It’s not uncommon for someone to scoff at the mention of Twitter in conversation, for whatever reason Twitter was introduced in the first place. In fact, the dismissive attitude a lot of people have toward social media is almost surprising to me when I think about just how useful Twitter can be and how important it has been in recent years.
Without making this a Twitter vs. Facebook thing, because it’s not, I find Twitter to be vastly more useful than Facebook is. I say that while admitting that I spend ten times more time on Facebook than Twitter which I think I can attribute to the gossip queen in me. Facebook is my window into the goings-on of my friends and people I know.
Twitter, on the other hand, I feel is highly misunderstood. Most people fail to see just how useful it can be and I think most interpret the purpose of Twitter, which is, it has many purposes. What we hear most about involving Twitter is in relation to the number of follows celebrities have. Therefore, people may see Twitter as an avenue to connect to celebrities, public figures, fictional characters and other areas of pop culture. However, when you consider just how many Twitter accounts there are, you should also consider just how many different areas those accounts may cover.
For example, I follow many characters from the television series The West Wing. I don’t know who actually runs those accounts but many of them regularly tweet as if they were coming from the characters themselves from the show. I also know that many of the Simpsons’ characters are on Twitter. When you think about how many shows there are out there, chances are, many of the characters from them have Twitter. But those only cover a small portion of the types of people there are.
For a humourous side of Twitter, there are Twitter accounts for inanimate objects and even computer programs. One of my favourite Twitter accounts is the rarely updated @hipsterIE6, an account for Internet Explorer 6 as portrayed by a hipster. Even particular events become Twitterers, such as Invisible Obama, an account created following the Clint Eastwood episode at the Republican Convention last month.
Many businesses have their own Twitter accounts and will use that to tweet their specials, sales, hours of operation and maybe even offer discounts to those who check their Twitter feed and catch something. Following your favourite businesses can keep you up-to-date on what’s going on with them, which is especially useful for locally-owned businesses or non-chains because they tend to be more likely to deviate from expectations. Many of these will also respond to inquiries sent to them via Twitter. Recently, I tweeted to a delivery company when a package I was expecting was delayed.
As mentioned earlier, many public figures have Twitter accounts. That includes singers, bands, actors, politicians, etc. Like the business Twitter accounts, these might often be used to advertise, announce tour dates or upcoming projects, though some will use these as their personal voice online. Some celebs have very entertaining Twitter accounts. One of my favourites being Cher. And some will have contests via Twitter, such as Dragonette, from whom I won a contest last week through Twitter.
Perhaps the most useful way Twitter can be used is as a source for News. If celebrities, businesses and fictional characters can have Twitter, so can news organizations. For the well-informed person, Twitter might just be the best place to start when it comes to getting news. In order to get a wide spectrum of news, it is suggested to get it from multiple sources. Twitter allows you to do just that by following multiple accounts in your feed. Whenever I’m asked where I get my news from, my answer is always Twitter. Twitter provides instant headlines with links to more information if needed. Need traffic info? Follow local traffic accounts such as @hfxtraffic. The same can be said for weather. It’s also very useful to find out who some of the key members are in the area to follow as they can be a great source for immediate information if the power goes out, there’s a string of sirens a few blocks away, etc, etc.
I might be just touching on several ways Twitter can be of use. With its simple interface, it’s easy to use, you can organize the people you follow into lists if you’re only interested in one type of news, and you don’t even have to participate yourself if you feel you don’t have anything to offer. So at the very least, if you’re still not convinced, don’t scoff at the people that do use it. You might think the idea of Twitter and social media is silly but it’s the idea that the people who use it are only interested in celebrity culture that shows ignorance. Twitter has shown time and time again that it has been useful and has played an important role in recent events around the world. So c’mon on!