Blog Post

Eight Ways Twitter is Useful Professionally

Mat Balez is predicting the demise of Twitter in 2007. He’s not the only one who doesn’t see the value in it: many people wonder just what’s the big deal. We already wrote that though Twitter isn’t necessarily a great way to manage your to do list, it does have a place in the web worker’s cache of online tools.

For those of you who still wonder whether it’s anything more than inane stream-of-consciousness, consider these ways in which Twitter can help you professionally.

  1. Make existing professional relationships stronger and more intimate. I know where Jane’s traveling this week and that Joe’s caught that flu going around. This makes them more human to me and it’s a decent substitute for meeting physically.
  2. Get questions answered. Say you’re trying to put a plugin in your WordPress blog but it gives you errors. Tell your Twitter friends and someone might be able to help you. Now, you wouldn’t have emailed all those people to ask and you wouldn’t have instant messaged them either… but a broadcast message to those paying attention is a lightweight non-intrusive way to do it.
  3. Expand your professional network. By paying attention to @ messages, you see who people you’re working with are working with. If the discussion is interesting enough, you might find someone you’d like to follow on Twitter… and eventually work with.
  4. Promote your blog posts. I don’t tweet every time I post something, but sometimes if it’s one I’m especially proud of or one I want quick feedback on, I’ll post a tinyurl to it.
  5. See what people are interested in. I just looked at my Twitter page and noticed that one of my friends is already trying out Grand Central. Now I know who to talk to to get an opinion on it.
  6. Find out when your colleagues are available for a chat. Nobody wants to bother someone when they’re in the middle of an important project, but IM presence indicators aren’t totally reliable. On the other hand, if someone twitters that they’re “searching for something to do” you know it’s a good time to check in with them.
  7. Create an ad hoc back channel at conferences. Though Twitter’s not ideal for this lacking as it is in temporary groups or any groups at all, I’ve seen it used effectively to bring together conference attendees and conference “watchers” — people who aren’t at the conference but would like to know what’s going on.
  8. Learn important news. I’m much less dependent on my newsreader now because I hear about cool stuff all day via Twitter. For example: I didn’t know that Starbucks was giving away free coffee today until I read it on Twitter.

Twitter’s not without its problems, of course. It’d be great to have Twitter groups, so you could send messages to just a subset of people who are interested in a particular topic. The performance has sometimes been less than adequate as everyone piles in to try it. I suffer from Twitter addiction occasionally, when I compulsively watch Twitter messages roll by instead of doing real work.

Call me a Twitter fangirl if you must — I am one — but don’t let that stop you from considering Twitter as more than just noise. For the web worker isolated from colleagues and interested in making loose connections into productive working relationships, Twitter might be just the thing you need.

122 Responses to “Eight Ways Twitter is Useful Professionally”

  1. I have been using Twittter for awhile now and I must say that the jury is still out for me
    I have a feeling that the hype is a large factor in it’s popularity and it will fall by the way side

    Now if they did something about those tiny URL links and changed them to anchor text links, that would be a different thing

  2. andrew mcardle

    I was wondering if you could create a twitter mashup to allow people to ask for help. For example you dont know how to say “i need the toilet” in german. You twitter this with a direct message to the help account. The twitter API is used to get all the help requests into a html page. People then answer the request and it is twittered back at the person who wanted help, so they know the answer. The beauty of this would be it would work over sms texts as twitter handles sms. Just wondering if anyone had heard of a similar system, or had a similar idea?

  3. I felt twitter was just a way to exhibit yourself in the public, giving instant updates about your currents activites, but now I realize it can be used for more intriguing stuff too. Thanks to you.

  4. My problem with it in a professional context is that it IS intrusive. I don’t need the distraction of someone asking for help on a wordpress plugin while I’m trying to figure out something complicated, or even writing an email. I know I don’t have to answer the question, but I have to read it, and it’s a kind of insistent 5-year-old in your computer, breaking up your line of thought. I’m the sort of person who gets distracted by flickering TV screens in bars too though…

  5. Thanks so much for writing this up. This was precisely what I was looking for when I first found out about Twitter off of Scoble’s blog. I’m always trying to find out the actual real-life value of a lot of these Web 2.0 apps, as honestly Web 2.0 could go the exact same direction as Web 1.0 went in 1999 if the useless garbage can’t be sorted from the real valuable stuff. I posted on my blog a list of ways one can actually, with a real business case, utilize Web2 apps for driving business – but Twitter was one I didn’t figure out.

    Thanks a lot for posting this.

  6. As a real estate professional, I would be interested in knowing 8 ways that this would help my business. I am blogging everyday, and my traffic is growing. What are some productive ways to incorporate Twittering? Or, does it have its limitations, real estate being one of them?

  7. Linked to this post in a much longer post of our own on twitterbugs here

    In essence all the reasons you have given above have in the past been used for IM, sms, mobile, email, altnet, egroups, and (not all) for blogging. Twitter is just the new new one imho.

  8. i loved loved loved twitter when i first discovered it in january but i lost momentum because I couldn’t persuade any of my real-life friends to join up. i don’t think it has much appeal beyond the geeks – and there’s only so much to bantering with virtual buddies.
    i like the groups idea in theory but wouldn’t it then just be another form of discussion board? daveconrey is right, replies get lost fast in the public timeline, but i think the only groups that are needed here are individuals’ circles of friends.

  9. The one problem I have with this concept is that everytime I post, I have to hit refresh right away because if I wait for it to refresh on it’s own, a whole slew of messages have gone past and if anyone was responding to me specifically, I would have missed it completely. I think the groups idea is a good one.

  10. Mark, it only works for building professional relationships or relationships of any kind if it’s two way. I learn about other people by getting their twitters. I know when they’re available — and I can avoid bothering them when they’re busy. They know that about me too — if someone’s wanting to ask me something and saw I just twittered from the web, they know I’m near my computer. I get to see which blog posts they want immediate feedback on (and I can provide that feedback). I like being able to help if I know something about what they’re asking about. Conference back channels benefit sender and receiver. And learning important news is all about being a receiver.