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Twitter – Gimmick, Fad or Tool?

Initially I thought Twitter was some gimmick through which celebrities (insert your own definition of celebrity) fed their own egos by posting snippets of their life.  I didn’t care, so Twitter did not interest me much.  I did not even watch Entertainment Tonight, so following some “celebrity du jour” as they tweeted arcane details of their life in short snippets just did not appeal to me.  I considered it a gimmick that would never catch hold.

Before I knew what happened, Twitter transformed from a gimmick to a fad.  Am I one of the few without a Twitter account?  Maybe.  Virtually everybody who does any public relations has an account, and a group of followers.  That is interesting to me, because somehow I don’t view my life as being interesting enough for someone to want to follow.  Headlines such as “emptying dishwasher” or “running errands”, or even a commentary such as “just helped client solve a major crisis” seem a little trivial, but I’m not LeBron James or Lady Gaga, or some of the other more popular Twitter accounts.  But what do I know, because I might be one of the few not tweeting social updates, commentary on world events, and generally espousing about what’s happening now.

As I ponder the real value of Twitter, the value has to be in the immediacy of the messaging.  My son and I were talking about this recently when he shared a story about how he knew of the horrible bombing is Oslo minutes before it broke on any of the leading news networks.  How did he know?  Somehow, one of his buddies received a tweet from someone on-site announcing the terrible news.  Now most journalists would fret about unverified sources and balancing timing with accuracy, but the reality is that Twitter is proving to be a tool for breaking news at it very roots.  The concept of a “reporter” is literally out the window when the story is relayed by someone who is part of the scene. The individual becomes the channel; there’s no need to wait for a major outlet to break and package the story.

That started me to thinking about some of the ways to use Twitter as a tool.  One that came to mind was up-to the minute traffic reports.  How about a twitter “channel”  for ABC County traffic where people instantly post tweets and re-tweets such as “two car accident at Elm and Main – avoid area”?  Or “one lane traffic on Rt 1 due to construction northbound…traffic jammed”?  It would certainly gain my attention as something I would follow.  Or maybe my favorite theater could tweet “7:20 showing of My Favorite Movie is sold out” to let me know I need to change plans.  Or maybe my project team uses it for instant updates “vendor conversion complete – please start validation process”? When can Twitter effectively replace SMS and email messaging? Can it? To me, in its current state, it needs more signal and less noise.

The reality is that when you start to consider the power of Twitter to mass distribute messaging to people sharing a common interest, maybe there is something to this, and maybe there is more to what I initially saw as a gimmick and a fad.  It seems to me that anything or anyone with a “status” could become a candidate for Twitter, but I’m starting to think that’s not the main use case.  It’s probably not fair to say that the future is limitless, but there are some very interesting concepts to ponder as to how you can use Twitter as your own personal news transmitter or receiver.

How do you use Twitter? Aside from hashtags and massively curating my follow list, is there a better way to focus what I absorb on Twitter?

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