“Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the most viral of them all?” I asked.
“Twitter, O dear sir!” answered the magic mirror without doubt.
http://twitter.com is the service that lets you stay connected with friends, colleagues and family through exchange of short message updates, sharing “what are you doing right now?” has achieved almost cult following among its users, many of whom are celebrity bloggers and Internet influencers from across the globe.
Many call the trend micro-blogging, as, unlike conventional blogs, it does not inovolve long entries made from a desktop computer.
Twitter is a micro-blogging platform (messages can contain a maximum of 140 characters) and a social networking site (connect with and friends and make new ones). I could also say that it is blogging on the go and lets you disseminate and receive messages using the Web interface, an Internet messenger/ desktop client or your mobile phone. All of these are correct.
However, it is better think of it as a café.
People keep coming, conversations are perpetually on, someone leaves, and someone else joins in. You chat with your friends and acquaintances regularly and ever so often you also meet one of their friends. You join into their conversations and make new friends in the process. Someone you didn’t know earlier reaches out to connect; you do the same when you want to reach out. This café is virtual, but the people are real and they do meet up often – at work, at parties, at Tweetups (offline group meets of Tweople, as Twitter users are called). Like someone said on a Social Media Today podcast (http://socialmediatoday.com) “Twitter is like talking to friends on way back home from school, reading their blogs is like reading their homework.” No wonder Twitterholics (http://twitterholic.com/) prefer Twittering over even singing.
But what makes Twitter so special, so viral?
To understand this, it’s important to understand the genesis of Twitter for the service is based on some powerful insights. For one, the always-on Internet is less dependent on the Web page and Internet Messengers and widgets (mini programs on the Net) are gaining importance. Bloggers are looking for quick ways to communicate while mobile phones are catching on. Twitter allows all this, and a flexibility to help people share content across multiple platforms.
Twitter is a service that lets you use its Web interface to push your message, and the moment you send a message to people who follow your feed, it lands on their preferred device, be it a handset, an Internet Messenger or simply their Twitter Web page. You can similarly track messages sent by others.
Your Twitter message can become your status message on social networking site Facebook, which has become a watering hole of sorts for all types of Internet animals to congregate. Twitter also has dozens of software applications developed by independent developers.
New uses are coming up for Twitter almost every minute. You can hold conversations, break news (Television seems out of fashion!), you could blog live from an event like a dynamic reporter, you can promote your Website, event or blog posts you can research stuff by linking with other users and you can get quick help and feedback on nearly anything. In fact, I got inputs for this article by using Twitter itself.
People are using collective intelligence of other users to come with best-of solutions. It is called crowd-sourcing. A recent example is Guy Kawasaki of Garage Ventures using Twitter extensively to gather information on sites suitable for inclusion on his new venture All Top (http://alltop.com) which aggregates best of websites/ blogs in a dashboard view, by subject/ region. Biz Stone, founder of Twitter, shares this powerful story of an American student who got help from followers in the US and Egypt when he was arrested during an anti-government protest at Mahalla in Egypt. All he did was a one-word update on Twitter: “Arrested.”
And when his trouble was over, he updated his Twitter feed with “Free.”In US policies, Democratic presidential aspirant Barack Obama is the highest “followed” user on Twitter.
Sometime last week I Twittered:“Sindhi Kadhi + Rice = Heaven.” It generated immediate response from not just Twitter but also Facebook friends. People were writing in from Bangalore, Delhi, Switzerland asking me to share the recipe, which I did over a few dozen Tweets. You get the idea. Companies can use Twitter in project teams and crisis management teams. Media companies can broadcast updates and schedules, marketers can get feedback and form communities.
(The author is the founder of Blogworks, a social media consulting firm. He blogs at http://blogworks.in/blog )