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.
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.
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.
Get information about any Twitter user…
…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.)
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.
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.