I’ll be publishing the latest report in my Peace, Order and Googleable Government series tomorrow. The focus will be on a specific aspect of Twitter. And, because it will feature Twitter as the platform, I’m fully expecting critics of the service to share their views on Twitter being a noisy distraction, a mundane channel and named to not be taken seriously. The fact is, I don’t think its creators ever expected it to be taken as seriously as it is.
In preparation for that, I thought I’d share 10 reasons Twitter is an important channel.
- Low hanging fruit – There are two aspects to this. First, tweets are publicly viewable for the most part. Readers don’t need anything more than an Internet connected device and a web browser. It doesn’t get much easier than that. For those interested in tweeting, the only additional requirement is an email address.
- Low risk – Unlike social networks (to be clear, I consider Twitter a social communication service rather than a social network), there is no need to share comprehensive personal information and (for the moment, anyway) risk being tracked by software driven marketing engines for targeted selling. In a phrase, Twitter is not Facebook.
- Focus – The character count limit is actually a positive feature. It forces users to be concise and focused in each message they published. 140 characters doesn’t allow much in the way of tangents and supporting arguments. Focus also means people with will become connected through tweets on common interests.
- Breaking news – In case you hadn’t heard, a lot of local and world events make their first public appearance on Twitter. This is true of the important as much as it is of the mundane.
- Community of communities – Despite the volumes of tweets reported on during major news events (and even the mundane ones), users, for the most part, engage with others who are immediately connected with them. That means participants tend to engage with their Dunbar’s Number (150 closest first-degree relationships). Occasionally, messages will spread beyond that immediate circle and others will be drawn closer to you.
- Access – While Twitter now allows users to attach rich content, the foundation is still the 140 characters of text. That means messages can be accessed easily and quickly through a variety of devices and on a variety of connection speeds.
- Portable – More and more people are following and publishing tweets from mobile devices. That has also brought about tight integration of Twitter into mobile operating systems. It just keeps getting easier.
- Conversation – If you’re so inclined, you can exchange tweets with other users. Many people use Twitter this way to get help in a variety of ways, poll others for input and just generally discuss or debate a particular topic. It’s not only about broadcasting what you had for lunch.
- Shareable – If you like a particular tweet for any reason (the message is interesting or funny), you can “favourite” the tweet (a public declaration that you like it) or retweet it (like republishing) so your own network can see it.
- Amplify – This may be the biggest reason for most of Twitter fame. Retweeting content (see Shareable) amplifies it to your own network. People tend to retweet something they find important, relevant or interesting enough to make sure their own network sees it. Each time this is done, the message is re-amplified to a network of fresh eyes. This has a cascading effect and explains how people in Ottawa can find out about events on the other side of the world in a matter of seconds.
Did I miss any other good ones?