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The Twitterati: How Tweets Have Changed Communications

Posted on Aug 6th, 2009

ST. LOUIS – What’s the latest and greatest? In the online landscape of instant communications, there is now Twitter and everyone else.

In 140 characters in the first paragraph, which is the maximum length of a “tweet” (the method of update on Twitter), the new era of communication (for better or worse) is succinctly described.

How is this new technology changing the way we interrelate? How is Twitter also being used as a marketing tool? For this summary, Wikipedia and Slideshow.net provide the background.

The Basics

Twitter was founded in 2006 as a free social networking and micro-blogging (140 characters) site.

It has since grown to be the third-most popular social network and the go-to site for keeping in touch with friends and fellow travelers. People follow you and you follow them through a series of updates in the 140-character format.

Concurrent with the advent of improved mobile technology, Twitter proved to be the easiest-to-learn communications tool for handheld phones and multi-link devices. Updates from multiple platforms – text, the iPhone or a BlackBerry, computers, IM, Facebook and more – added more versatility to the mix.

Opinions varied in the beginning. “Using Twitter for literate communication is about as likely as firing up a CB radio and hearing some guy recite ‘The Iliad,’” said tech writer Bruce Sterling.

On the other hand, Steve Dotto of DottoTech opines that part of Twitter’s appeal is the challenge of trying to publish such messages in tight constraints. “The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what make it so powerful,” said Jonathan Zittrain. He’s a professor of Internet law at Harvard Law School.

Breakthroughs

Research reported in New Scientist in May 2008 found that blogs, maps, photo sites and instant messaging systems like Twitter did a better job of getting information out during emergencies than either the traditional news media or government emergency services.

Twitter was used by candidates in the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign throughout the race. Democratic nominee Barack Obama used it for publicity.

In Jan. 2009, US Airways flight 1549 experienced multiple bird strikes and had to be ditched in the Hudson River. Janis Krums (a passenger on one of the ferries that rushed to help) took a picture of the downed plane as passengers were still evacuating and sent it to Twitpic before any other media arrived at the scene.

In June 2009 following allegations of fraud in the Iranian presidential election, protesters used Twitter as a rallying tool and as a method of communication with the outside world after the government blocked several other modes of communication.

Uses in Business

Social media is about building relationships and not necessarily selling a brand or product. In other words, Twitter can build a trusting customer base simply through informational updates. Organizations are essentially capable of having one-on-one conversations on a mass scale.

Real conversations are the key. A measured building of solid sending (facts, offers and greetings) can create growth in the follower’s feelings toward the business. This can often translate into loyalty and sales.

The potential in Twitter communications is better relationships, more site traffic, more informed clients, a broader reach, better feedback and new customers.

As a tool for business, Twitter becomes the point to which the outreach defines this maxim of commerce: people do business with people rather than companies. Put that in a tweet and send it.

The Associated Cities Network