How Twitter is a Communications Game Changer

Twitter

It is no secret that I love Twitter. I have to admit that besides email, Twitter is my most important communications tool, particularly for my business but not exclusively so. The more I see where social media and online communications is going, the more I realize how Twitter has transformed the landscape in both big and subtle ways.

An obvious example of Twitter’s impact is how it is quickly becoming part of our lexicon. Even mainstream media is referring to the Twitterstream, using Twitter to gauge public sentiment, and referring to people’s Twitter pages. Twitter has moved beyond being the news and is now helping to source news for many reporters.

Here are some other ways Twitter has had game-changing impact:

1. Reinvented the threaded messaging board

If you think back to the old online forums before and after threaded messaging and then look at your Twitter page, look familiar? Twitter is loosely threaded messages that are a dynamic blend of conversation with direct references to others in the discussion and broadcasting where the message or the link is the focus.

From watching some of my clients trying to grasp the concept and flow of Twitter, it is clear that this communications display is atypical and can be challenging to follow. Learning to dive into a Twitterstream and come out with a cohesive dialogue or valuable information takes time. For the uninitiated, a threaded message board makes far more sense, however, once you get the hang of the fabric of tweets, you learn to follow the threads, jump to people’s Twitter pages to catch up with the conversation, and you hone your skills of zeroing in on certain Twitterers to pick out nuggets of useful information. Twitter has changed the flow of conversation and information.

Jaiku

2. Spawning imitators

First there was Jaiku and Pownce, then Plurk and Kwippy, all jumping on the microblogging bandwagon, each trying to differentiate themselves from Twitter yet mostly feeling like Twitter knockoffs. Even in their attempt to stand out, they stacked on features or capabilities meant to make them “more robust” than Twitter but ended up diluting the purity of Twitter’s simplicity. Some users, however, preferred the extra bells and whistles of the imitators as well as the stability of some of those other services.

Next came the Twitteresque sites that used the Twitter conversation starter model but focused on specific topics such as blippr where you microblog reviews of arts and entertainment or Reporting On where journalists simply announce what they are reporting on at any given time. Twitter’s micro messaging has become a main feature of many new sites and applications.

3. Becoming an add-on for other tools

As I began reviewing project management tools for WWD, I was taken by Joint Contact’s integration of Twitter into their featureset. Suddenly, Twitter was a feature add-on for applications where communications was key i.e. project management. Email, message boards and the usual communications tools were no longer enough. Other project management tools have promised Twitter integration in future iterations. Scott Blitstein also wrote about Twitter integration with your favorite productivity apps.

Present.ly

4. Transforming internal company communications

Since I’m not in need of enterprise level communications tools, I haven’t actually tried these out, however, there are now Twittereque apps for the enterprise such as Yammer and present.ly. Mike Gunderloy blogged about this new trend and referenced a presentation by my Twitterfriend @Pistachio at Pistachio Consulting.

5. Forcing us to do more with less

When I make presentations about Twitter, a common question is “why are the posts so short?” Why 140 characters or less? M-marketing and M-comm, I tell them. Twitter laid the groundwork for mainstreaming very short and concise messaging in preparation of communicating efficiently on mobile devices.

Maybe the vision of Twitter wasn’t necessarily to prep us so we could properly conduct M-marketing tactics over time, however, we are all gaining the skill of reducing our thoughts into tight, taut messages that read easily over our handheld devices.

6. Affecting the way we blog

Almost weekly, a popular blogger announces that he or she is no longer going to blog or no longer going to blog as frequently because of Twitter. Or that Twitter has changed the way they blog or the way they feel about blogging. For better or for worse, Twittering makes blogging feel like a bog both for the blogger and the reader once they are used to swimming in the free flowing Twitterstream.

blippr

7. Influencing our communications style

The Twitter Effect on how we communicate is going to be even more obvious than how email communications has forever changed the way we write. I’ve heard people say that they find themselves speaking in Tweets – short, clipped phrases where they say as much as they can in fewer words. They don’t do it on purpose, it is just how their mind works now that they’ve been Twittering for a long period of time. Twitter has created new verbs for us. We now have “Twitterfriends.” We “tweet” instead of post. When we talk about referencing others in our tweets we are “atting them” or “@ing” them. When you want someone to contact you, you can just tweet a message asking them to “@” you or “DM” you (for direct message). To gain Twitter skills means that you have to deliberately let go of old communication styles and rewire your brain to accommodate the new ones required to immerse yourself productively in the Twitterstream.

8. Ever-expanding uses

Twitter isn’t just a place where you tell the world what you are doing. Its uses have expanded beyond a broadcast tool to a listening device and filter of information. It is also a marketing tool; a market research tool; a customer outreach and customer service tool; and instant focus group; a tech troubleshooting resource; and the list goes on and on.

In Twitter’s undiluted simplicity, it has the uncanny feature of being several things to each person and several new things as people’s imaginations take hold after a few weeks of Twittering. We have yet to see all of the possibilities of Twittering for our personal lives and for our careers and businesses. We are just scratching the surface.

How have you used or seen Twitter used in new and different ways, particularly for business?

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