When I first registered my Twitter account – in September 2007 – I must admit I didn't get Twitter. I didn't see how Twitter could be used, probably because the only use I did see was people using it to tell others what they were doing without any real purpose behind it. What they said wasn't really interesting or usable to me, even if it what people I knew. They were writing insignificant things lacking a meaningful context ("eating a sandwich" or "working"). So my Twitter account remained inactive for almost a year.
The change that made me see real value in Twitter came about a year ago, when the people I had learnt to know and appreciate from their writings in blogs started to have conversations on Twitter. At that time, I had been a frequent blogger for a couple of years and had been conversating with other bloggers via my own blog and via the comments on their blogs. Gradually I noticed that the conversations which previously were held on blogs and blog comments were moving to Twitter. So I started following the people whose blogs I subscribed to on Twitter. I hadn't search for them before on Twitter, but now most of them exposed their Twitter name on their blogs.
On the Twitter platform, I observed that the conversations were much more frequent, personal, informal, interactive, positive, and open than in the "blogosphere". Despite the 140 character limit, they were actually getting richer. I also noted that people shared much more of the interesting things they had encountered than they did via their blogs (thanks to lower barrier to entry on Twitter).
From that point on, which is now almost a year ago, Twitter has rapidy evolved to my main platform for knowledge discovery and exchange, professional networking, and idea generation. The feeds I subscribe to via Google Reader are now complementary to the tweets from the people I follow on Twitter. This is evident from the fact that I check Twitter before Google Reader. This is a major change from just a year ago.
My blog is still very important to me. It is MY platform. It is where I develop thoughts and ideas further, where I sum up what I've learnt and experienced, and where I aggregate the best readings I've encountered via Twitter, Google Reader or elsewhere.
Twitter, on the other hand, is OUR platform. It’s the place where I and anyone else with a Twitter account can have conversations on equal terms. Twitter builds community and brings me closer to other interesting people and their ideas, wherever and whoever they are.
It’s simply fantastic. This is one of those stories I tell with a passion, and which makes me a true believer in the power of social software such as micro-blogging both outside and inside of organizations (the latter has special challenges). My lesson from using Twitter and getting value from it is the following:
- Find a purpose.
- Find people with common interests, and hopefully the same purpose.
- Learn the basic rules and "code of conduct" by observing others.
- Share thing that you find interesting and valuable.
- Start engaging with people you find interesting.
The following, which is partly out of your control, must also be fulfilled:
- Participation / the number of people who share the common interest or purpose must be big enough to give life to a thriving community.
- The community needs to be characterized by openness, trust and sharing.