There’s a lot of buzz about Twitter lately and a lot of people out there trying to explain what it’s good for. For the most part the uses fall into two categories: self-promotion and celebrity stalking. In other words, many would say to make the best use of Twitter you need to excel either in vanity or in creepiness. Personally I disagree.
I’m on Twitter for two very different reasons. First and foremost I’m there to learn. My job doesn’t give me the luxury of attending numerous conferences or interacting with too many others here in this small town, and although I can learn a lot from a Google Search you are still often limited by your own imagination. Twitter gives me the power to follow others in my industry and gain all sorts of ideas from the links they post and sometimes even the posts themselves. For instance, following a lot of Joomla tweeters has lead me to believe that Joomla is the way for me to go with my own sites. Also, when I was looking for a new web-host Twitter gave me numerous real-time feedback on a number of hosts I would not have otherwise considered.
In addition to random ideas and trends Twitter is also invaluable in the ability to get a question answered quickly by people not in your normal network. I’ve seen everything from twitter tech support for web hosting companies to the name of a song gained within minutes by posting a simple tweet. Of course in this respect it can also be beneficial to answer questions when the pop-up and help those as they might help you.
Next, I use twitter simply to interact with people who are not in my normal network. Although conversations might not be as long or detailed as those in real life there is still a lot to be gained in 140 characters. Not only can these conversations be entertaining and help build your network, but they can also be a great way to brainstorm and throw around some new ideas as you can always get feedback from someone.
In many ways both of these goals reflect my following and tweeting habits. I follow as many people as possible without worrying if they follow me back. No, I can’t track every tweet from every person I follow, but I don’t need to. Instead the enormous amounts of new tweets give me the opportunity to scan for information that is important to me and follow up where necessary and that, in my opinion, really is the whole point.
So while self-promotion and tracking your favorite celebrities are certainly valuable pursuits for some, it is the wealth of information that can be gained and shared that is the true value of Twitter and is, in fact, why I Tweet.