Thursday 5 March 2009

What is Twitter and Will It Last

Who cares? It’s popular and it works’ – you say.  Or, alternately, ‘I’m glad you asked that question, I was afraid to ask because everyone seemed to know all about it’.  Well, in the spirit of working out why things are popular and what they do that works so well -  so that at some stage we can all spot, or develop the next big thing... I care.  Here are my thoughts.

Short messaging combined with blogging

Blogs have suffered from long messaging... this one included.  Wannabe writers wittering on about their inane existence ad nauseam.   Some go nuts writing their super work of philosophical politico treatise in public... waiting to be discovered by another genius, like the soap box geniuses shouting at Hyde Park corner.  While others give a sometimes boring, sometimes entertaining kitchen sink real time Shirley Valentine drama.  Some shock, writing about their job as a hooker or psychiatrist, while others muse amusingly on this and that or shout angrily populist sentiment to the gathering mob (they hope).  The one problem with all of these types of blogs is they are self indulgent, self centred and full of both pride and shame in equal measure.  It’s like watching a manic depressive slowly unravel their shattered character in front of you.  A slow motion personality car crash... and there’s nothing you can do to help, or would necessarily wish to.  OK. That came out harsh... and I'm a blogger, so I can say that.  No?

But for Twitter, 150 characters per message is short, but it’s enough to say what you’re doing.   Micro-blogging.  Not much time for self indulgence in each message, though you could with several  message, and some do tweet far too often.  The size per tweet is also a challenge.  It’s very short.  To answer this challenge, a friend of mine has taken to tweeting short stories for Twitter.  ‘It was a simple plan, but then they were simple people and so, it didn’t quite work out as it should have.  Pity that!’  A mini haikuesque saga.  (Thanks Jo.)

Following People

So, twitter messages are like text messages really, but you can get messages from famous people.  Jonathan Ross, Barack Obama, Stephen Fry are leading the way, but the Dalai Llama, Brian Cowan and probably the Pope aren’t far behind.  Ratzinger @ emmetkelly You are going to hell because you don’t believe in hell, or heaven.  emmetkelly @ ratzinger See you there?

This is fun.  It’s efficient.  It’s novel and it’s new... so, it will join the ever increasing gamut of media messages we can choose to expose ourselves to.


In amongst the tweets are the ads.  This means Twitter has a business model.  The ads are small, not interruptive or irritating but yet they cannot be ignored.  As long as there aren’t too many, this will work.  Oh, and they click through too to whole webpages.  SMS can’t do that.

Pictures and Media

TinyURL has never been so busy, because long internet page locations need to be minimized.  Pictures, sound, quotes, videos... all with your tweet.  SMS can’t do that either.  It’s easier than MMS, and takes up no memory because the files are hosted on the wonderful interweb.  Very efficient, novel, new and fun... so it will last.

Connectedness and Belonging

We are social beings.  We need to be connected.  If we aren’t, we get lonely.  Being alone for even 40 days and nights is likely to get you in the bible.  Loneliness drives Internet communication because it solves the problem.  Twitter takes it to another level, especially when it’s on your phone.  People don’t like to be seen to spend too much time at their PC living their virtual life because it’s obviously visibly solving some need, or something lacking in their real offline life (unless its work of course).  But, with twitter, it’s on your phone.  You get little funny text messages from your friend Stephen Fry.  How cool is that.  And you can tweet him back, and he might even reply.  Hilarious.  You belong.  You’ve arrived.  You have friends... Famous ones.  Lots of them.  And, you’re not in front of a monitor, unless you choose to be.

When twitter is combined with the excellent and Facebook... you’ve arrived.  You have friends, you can see everything about them, and they can you, and you can follow them, and with Locle, you can see where they are on a Google map.  ‘Oh, look, Sean’s at home.’ SMS to Sean.  Goggin’s in 20? (why do my posts always involve pubs... hmmmm).  Tweet: Dart is broken down.  But, look at the bird at the station. I may be some time:*&JJ(*UFRGF.  When you update your Locle status, it tweets automatically.  Again, very efficient and very clever.

Open API

The mini techie bit of this post.  Twitter has an open API which means that anyone can program a widget for the program, and thus ensure its vast potential will only grow.  More add-ons, plug-ins and enhancements and we’ll be tweeting for a very long time to come.

So, soon, we’ll all be Twitterers.  Soon, we’ll see TwitterAds.  Twitter has big advantages over SMS and may be the answer many issues in the mobile marketing quandary... ‘how do I give my recipients the change to see my products and services.  Semi-impossible with SMSs.  Perfect for Tweets.