Chocolatespoon: Emily’s Musings

How I use Twitter

Posted on: April 21, 2009

Since I’ve been asked a couple of times now about how (and implicit in that, why) I use Twitter, I thought I’d write up a response here (since I couldn’t manage to do it in 140 characters or less.) First, I’ll admit I don’t use it all that much compared to many people I know, but I enjoy it and am intrigued by it.

I guess I use it in a couple of different ways:

1) I occasionally (but not regularly) post updates there (and then have those mirrored on my facebook account and listed here on the front page of my blog). These are generally little thoughts that I don’t mind be very public (since they become part of the public Twitter timeline that other people can stumble upon when searching). Sometimes I’ll post a status update on Facebook that I don’t feel needs to go out on Twitter (since on Facebook, the audience of people reading them is more known). Sometimes I use it to promote something (I liked putting Puzzle Day updates there in case anyone was looking for puzzle information and might find it). Sometimes I like to be a part of the discussion (like when we had the small earthquake here and one of the first things I did was to tweet about feeling it and to check what everyone else was saying.) Sometimes I just want specific people to know that my flight has arrived. Sometimes I want to thank someone for particularly good customer service (and to test whether the company is monitoring mentions of their brand name, since I’m curious about how companies are using the new tool.) I don’t claim to be someone anyone else would want to follow (except maybe my Mom, who signed up to follow me today) and don’t really try to keep an on-going public appearance there at this point.

2) I follow different people and entities — some that I know and am actually interested in the day-to-day life updates they post about, some that are famous or respected thought leaders on different topics and I’m interested in seeing what they post, some that reliably post pointers to interesting articles and information about subjects I am interested in, some that are amusing and fun to get updates from. I follow some for work-related topics, some for parenting topics, some because they talk about local things and I’d want to know if something interesting was going on right here, others because they once posted something interesting and I followed them to see what else they might share. Sometimes I follow them because people I know follow them and I want to know what they are tracking too. When I have a few extra minutes first thing in the morning or over lunch, I sometimes pop in and read whatever the current set of tweets is. I don’t worry about missing out on what had been said since I last checked in (though sometimes I’ll click on a particular person and catch up on their whole day of tweets). If I’m out and about, stuck in a waiting room or an airport or just killing time somewhere, I’ll check on my iPhone. It’s like tuning into a bunch of interesting conversations. I’ve played with various desktop AIR-based applications to monitor tweets, but am too easily distracted to leave those up and running too much of the time for just general awareness tracking. I’ve found really great articles, heard about breaking news, found fun web sites to check out, and seen lots of funny cat photos from following the links people post. I’ve donated money to people’s causes, given them feedback on items they posted for reviews, and tried to answer questions (the reference librarian in me often can’t resist a public shout-out for information).

3) I sometimes look to see what people are saying about something particular. This is great if you’re at a conference (or wish you were at a conference but didn’t get to travel to it) and follow the #hashtags for a particular event or topic. During election season it was fun to read the tweets during the debates (people gave great color commentary) — sometimes I read just what the people I follow were saying (my brother and sister-in-law gave some of the best line-by-line reactions) and sometimes I followed the general open discussion to see what everyone was reacting to. I tried to follow along what was happening at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament by following anyone I could find who was tweeting live from there (yes, I’m a geek). When the earthquake happened, I spent a lot of time reading about what people were tweeting about it, how it felt to them, what the official estimates of it were as they came in, etc. Sometimes I check what people are saying about the company I work for or something I’m interested in. Some of the AIR applications like TweetDeck are great for this because I can easily have some different searches and lists going at the same time in different pods and monitor lots of things at the same time. Usually I just use Twitter’s search. When I was having trouble with gmail a few weeks ago, I checked on Twitter to see if other people were complaining about the same thing or if it was just me (there were lots of other complaints.)

Clearly this isn’t how everyone uses Twitter or even what it may be best at, but I usually don’t have things that I need to widely promote, I don’t have a particular area of interest or expertise that I’m monitoring and sharing information about on a regular basis, and I’m not trying to generate a following like that. I like trying out new technologies and have been intrigued by who follows my account (fun when it is people I know, less interesting when it is just someone clearly trying to sell me something.) Mostly, I use it to listen in on people who do have lots of interesting things to say and who are out there finding really great things and sharing them.

So that’s my random babble (way more than 140 characters) in answer to a question asked to me in a nice succinct tweet. 🙂

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1 Response to "How I use Twitter"

THANKS, Emily. It’s a great paradox that it takes way more than 140 characters to explain how to use a tool that sells itself on its succinctness. Go figure. But I appreciate the insights. I’ll just have to muddle my way through…

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