of the main reasons for having a Facebook page.
  • Links – You read a funny blog post, and then share it with your friends.
  • Private Messages – You want to talk to a friend about something that is potentially inflammatory, but don’t want the drama that will come from saying it publicly.
  •  Event Invitations – You’re celebrating the end of political ads by gathering all your friends together and drinking copious amounts of gin. One message allows you to invite everyone and see who’s come.
These real cows want you to Tweet

Ready for a bombshell? Twitter can do all of these things. Best of all? You’re not going to get buried in invitations to join an electronic mob or to unlock new jewels in some weird solitaire game, and there will be far, far fewer instances of that one person you said hello to one time in high school friending you and subjecting you to all of their personal drama. See, with Twitter, you’re not subjected to requests to be on someone’s list of followers like in Facebook. Someone follows you and they see what you tweet. If you like what they have to say you follow them back. If their BS gets too annoying you just unfollow them. It doesn’t send them a message or anything, you just stop seeing what they tweet. The end.

More than that, though, Twitter is much more searchable than other social media. This is accomplished, in part, by using the vaunted hashtag. I’ll talk more about hashtags tomorrow, when we get into the how of Twitter, but right now you just need to understand that it’s a searchable tag that is used to group like comments together. The best part, to me, is that when trends start happening you can see this instantly and globally. 
For instance, during the rather rare Eastern quake in 2011 people were reading tweets about the earthquake moving up the coast before the shaking started. They were mainly “WTF? Was that an #Earthquake?” tweets, but I can foresee an early warning system that could automatically alert people in the affected area (outside of the epicenter, of course). Maybe then Italy could pull their head out of their asses and release those scientists they jailed for not predicting an earthquake. Because of this ability, and because I am addicted to my timeline, I typically know about regional, national, or global events long before typical media outlets have even begun to think about what to say. 
Here’s a great for instance: On November 10th, 2012 at around 11PM EST a house exploded in Indianapolis, killing two, injuring others, and damaging lots of surrounding property. The first tweet I saw about it was at 11:11 PM EST. In just ~10 minutes after a catastrophic event occurred roughly 100 miles away from me I heard about it from a friend in the area. They didn’t call, they didn’t text, they told everyone in their followers list at the same time. Within a few hours there was a hashtag floating around that allowed for easier tracking. #IndyBoom started trending and suddenly the nation is in on the whole affair. There was the inevitable dust up as some people got a little offended about the seeming crassness of #IndyBoom, but these are people that probably don’t understand that succinctness is key when communicating in this venue. If you were watching the evening news in Indianapolis you would not have heard about it. Twitter is faster than your local news station.
So! Let’s review. Twitter is great because:
  1. Does everything Facebook does. 
  2. No farms, no mobs, no annoying invitations. 
  3. No high school BS drama about friending or unfriending someone. 
  4. Faster than your local news stations. Also, earthquakes. 
  5. Searchable. You can find out what people are saying about your favorite subject at any given time. Anywhere in the world. 
  6. Easier to share other people’s content. 
  7. I’m there.

Tune in tomorrow for a lesson on how to get started with Twitter and some suggestions on who to follow, who to avoid, and what mistakes you’re probably going to make when you get started.

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