Defining Twitter

Over the holiday break I spent my time visiting with family and old friends. The trip was an eye opener for me as I realized the things we write about on Microblink were completely foreign to them. This does not just include my parents, aunts and uncles but also college friends, brother and sister in laws and even their kids


This brought me to the realization that as much as microblogs have gained traction over the last couple of years they have not gone mainstream (yet). Even Twitter which has reached the 4 million user mark, and has seen a number of company and celebrity profiles, still continues to live in its own world. By this I mean lots of things are happening on Twitter everyday, but only a small piece of it ever makes it out into the wild. Some small pieces have captured the attention and lead to coverage by mainstream news outlets, however, explanations of Twitter are kept very generic and the power of Twitter is rarely captured.

Because of this coverage it is not unreasonable to believe that most have at least heard of Twitter (especially with all of its coverage and use during the election), but over a couple of beers I was challenged by a close childhood friend with defining what Twitter is and why I use it. Admittedly, I choked initially and struggled with a coherent train of thought, but here is a run down of what I came up with:

Twitter is a social network, however, the emphasis is in sharing. From my use the other key difference with other networks such as MySpace and Facebook is that on them I have only connected with people I already know. On Twitter I have found and connected with others who post about things I am interested in. Simply put, the content comes first, not the profile.

I continue to use Twitter because outside of the 140 characters there really are no other limits on how I use it. Twitter has been a tremendous networking tool for me. There are specific things I am interested in and through searches I can find people who share those interests and connect with them without the weirdness of having to be friends. I have found that I ‘ve connected with Twitterers on a more personal level than on any other social network. The easiest example is it has allowed me to meet people like Mike and Mark which then spawned Microblink. The important part is that regardless of how I use it, I know I opted in to the content I receive and within a couple of clicks I can just as easily opt back out.

The conversation continued on through a couple more beers about specific use. I unintentionally sold him on Twitter by telling him the only way to really understand is to sign up and let yourself get lost in it.

As someone who frequently attempts to write about Twitter I found it a challenge to communicate what it is. Going through an experience like this myself, now I’m curious to know who else has had to give either friends or family a crash course on Twitter and how you defined it?

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