What’s the purpose of Twitter?

Before I write about Twitter, I have to admit that I’m breaking the cardinal rule of blogging, which is fugure out what your angle is before you start your blog. Is it a professional blog or a personal blog? Who’s your target audience?  Andy Sernovitz, word-of-mouth marketing guru, would be horrified, because I don’t know yet.  I decided that I need to do this for a while and see what I feel like writing about, and I’ll figure it out later. 

My friend Lin asked me how Twitter is applicable to my work at DePaul, and I have to admit that I have no clue, but I keep participating with the expectation that it will become clear at some point.  My observations are that people use Twitter primarily for one of three reasons (although most users seem to use it for all three at some point or another.) First, people use it to notify others about where they are.  Thankfully, most people I follow do this sparingly (but it is nice to get an occasional Tweet about where someone is – it adds some context.) Second, people use it for running commentary. Slate.com does this extremely well. I can watch the presidential debate or the Olympics and read a stream of snarky comments.  I love this use of it, but I can imagine that if you don’t like snarky comments it wouldn’t really work for you. Third, experts use it to notify followers of blog updates. Chris Brogan, a social media guru, (I’ve now used the word “guru” twice in this post) does this exceptionally well.  If you want to learn about social media (not that most people do, of course, but whatever), I suggest that you follow Chris on Twitter, read his blog and sign up for his newsletter.) Of course, I could just get an RSS feed to get blog updates, which I also do, but then I have to remember to go into Technorati and look at all my RSS feeds, which it often takes me a while to get around to. So there’s an immediacy to Twitter that I like.  But like I said, I still haven’t figured out how it’s applicable for a university. I suggested releasing our new viewbook (or “brochure for prospective students”, as people outside higher ed refer to it) 140 characters at a time, but no one thought it was a particularly good idea.  Can’t imagine why.

One more thing – if you’re going to read Twitter updates (known as “tweets”) via your phone or Blackberry, make sure you upgrade your phone plan to include unlimited text messaging.  I learned this the hard way.

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