Is Twitter Useful?

These days it seems everyone is talking about, writing about and well… tweeting about Twitter. One of the questions I often get, especially from people who are not Twitter users, or are among my not-so-technical friends, is whether or not Twitter is useful. The answer of course is, in the best consulting speak I can muster, “it depends.”

It depends on:

  • What you want to do
  • If you have the time for it or are willing to put a little work into it
  • If your target audience is on Twitter
  • If you have a goal
  • If you are getting something out of it (information, entertainment, market insight, …)
  • If you have something useful to offer the people you connect with there

Twitter is generally useful for a number of things but like anything else, if you use it without purpose, intent or focus, it’s probably little more than a novelty for you.  Most people would never ask if a hammer is useful because they understand it’s purpose, even if they personally don’t need one. Where people get confused about Twitter is they don’t know how they would use Twitter, so the question that should be asked is “How is Twitter useful?” not “Is Twitter useful?”

Before I give you a couple of examples, let me couch this by saying there is a ton of garbage on Twitter and it isn’t the best tool for everything (like a hammer). But used strategically it can be incredibly powerful. I’ll diverge briefly on the “garbage” topic and then back to “how” Twitter can be useful. While there really are no rules, and you can tweet what you like, there are “bad ideas” when it comes to Twitter. If you are using it for business, networking or general socializing, there are a few things to be avoided like:

  1. Drunk Tweeting: Alcohol and Twitter make bad bed fellows, you aren’t as funny as you think and once it’s out there you can’t take it back. Don’t do it (and stop your friends if you see them doing it).
  2. No one cares about your dog/cat/chicken/insert pet here. If it really makes you feel good to tweet that you’re taking the dog for a walk, then have at it but no one really cares and you are doing little for your credibility by tweeting about those things.
  3. Bad mouthing others. Like drunk tweeting, there is no taking it back so avoid attacking others. That doesn’t mean you can’t voice your opinion about bad customer service or rail on a business that ripped you off but don’t attack people personally, ever.

Now, a few examples of how Twitter is useful:

  1. Customer Service – Comcast started using Twitter for customer service issues. It makes them extremely responsive, not only to the customer but to everyone watching.
  2. Connecting – It can be a way to connect with people on a specific interest and quickly relay information to that group. I recently started (WordPress Public Service Announcements) for blasting out quick and highly relevant info related to WordPress like emergency notices, fixes, updates, …
  3. Feedback – Twitter creates a real-time feedback loop which can be applied to a million different things but I first though about it in the context of large meetings & events. Knowing what your audience is thinking/saying in real-time allows you to react immediately to potentially negative circumstances and keep an overwhelmingly positive feeling toward your event.

Businesses are finding all kinds of ways to acquire and share genuinely useful information on Twitter. Above are just three examples but I’m sure you can think of more.

How have you found Twitter to be useful and something more than just a time killer?

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