What is Twitter Good For?

by Penny Schouten

by Penny Schouten

Twitter is a micro-blogging or micro-sharing network.  Users can send a message (Tweet) to their friends who subscribe to their Twitter feed.  The tweet can only be 140 characters long, so you have to keep it short.  When you hit the send button, your tweet is sent to all of your followers.

Wait, what?  The short video below quickly and simply explains how Twitter works:

Twitter in Plain English by the Common Craft Show

What Do You Tweet About?

The first time I heard about Twitter back in the fall of 2005, I thought it sounded like a vain, self-centered social network.  I mean, who cares if you are eating ham/cheese for lunch or brushing your teeth or are bored?

But as the buzz grew about Twitter, I thought I’d sign up and just lurk to see what was so great about it.  I opened my account (PennySchouten) and started to look for people to follow.  At the time, the only person I knew was Ruth Sylte, so  I added her to the list of people I wanted to follow (subscribe to).  Then I took a look at the list of people she was following.  She recommended Chris Brogan, who is a social media marketing guru in the technology field.  So, I followed Chris, my friend Drew who used to work at StudyAbroad.com, GoAbroad and a few companies like Zappos.

I added media sites like BBC, LA Times, NY Times, which send out news ‘flashes’ with links to the articles/videos almost hourly.  I followed travel-related sites and a few study abroad programs.  I also followed things I’m interested in, like my favourite authors, hobbies and films.

So, what do I learn from these Tweeple?  I find out almost immediately if a ‘world event’ is taking place.  I learn about new study abroad programs that are available.  I’m given links to great articles about marketing, study abroad, social media, politics, etc.; I find out about conferences I didn’t know existed that I should attend, I hear about events that are not advertised or announced to the general public; I gain insight from CEOs, marketing experts, writers, reporters, regular people.

A recent example is the Mumbai terrorist attacks.  The first time I realized Twitter’s effectiveness was during the California earthquake.  I received a tweet about 30 seconds after it hit.  Another 15 seconds and I was reading damage reports. Television news didn’t break in with a report until 15 minutes later and I already knew more than they did.  I bet every media outlet scans Twitter now when there is a breaking story! (although it might not all be reliable information, let the reader beware).

So, What is Twitter Good for?

  • Learning new things
  • Breaking News
  • Announcing new programs, application deadlines, reminders, photo contests, scholarship winners, etc.
  • Share information, like links to helpful articles or changes in policy
  • Draw people to a new blog post
  • Connect with students (Our London Program Coordinator would send out reminders to her students reminding them to meet her in a certain location, or that the coach was leaving in 15 minutes (you can receive tweets as text messages on your cell phone)
  • Connect and network with colleagues and partners
  • Emergencies (like a campus lockdown or a student ends up in jail

For automatic updates of your Twitter feed use Twhirl.  There’s also Twitterific but there’s a fee and the free version has ads on it.

Twitter isn’t for everyone–it can be a distraction to overloaded international ed staff.  But don’t write it off.  More and more companies are using it for customer service, feedback and product improvement, marketing and promotion, information sharing, etc. with their current customers, with prospective customers, employees.

How are you using Twitter?

One Response

  1. [...] okay to be skeptical, but Twitter can be useful.  How are you using [...]

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