Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Power of Twitter

Twitter's applications and value become more and more apparent to me daily. My first impression of this new social media tool was "This is nonsense. No one cares that you ate a grilled cheese sandwich at 2:32 on June 16th and even included a link to a photo for it." I joined Twitter just to scope it out, see what all the hype is about. At first, I used it in such a way that my prophesy was a self-fulfilling one. I followed my friends and a few news syndicates. I learned very little in real-time, other than the second when my buddy had found some new, time-wasting youtube video. The more I explored Twitter, the more I learned of its applicability and the more I liked using it.

I started by following all the people on the list of Twitter-recommended followers. A few followed back, but mostly, it was ineffective as far as keeping me interested and getting my own tweets seen. Then, I started running some searches for things that interested me: music, marketing, PR, health, food, wine, philosophy, school, careers, networking, etc. I looked through seemingly endless lists of tweets on those or related subjects, as people had used hashtags (#) to document them for this exact purpose. And so, I learned the value of the hashtag. I started following some of the people who had posted tweets that caught my eye, and before I knew it, I was off and running with quite a few more followers.

This became a continual process for me. Every day, I make a point of running another search for a topic of interest, and following a few more people. It may be a slow process, but it's one that I am enjoying, and it's setting off all kinds of fireworks in my mind. Now, I have a dashboard application that unobtrusively shows me incoming new tweets in the corner of my screen, without interrupting whatever I'm working on. I am learning about all sorts of different things that I never would have had access to or time to dig up otherwise. I am contributing to conversations and getting my own questions answered, or at least discussed.

Recently, I've become a "Twitter Strategy Intern" for, an online career resource center. As an intern, I'm working as part of a virtual team to promote Careerealism, and to give job-seekers, like myself, a little bit of hope and guidance in a lonely, desolate job market. In the past six months, Twitter has changed my life, and the way I communicate with strangers. It is set up so that it feels personal and intimate, yet I'm talking to people I've never met, who live all over the world. Twitter is empowering.

I recently came across EventManagerBlog with a video post called "Tweetcamp '09 and Unconferences", and it really got me thinking about the possibilities that Twitter opens up. Can you imagine going to an industry conference, where a speaker stands up at the podium, behind him a large projection screen showing a Twitter feed. Everyone at the conference has their iPhones and Blackberry's in hand, typing away to contribute to a larger conversation, and to give immediate responses to what the speaker is saying. This conference has become an educational forum, a discussion, and increased the efficiency of what can be done there. As they say, "Two heads are better than one." Well, imagine what 400 heads, all with extensive industry knowledge and experience, could do. Twitter is a powerful tool, and it is at everyone's fingertips, if they choose to let it be.

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