I’m a passionate user of the social networking site, Twitter. I’ve been sharing short, personal updates on my life, AKA “tweeting” at @EmilysPearl since March 7, 2007 and on a separate account for work (@ECava) since September 2008.
People frequently ask me why I use Twitter. Because the site limits updates to 140 characters or less, people seem to enter the discussion with the viewpoint that they could get the same mileage out of scanning friends’ Facebook status updates, reading their blogs or shooting them a text message.
I have one recent story that illustrates both the beauty and utility of Twitter in my own life.
First, I want to share four quick points on why Twitter is my social networking tool of choice.
1) Community: I follow about 700 users between my two accounts, and have about 1,500 people who follow my updates on those accounts. I share updates mainly about food (random pics of what I’m eating/drinking, or in relation to my website MouthOfTheBorder.com), music, social media/marketing or tidbits on my beloved neighborhood in Brooklyn. I follow real-life friends, fellow food bloggers, other Brooklynites and many folks in the social media.
Although many of these are people I’ve never met in person, Twitter allows me to have a conversation with them and learn more about what they’re reading, listening to and thinking about right at that moment. My Twitter community keeps me up to date and inspires me with the breadth and depth of its available resources.
2) Ease of Use: At the beginning of 2006, after having been a member of several niche social networks since 1997, I became an avid user of MySpace and started blogging publicly. I moved from New Hampshire to Brooklyn at the end of that year. After taking a job with a start-up company, I found that I had no downtime. Being surrounded by people on public transportation, I had no privacy for phone calls when I did have downtime. It was a challenge to even find the time to reply to personal emails.
With Twitter, I found I could quickly share what I was doing or thinking with everyone at once. I could post a photo, shoot out a link to an interesting article I read or share a song I just heard. No painful HTML coding, no blog categories, no trying to remember to include everyone on an email. Boom. Update complete.
3) Instant connection and feedback: All you have to do is search Twitter for @EmilysPearl to see that it literally takes a second to get in touch with me. People see what I’m saying and are able to immediately provide thoughts, help, inspiration. If a friend asks for help with something, and I can respond immediately. Or I can “retweet” it and share it with my network of followers to try and get them help. That is immensely valuable. Had Twitter been around when I was a newspaper reporter, I would have been the first user to sign up for it.
4) It just rocks: I have a limited amount of free time. It comes in spurts, but that shouldn’t limit the opportunities for me to stay connected with friends, stay on top of trends and news pertaining to my career or to just be silly and post a picture of my delicious cheeseburger. Twitter lets me do any of those things in five seconds. No other platform accommodates my lifestyle as efficiently and elegantly.
Why Use Twitter?
On September 18, ironically the 1-year anniversary of the day I opened my second Twitter account, the utility powerfully demonstrated why it’s the best social platform to connect with a group of people who matter to me.
It started when it looked like I was going to be late for a flight to Phoenix.
A couple of minutes later, after getting off the phone with Delta a second time:
Less than a minute later, my phone is ringing. I’m still stuck in traffic from midtown Manhattan on the way to JFK airport. A friend I met through Twitter and now cherish in real life saw my tweet and says, “What do you need?” iPhone to my ear, I use my Blackberry to keep my followers updated:
At the same time, I receive 3 direct messages (these are private tweets sent only to me). Two are from people I’ve met in real life due to Twitter, and one is from someone who follows my updates, but whom I’ve never met.
Without taking some online relationships into real life, Twitter wouldn’t be nearly as powerful. I had a great friend on the phone looking stuff up on her computer and another friend who found a flight that we would have missed without his help. Someone else who I’ve never interacted with also selflessly provided information that helped me:
After arriving at the airport about three minutes too late to board my plane, and after Delta told me it’s going to cost me $744 book a morning flight with a layover in Salt Lake City, I feel like my options are dwindling. I let Twitter know I missed the flight, and here’s the response:
And then, she actually did it!
Every aspect of why I use Twitter came together for me that day: Community, Ease of Use, Instant Feedback and It Just Rocked.
My flock of Tweeters literally helped me take off. All told, they got me back in business in less time than it took a Delta call-center employee to tell me there were no more flights to Phoenix that night.
Twitter’s not just social. It’s usable, elastic and expansive. It brings people and information into your life when you need it, and allows you to contribute to others’ lives when they need you. It’s beyond networking, viral this or that or data. It’s a personal connection with a heartbeat, and it’s incredibly powerful.