I joined Twitter a year ago today. I knew Twitter could be a fun and effective way to keep in touch with my friends and peers, but I had no idea how important Twitter would become to me over the next 12 months.
Many people don’t “get” Twitter, or they get it but still think it’s a waste of time. And they might be right. Twitter is like anything else — TV, video games, the telephone, etc. — if you let it be a waste of time, that’s what it will be. Twitter will become exactly what you make it. If you want to make Twitter into something valuable, you can. I think that’s what I’ve done over the past year. Twitter makes my life easier and makes me more productive. It adds value to my work, my hobbies, my life. Here’s how:
Twitter as News Source
I have about 300 feeds setup in Google Reader, but I find more interesting news and blog content from Twitter than anywhere. News spreads faster on Twitter, and it often comes with personal recommendations from people I trust. So, when someone like Vince Blackham tweets about a social media interview with Chris Bennett (another friend), I know it’s worth clicking and reading.
Twitter as Career/Networking Tool
I attend a lot of marketing conferences all over the country, and I always meet new people at each one. They’re great for networking, but Twitter keeps those connections open and alive. So, for example, after I moderate a session in which Google’s Peter Linsley speaks, we can follow each other on Twitter and stay in touch occasionally that way. Jeremy Rivera and I met at SMX West in February and have kept in touch since then. Ditto me and Don Campbell. Twitter helps me stay in touch with people like Mack Collier, whom I first met at the SBMU conference in Houston last year, and Todd Malicoat, who’s played a huge role in helping my career along.
Twitter as Local/Networking Tool
Cari and I write four local blogs. Her real estate business is dependent on local networking and referrals, and I try to help out with that as much as possible. I wrote a post on my HyperlocalBlogger.com blog called How to Use Twitter to Find Local Blog Content. I use sites like Tweepz, ChirpCity, and Nearby Tweets to find other Tri-Citians who are using Twitter and I make connections with them.
I can follow the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce. I can follow Megan Neer, who works for the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau and who bought a couple of my photos for their 2008 Visitor’s Guide. I can keep in touch with Craig Sutton, who invited me to speak at the Learn About Web conference he organizes and schedules “Tweet-ups” here in the Tri-Cities.
Twitter as Marketing Tool
Twitter has turned into a great way to drive traffic to web sites I care about. I occasionally use my Matt McGee account to post links to articles I’ve written on Small Business Search Marketing, and I also use the atu2 Twitter account to post links to U2 articles on atu2.com. Over the past year, Twitter has become one of the Top 7 referral sources for each site.
Twitter as Email/Phone Replacement
We could pick up the phone or send an email, but it seems like me and Eric Lander talk a lot more over Twitter than anywhere else. David Comay is a U2 fan that I’ve known for at least 12 years, but we lost contact for a while … until we re-connected on Twitter. Now we chat just like in the old days, only we don’t use email. Ditto for Tassoula Kokkoris, who works with me on @U2. We trade a lot of U2-related emails, but we talk a lot over Twitter, too. Sometimes it’s just more convenient.
Twitter as Hobby/Interest Feeder
Speaking of U2, I can follow Neil McCormick, one of my favorite journalists who often writes about U2 and has been friends with the whole band since they were schoolmates together in the 1970s. Alan Cross is a Canadian radio host/journalist who writes about U2 pretty regularly (and plenty of other bands, too). A lot of U2 fans on Twitter will send in news tips or just want to chat via the atu2 account. And lots of other U2 web sites are on Twitter, like U2log and U2tour.
It’s no secret that I love Pixar. Thanks to Twitter, I get to follow Andrew Stanton, the genius who directed Wall-E and Finding Nemo. How cool is that? And I can get updates from UpcomingPixar, one of the excellent unofficial Pixar blogs.
Twitter as Personal Service Assistant
I love DirecTV, and it was because I follow DIRECTV on Twitter that I learned about their super-cool iPhone app that lets me check TV schedules and set our home DVR from anywhere.
In my dreams, I’ll be able to travel anywhere I want, anytime I want. Until then, I live vicariously through the Travelzoo Twitter account, which sends out alerts of the latest and greatest travel deals. Someday, there’ll be one I can use….
One More Thing…
For anyone reading this who’s not on Twitter, but is thinking about giving it a try, don’t try to use the Twitter web site for conversations. You need a Twitter program to make it easier. I use Tweetie on my Mac and iPhone. Tweetdeck and Twhirl are two others that are great both on PCs and Macs.
Twitter can be whatever you want it to be. It’s a matter of connecting with the right people and accounts and making sure you’re not wasting (too much) time. If all you do is post updates about what you had for lunch, and follow people who do the same, you probably won’t enjoy Twitter nearly as much as I do.
Thanks Twitter, and thanks to the people/accounts I follow, for a great, great year. I had no idea it would be this important to me when I joined.