A fundamental misunderstanding of Twitter


Few people understand Twitter. It actually took me quite some time to fully grasp what Twitter is and why it’s different from any other social media site or anything else on the Internet. In fact, I was a Twitter user for several years before I fully understood what it meant and what it could do. I truly believe that the majority of Twitter’s users don’t grasp what they are using and the power of what seems to be a simple tool.


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What started as a platform tied to SMS and character limits on mobile devices evolved into a real-time engine for the Internet. Twitter has always been difficult to grasp for the mainstream user. It’s not as simple and easy to “get” as Facebook or even MySpace. You don’t have a circle of friends that you share your life with like other social media.   The idea behind Twitter is that everything you post, every tweet is instantly public, unless you specifically hide it or send a direct message to another user. So think of Facebook as a dinner party at your house with some friends. As you share stories and vacation pictures, your friends are able to hear you and see the pictures, and comment. You are able to interact with them.

Now imaging a huge club or bar full of people, all talking at the same time. Everyone can hear everyone talk, although some people, your followers, are closer to you and are more likely to hear you.  Every Twitter user is in this room, all talking at the same time.  What this does is provide a real-time element of what’s happening at the moment not just with your small circle of friends, but with everyone across the globe. Well, everyone tweeting about what’s going on.

This means you will hear a lot of useless garbage, like lot’s of “good night” and “Happy Holidays” during the holidays and “It’s hot” or “It’s cold”. But you will also hear when something newsworthy has happened, like a celebrity death, a major disaster or a stock market changing event.


Google searches the web, Twitter searches life

When you search Google, the results are always going to be at least 15 minutes behind what is happening. Searching Google is in effect searching what has made it to the Internet. Even Google News is limited in that is only shows the results of mainstream media, blog and limited social media content. Now if you are old enough to remember only getting your news the next day from a newspaper or at 5 pm from your local news channel then 15 minutes doesn’t seem all that long to wait. However these days 15 minutes can be a lifetime. if you need to know what’s happening this exact second, then that’s what Twitter was made to do.

This is the value of Twitter. This is what most people who don’t use Twitter or “don’t get” Twitter don’t understand. By participating in Twitter, by tweeting, you are sharing the right now and making that available to the world.  Sure that means there will be a lot of useless and frivolous information that most people don’t care about, but if you can filter out the noise and get to the useful info, Twitter can be a powerful tool. A tool that’s already been credited with bringing down regimes and allowing people to communicate during natural disasters when phone lines are down and it’s the only way to communicate.

Twitter is always compared with Facebook, but it’s not Facebook. It was never meant to be Facebook. It has the potential to be more like Google. Understanding what Twitter is and what it can be can help you with your business and website. Sometimes that means using Twitter to stem a PR disaster or prevent a PR disaster as a result of Twitter (customers complaining on Twitter for example). You don’t have to be on Twitter to have your reputation ruined as a result of the people on Twitter. So the more you understand about this service, the better equipped small businesses can be to protect and foster their small business.


How we can help

With our social media package, we walk small business owners through how they can use Twitter to provide better service to their customers, build a relationship with them and most of all, seem accessible to them. This is the key to having a successful social media presence. Its not just advertising. That absolutely does not work.  It’s not about just posting useful information (even if it does not result in sales for your business.) More than that it’s making your customers, particularly loyal customers, feel like you are accessible and transparent.   It’s through this fundamental understanding of Twitter and other social media sites that can help you build your social media presence, not just prevent PR nightmares.


Posted in Small Business.