Social Enterprise

Twitter app: Why IT pros should use it

The official Twitter client app is among the top three apps that Scott Lowe uses on a daily basis on his iPhone. He offers an overview of the official Twitter app for iPhone users.

When I talk about how much I like Twitter, I often get a response along the lines of "Why do you care what kind of steak Charlie Sheen had for his winning dinner?" Although Twitter is a way for some people to deliver trivial information, it can also be an incredibly valuable professional tool.

On my iPhone, the official Twitter client app is among the top three apps that I use on a daily basis; Twitter is sandwiched between email (my number one app) and Yammer, another social media tool. Here's my overview of the Twitter app, and then for those IT pros who still aren't sold on the idea that Twitter can be a useful business tool, I give my two cents about why it is worthwhile. (Note: This column is iPhone specific, but Twitter has an official client for all of the major platforms.)

Twitter app overview

I'm an iPhone guy, and I've tried many Twitter client apps, including TweetDeck, but I almost exclusively use the official Twitter iPhone app now.

Figure A shows part of my Twitter feed from today. I only follow about 100 people and organizations, so my Twitter feed isn't overwhelming. Figure A

My Twitter feed from today.
I use Twitter to get and to share information; for instance, I like to know when I'm mentioned online so I can respond if necessary. In Figure B, you'll see my recent mentions, which are accessible by tapping the @ sign at the bottom of the window. Figure B

Tap the Mentions icon to see if anyone is talking about you
If I'd like a little more information about someone behind a tweet, I can bring up the person or organization's profile page. In Figure C, you'll see the first part of TechRepublic's profile and, in Figure D, the rest of it.  In Figure D, you'll also see that there are some other options available, including the Lists option, which show the lists the person or organization has created. Figure C

Get information about any Twitter user...
Figure D

...and when it's too long, scroll down.
Figure E is my Twitter profile page. I've added my stock photo (which I really need to update) and a short description of myself.  Below that, you see my stats, which include the number of people I follow, the number of followers I have, as well as the number of tweets I've sent.  (I don't tweet constantly, so my tweet number is pretty low compared to others.) Figure E

My Twitter profile.

Why I like Twitter

Here's why Twitter has become a must-have professional tool for me:

  • Immediacy. Breaking news and news of new "stuff" hits Twitter feeds before it posts almost anywhere else. I like watching what's coming down the line, so this is great for me.
  • Centralization. By following around 100 people and organizations on Twitter, I'm able to, in a single place, track activities that are important to me. For example, I love TechRepublic and want to know when new articles are released. I could use RSS or simply check the website, but by using Twitter, I get everything from TechRepublic in one stream.
  • Specific use case -- product information. I recently had a need to get unbiased information about a technology purchase. Although the vendor supplied me with references, I really needed to go outside that reference list. So, I sent a tweet asking for people who had experience with the product and within minutes, I had a number of people offering me their email addresses so that we could continue the conversation about the product. By using this outreach mechanism, I was able to very quickly get the real, unbiased information that I really needed to make a good decision.
  • Networking. The people that I communicate with on Twitter I truly like. I've been able to meet many of them, and their insights and knowledge is invaluable. Many of us reach out to others when we need something, so Twitter has become a fantastic networking tool for me. And I'm a blogger and a writer, so this kind of outreach is important.

I also like Twitter for some "fun" (okay, time-wasting) stuff, too. I follow badbanana and overlandparker because I find both (especially the latter) hilarious, and it's kind of nice to see a joke or two interspersed between news about the latest VMware offering and stock news from CBS MoneyWatch.

Summary

Although many people still have the perception that Twitter is nothing more than a way for celebrities to boost their egos, I've found it to be a particularly valuable professional tool. This is why the official Twitter client application is one of the most used apps on my iPhone.

More Twitter resources on TechRepublic

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

16 comments
sklasing
sklasing

I have been developing systems for 30 years, and still stay current in leading, bleeding edge technologies such as building mobile apps etc. My point is I have seriously tried to consider where twitting fits into a valuable IT business purpose. It might work for an IT team that is only following their team members for business purposes, but I personally question how productive one can remain at work if they are twitting their time during work hours. I want my team to remain focused at their assignments and applications such as chat, twitting etc only seem to constantly interrupt that focus.

sjdorst
sjdorst

As an avid twiter user, albeit in political and hobby parts of my life, I agree than Twitter can be quite useful for business. However, I must take issue with advocating the "Official" Twitter app! There are LOTS of alternatives out there, and choice of app is highly dependent on your individual usage pattern. Personally, I HATE the "Official" Twitter ReTweet feature and prefer to use the RT convention that predated Twitter even HAVING an official ReTweet. You can't easily do that with the official Twitter app, but you can with many of the alternatives out there. I use Twidroyd on my Android phone. I don't know (or care) if it's available for iPhone!

garyleroy
garyleroy

Why would the words "professional" and "twitter" and "iphone" ever be used in a sentence? Only if the sentence said that no self-respecting professional would use either twitter or an iphone. C'mon, gadget-boy, get your nose out of that phone, quit tinkering with your toys, and do your job.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

After three-plus years and four attempts, it looks like I've finally been able to close my account.

atoms
atoms

There is so much "Breaking news and news of new 'stuff'" that I prefer to wait until it DOES post somewhere else. By then the 95% of it that isn't really important will already be somewhat filtered out.

Plant Doctor
Plant Doctor

I am still waiting for a useful purpose for twitting.

startelelogic
startelelogic

what will happen in 2011 with nokia and symbian

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

I don't follow people that regularly share their lunch menus and I don't follow Hollywood type - Leonard Nimoy being the exception - so I can't comment on the general Twitter perception. When following the right people, I have come to see Twitter as another information outlet.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It has become another marketing channel also. Assign a staff member to manage the company twitter account and included into your public representation. If you do new bulletins, a monthly letter or something, you can use twitter to announce it. It shouldn't account for every five minutes of a staffer's day but rather relevant information at the company's pace. (granted, this depends on if you have a regular item to announce)

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

It all depends on your needs and outcomes. I do consider my iPhone a professional device. I happen to find great value in Twitter, although I will admit that it took a while. I actually do consider myself a self-respecting professional. Maybe the two cancel each other out? Scott

mdbizzarri
mdbizzarri

I work for a software company, and others at the company will use the iPhone with some apps to keep up with their emails from customers while out of the office, as well as many other features that make their life easier. I can see getting a Droid when my current contract is up. What I have not seen is one convincing argument from an IT type on why I should use Twitter. I want to like it, I want to use it, but in reality, it just seems like a bunch of static in this thing we call life. I check Tech Republic once a day, and I get RSS feeds so I can check things at my leisure. If something is that pertinent, then call me, or email me. Twitter is the equivalent of texting, and so I find very little use for it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

doesn't mean there isn't any value in it. But enlighten us; why would using either Twitter or an iPhone cause one to question one's self-respect?

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

none of what was covered actually makes Scott Lowe reply.

Con_123456
Con_123456

Twiter is just another spy application. So as Facebook, Skype, ICQ, Google, Crhome, Cloud computing, Windows, Phone operators, Internet providers, Web servers (including this one)... Every public service must keep a detailed profile and activity log of their users. Finally, they are obliged to hand over these data to the global terrorist centre called FBI. And they do it regularly.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

There is no shortage of "just ate a ham sandwitch for lunch" posts but it can be used for less mondain broadcast needs. I've heard of people setting up protected twitter feeds; the servers post the messages and the IT team follows along with whatever client app they want. That being more efficient than setting up a shared mailing account or pager/sms dialout systems depends on the comapny. It may make sense though. The obvious reason for an IT professional to use twitter personally is demonstrated by celebrity IT pros. Consider the infosec celebrities that are suggested on "people to follow on twitter" lists.

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