Over the weekend, my wife handed me a newspaper article about independent music in Phoenix. As I skimmed the article I realized two things:
- This was the first newspaper I’d touched in weeks
- I already knew about the article and the “jist of it”
The first realization was not surprising; I’ve used NPR and the web as my primary media sources for a couple of years, so I just don’t bother with newspapers.
The second realization was more interesting. My wife knows my tastes, so she naturally saved the article for me. But, in a sense, so did a handful of other people. But they didn’t hand me a section of the newspaper. They did it through Twitter.
Twitter’s website describes it as “a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?” I think it’s much more than this, which I’ll get to in a minute. I also like to describe Twitter more simply: It’s instant messaging to a group.
Once you sign up for Twitter, you alert your personal or professional circle, and they “follow” you, or subscribe to your Twitter feed. Anything you write, they see. You can also follow your friends, family, and colleagues, so anything they write, you see. To send and read “tweets” you can use the Twitter website, one of several Twitter applications, or your cell phone.
I follow people who work for other interactive and ad agencies, most of whom I also consider friends. I also follow other acquaintances in the industry, and even some people I’ve never met but in whose thoughts and opinions I’m interested.
Twitter really gets interesting when users transcend the “what are you doing?” question and move on to “what are you thinking about?” and “what have you discovered?” and “what’s happening in the world that you think I would care about?” Some of the people I’m following have begun to use Twitter as a mini-blog, firing off 140-character tweets about business trends, interesting articles, new techniques, and breaking news.
Twitter is immediate, especially if you use your cell phone to receive tweets. It’s personal, often to an even greater degree than blogs, because in between the “meaty” tweets about business and news are stream-of-consciousness tweets about looming deadlines and eating mangos and indigestion and drinking good beers and getting lost.
And it’s relevant, because you only follow people you feel have something relevant to say.
So I no longer worry that I’m missing something important by skipping the daily newspaper. If it matters to me, it matters to my friends and acquaintances, and they’re going to tweet about it. And I’m going to return the favor. We all now have a personal clipping service.
There’s not room nor time to cover everything interesting about Twitter, but that would be silly, anyway. The best way to get a sense of this quickly growing communication channel is to use it yourself. You can sign up in less than 2 minutes at Twitter.com. Once you do, follow me — @EdTankersley and/or @EightTrails — and I’ll follow you back. Then start letting everybody know what matters in your world.