Everyone has now heard the term “Twitter” and “Tweeting” but really, what is it? What’s it for and why would anyone want to use it?
Over the last 12 months Twitter has popper up everywhere – from the US election to the UK election, on topical TV shows and even Jeremy Paxman having to say “Send us your Tweets” on Newsnight! But there’s still a lot of confusion about why should any normal person should actually use it… As a bit of a geek, I have a Twitter account – but that’s to be expected, t’s my job to know about such things and you can follow me here. There might not be much happening on my Twitter feed, mostly I talk about work stuff, music and what I’m up to. I use it to talk to friends and generally let people know what I’m up to and what we’re doing at Best Served Cold. But back to my original question: What is Twitter?
Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers.
Twitter was created way back in 2006 and it took a few years to reach the mainstream. The original idea was to let users create friends groups and talk to them simply about what was in their mind, if they had questions or just to arrange their social life…. Some time in 2007/2008 certain public figures and celebrities started to take notice and realised they could set up Twitter accounts and use it to talk directly to their fans about whatever was on their mind.
Very quickly the power of celebrities took Twitter from it’s geek roots to the mainstream. In the UK people like Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross popularised the service and in the US Ashton Kutcher became the first user to reach a million followers.
But why should a “normal” person use Twitter? At it’s heart Twitter allows you to publish your thoughts about anything at any time. If you have something to say, why not say it on Twitter – someone might hear you and want to find out more. A group of friends can use Twitter to talk to each other and discuss what they’re up to. Likeminded individuals can use Twitter to debate ideas and share links to websites and thoughts from around the world.
Businesses have started to get involved with Twitter to talk to consumers and actually have converations about products and services, if this is done correctly it can drive a lot of interest and traffic to the business at a low cost.
But still, Twitter is best for just mindless chat and finding interesting links and just discovering what other people are up to! There’s a certain vicarious thrill from checking out what your favourite celeb is doing or even what your friends are up to at work… There’s also a serious side to Twitter, the spreading of information quickly and easily around the world. In 2009 riots in Iran were tweeted to the outside world when traditional news media couldn’t get into the country.
To find out more about Twitter and some of the many applications and widgets available to get you started Tweeting from your computer or your phone, take a look at 101 Best Twitter Apps