I just wrote what became a rather long and detailed email in response to a friend and coworker’s question “why should I care about Twitter?” Even though it’s by no means exhaustive (I could come up with a lot more reasons!), this is what I shared “off the top of my head”, and it needs to be blogged. Remember, this is aimed at someone who I assume has no knowledge of what Twitter is or does.
The value of Twitter, to me, comes as a tool to communicate with my chosen network of people. You only ever see “microposts” (limited to 140 chars) from people you explicitly “follow”. So, no spam, ever, and you control the flow.
It’s become TREMENDOUSLY useful for me to quickly, easily communicate with people I know, and communicate to them what I’m up to, or what I’m thinking. I tend to think of what I put on Twitter as “microposts” – stuff I might have otherwise blogged, or might not have. It can be very conversational, and very ephemeral – you go with the flow, and don’t worry about missing something. It’s a river of conversation you can participate in or ignore as you choose.
Watch this video from Common Craft, which does a great job of explaining Twitter in Plain English:
I’m jabancroft on Twitter if you want to see the kinds of things I post (I’m an edge case – I tweet a LOT) or follow me.
I’d suggest starting out with a small network, and ONLY add people you know in Real Life (or know well otherwise). Don’t feel like you have to reciprocally follow back any people who discover and follow you. Feel free to un-follow people you feel are being too noisy. They don’t get notice that you’ve dropped them, and won’t be offended. You have the right to spend your attention as you see fit.
If you want to get an idea of some Intel people that are using Twitter, look at http://twitter.com/pulseofintel/friends and http://twitter.com/pulseofintel/with_friends (part of a little mashup I’m playing with, but haven’t “launched” yet). There’s also PulseofPDX.com (see what people in Portland are tweeting – the “Stream of Portland’s Collective Consciousness”)
Ignore the public timeline, or any tweets/messages from people you don’t know. It’s impossible to see the value of Twitter when you’re looking at messages from strangers about what they had for lunch, or the fact that their cat is taking a nap.
It’s OK if you’re not interested, or if you decide that Twitter’s not for you. It’s hard to explain to someone, but if you give it a fair shot, you might like it. Let me know if you have any questions, and let me know if you sign up, so I can follow you!