When I first heard about Twitter, I quickly dismissed it.
In college, my friends and I all religiously updated our “Away messages” on AOL Instant Messenger, providing a constant stream of FYIs to our friends about where we were, what mood we were in, or what we were doing at any given moment. In those days, it was unheard of to simply sign off when you were done chatting, and even if you were going to leave a funny quote or a set of song lyrics, you were still expected to include a quick blurb at the bottom – something to the effect of, “at class ‘til 11:30…then lunch?”
As Facebook came to prominence, Away messages became less important and everyone’s attention turned to status updates. Having a profile without entering a status was like admitting you hadn’t logged on in a few days. It was definitely not cool…and borderline social suicide.
When people started buzzing about Twitter, it was clear that Facebook was continuing to grow and so I (like many others, I suspect) scoffed at the notion that people would want yet another site to update, to tell people what they were doing at that exact moment. I even blogged and commented on articles I read, proclaiming how confused I was that so many people were into this idea. “It’s not exactly an innovative concept,” I thought. “So why are people getting so pumped up about it?”
Today (three years later) I’m an active Twitter user and practically an evangelist for the company. I Tweet in the morning, in the car, before major meetings, after lunch. I Tweet before leaving work in the evening, while I’m watching TV, as I’m headed to bed. I Tweet useless thoughts and musings, interesting links and helpful resources, and I help clients Tweet news updates and coupon offers to their customers.
I’ll openly admit that I only gave the site a second chance because of all the buzz about it in the media, and how much my colleagues and I were hearing about companies using Twitter for marketing purposes. We already considered ourselves pretty savvy in social media, and have continually tried to improve our expertise in the area. Yet for some reason, Twitter still seemed like a stretch. Until we actually gave it an earnest try, that is.
The second time around, I embraced Twitter because I started to see how useful it was to have real-time access to other people’s thoughts on a piece of breaking news or a product or company. The search features seemed to add a lot of value, and helped me find people to follow that were using the site for more than just a stream of “Headed back to work!”-type updates. The more I Tweeted, the more connections I made, and suddenly the site became an easy and important way for me to stay on top of news and nurture relationships with friends, journalists, analysts and fellow practitioners. There was something to this after all!
This week alone, Twitter’s helped me to do my job better in two different ways that I can think of.
In one case, I secured an interview with a national business publication for one of my clients, simply because I saw that the reporter had Tweeted about a meeting he had with someone else, and so I had insight on what topic he was interested in right now and could connect him with another expert on the subject. Sure, it’s the same concept as researching a reporter or editor before pitching them – but the fact that it happened in real-time made it that much more powerful.
A day later, I was searching for interesting links and discovered a user who was affiliated with an organization I’d never heard of, but was very relevant to another client. Clicking over to their website, it was immediately apparent that this association was someone my team should definitely keep on our radar, because it provided a huge stable of industry statistics that support many of the themes we pitch to trade media on a daily basis.
As time goes on, Twitter is an increasingly important tool for me – and I know each and every one of my colleagues has stories like those…despite the fact that many of us were resistant to the site three years ago. It seems like many of the tools we read about aren’t that useful when we first hear about them, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be in the long run.