I still can’t figure out Twitter. I mean, I know how to use it. It’s pretty simple. It’s social instant messaging using a 140 characters or less. The technical description for it is “micro-blogging”, where people send messages to their “followers”. You sign up to follow people, and then people sign up to follow you, and then it starts to get weird. Let me give you an example. John follows Mary, and Mary follows John. Susie follows Mary, but not John. So John sends a “tweet” to his followers, and since Mary is a follower, she sees his tweet(which Susie doesn’t see, remember, because she doesn’t follow John.) Mary thinks John’s tweet was thought-provoking or hilarious, or both, and she decides to respond to his message with something equally thought-provoking and/or hilarious, and both John and Susie see Mary’s tweet, because they both follow her. And Susie has NO IDEA WHAT THE HELL MARY IS TALKING ABOUT, because she didn’t see the original tweet. See? I said it was weird.
I have exactly 150 followers on Twitter, and I follow 178 people. Which means I get about 1000 tweets a day, of which I maybe read skim 100. If that. I send about one tweet a day, usually either in response to something someone else tweeted (thereby causing confusion for the people who follow me, as I illustrated in the example above), or commenting on some random thing in the news or at work. I don’t know how I got 150 followers. Mostly, it was in response to people who started to follow me. (This is common courtesy on Twitter. You follow people who follow you, unless they’re spammers or Amway representatives.) I don’t know how 150 people knew I was on Twitter. But as I said, it’s weird.
I joined Twitter to see what all the fuss was about. I started by following experts in social media, but I’m finding that many of them annoy me, because they have huge egos. Now I find that my favorite “tweeple” (sorry, I meant “people”) to follow are actually journalists. I like getting my news the moment it happens.
Speaking of which, an interesting thing happened on Thursday, when the plane crashed into the Hudson River. I started getting “tweets” about 2 minutes after the crash happened. Twitter scooped the main-stream media big-time. People saw the crash from their apartments and started tweeting. And then other members started re-tweeting (re-sending the same message, and crediting the person who originally sent it.)
Now I have no idea what the implications of this are. Would anything about the crash or the aftermath have been any different if it had taken people 20 minutes to hear about it on CNN Breaking News instead of hearing about it instantly on Twitter? I highly doubt it. But it was fascinating to watch.
I haven’t figured out yet whether Twitter is an important tool for recruiting students. So far, it’s not being used extensively by universities. And it’s certainly not clear that those that are seeing results from it. Time will tell.
But it does look like it’s here to stay. For those interested in learning more, or those who are still at the “I think Twitter is really dumb” stage (which I still revert to periodically), here are the 5 stages of Twitter acceptance.
If you’re on Twitter and you’d like to follow me, I’m @debmaue. I’ll follow you back.