Twitter, The Activity Stream of the Social Web

I’ve been on Twitter almost 2 years now and have some observations. I love the transparency and the “Work Out Loud” attitude it promotes. It truly is the nervous system of the Social Web.

Let me mention some basics first and then dig into it a little on how I think this simple tool is revolutionizing interactions on the web. First of all the basics:

  • A tweet is a 140 character statement that is sent to followers.
  • A retweet (RT) is when a follower finds that interesting and sends it on to his/her followers
  • A hashtag (#E20 for example) is a user generated tag that helps identify a topic in the tweet.
  • One can search on a hashtag to find all recent tweets on a particular topic.
  • When you first sign up to twitter, you have no followers, and you follow no one…boring
  • In time, a new tweeter begins to follow interesting people and others begin to find the tweeter interesting and follow him/her.
  • Once you get to a critical mass (50 or so followers and following you) it starts to get interesting
  • A direct message (DM) is a private tweet delivered to one person
  • A @message is a semi-private tweet that is delivered to that one person, but visible only to all who follow both of you that are conversing. You compose the message by beginning with @ followed by the recepient’s twitter name.
  • A tweeter’s full tweet stream (except for DMs) is available for public viewing from the tweeter’s profile.
  • Many people use twitter.com for their tweet platform, but most use some other twitter “client” or program on their desktop, laptop, or mobile device. There are dozens of good twitter clients available for free.
  • Tweets can contain a link to interesting content. Most often the URL is shortened by an automated URL shortener (remember, we are working with just 140 characters here)

The beauty of Twitter is the simplicity. When you put this all together, you have a constant ebb and flow of conversation. The conversations create community. Communities create relationships, and Relationships create lasting value. Let me give you some examples.

The transparency of twitter allows one to “overhear” a conversation. When two people you follow are messaging each other, you can monitor the conversation in your main twitter stream. It’s interesting, you learn that a relationship exists just by witnessing the tweets.

Sometimes it’s like “high school”, you can see who is hanging with the “cool people”. For example if there is a “rock star” on a particular subject (call him Jerry) and I see he and a good friend of mine (call him John) are having a back and forth conversation, I can watch and say “Hey, I didn’t know John knew Jerry that well”. John must be a “rock star” too. My opinion of John is elevated and I suddenly see him in a different light.

The openness of the platform makes it easy to join the conversation. Simply enter you thoughts with the twitter IDs of John and Jerry at the beginning and just like that, you are in the conversation as well. I think that is one of the great appeals of twitter, the ability to have meaningful converations and begin meaningful relationships with just a set of short messages.

Another great thing is the ability to join in and stay out at your convenience. Since the tweets are all captured, you can pick up the conversation later and not miss a thing. However, with the steady stream of tweets, many are missed. That’s alright. If someone wants to catch your attention, they just need to enter your twitter name into a point for you and it shows in your @mentions stream.

Finally, there is nothing like the “now” effect of twitter. Again, a “rock star” may be on line tweeting and if you reply immediately, it is likely he or she will see it before it gets lost in the long stream of tweets from other fans. There is nothing else like the accessibility of those tweeting. Generally if you see a new tweet, you can bet they are online right now and reading what comes their way. Yet another way to cultivate the conversation and begin to build a relationship.

I wonder what you have observed in the subtlety of the interactions and relationships you have built in Twitter. Tweet me @jimworth or add your comments below.

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5 Comments

Filed under community, conversations, how to tweet, microblogging, social media, twitter, web2.0

5 responses to “Twitter, The Activity Stream of the Social Web

  1. >I received these comments via Twitter:From @rickladd I find Twitter exceptional for my education re things known well by peeps I follow.from @n8davis Great post. I will use it in the future instead of trying to explain Twitter myself.From @20Adoption connected with the author of my college COBOL text on Twitter, then met him in Austin for breakfast. Now, a friend @Yourdon

  2. >Fantastic post, Jim – thank you! The bullet section especially… clear, concise explanation of Twitter basics that I have struggled to convey to folks.

  3. >This is great! Like @n8davis said, I will use this instead of trying to explain it myself.

  4. >Nice post, Jim. My experiences as well. What I really like about Twitter is that you actually get know someone. And when you meet him/her in person (at a conference for instance) the conversation picks up where you left off on Twitter!What really needs improvement though is Twitter search. I find it unacceptable searching for old tweets (with a hashtag) can't be found back easily…

  5. >Hi Jim. I find myself wondering if this characterization of the benefits of Twitter is reinforcing social structures as we've always known them – like high school. (Who wants to repeat that hell?) :-)To me, Twitter's brilliance is found in that a random guy/gal you're following can out-Rock-Star a webceleb with a smart reference, comment or unique insight. It's the egalitarian limit of 140 characters that elevates us all. If we look at Twitter through this lens, it can be a perfect platform that upholds democratic ideals of equality.

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