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Top 10 Uses of Twitter

Posted on May 16th, 2008
Written by Lee Odden
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    The results of our poll on how Online Marketing Blog readers use Twitter are in. We had over 220 responses, which isn’t a bad sample considering this blog is fairly niche with a modest sized (and very smart) audience. Below I’ve listed the poll results and a few comments on each.

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    • (39%, 87 Votes) Sharing links to items of interest to your network – Not surprising since the speed of reach on Twitter is so fast. As soon as you find something interesting that’s linkable, you can drop it on Twitter and your network knows immediately. With the URL monitoring tools like the Techmeme-like Twitt(url)y and twitbuzz you can track items of interest before they ever hit the blogosphere and long before they hit mainstream media.
    • (28%, 63 Votes) Networking for new contacts – I don’t explicitly use Twitter for this reason, but it happens. Twitter is like a first stepping stone to Facebook then to LinkedIn and then to something offline. Well, not really, but with the search features of Summize you can find others with similar interests to follow and connect with. You can also use TwitterLocal to find Tweeple in your geo. While Twitter is hot amongst early adopters, it’s still new enough that finding people in your area can be reason enough to connect. There’s also whoshouldIfollow which looks at who your Twitter friends follow and makes suggestions.
    • (21%, 47 Votes) Reinforcing current network contacts – Definitely a good use of Twitter as a touchpoint between connecting in person or virtually. Social media savvy people I meet in person at events almost always connect (or are already connected) on Twitter before other networks. Direct messaging with contacts replaces IM in many cases and makes it easy to build relationships (assuming each has something to offer).
    • (10%, 22 Votes) Promoting specific content – I consider promotion and sharing very similar. ie, I wouldn’t promote something I wouldn’t want to share in the first place. In some cases this might be asking for votes or it might be promoting a specific event. Nothing wrong with that. Retweeting is a common goal for promoting content. Those 140 (and likely less than that) characters need to be very carefully crafted and the topic needs to be very unique in order to motivate others to pass along the Tweet to their followers with a “retweet”.
    • (9%, 21 Votes) Re-distribution of content from blog, web site – When this is done manually and in a customized way with some consideration towards what your Twitter network is interested in, it works well. When it’s done automatically using a blog plugin it can get old because many times, people following you on Twitter also read your blog. Although I wonder if there is a shift away from blog reading towards Twitter.
    • (8%, 17 Votes) Twitter cat posts: flight delays, eating habits, who knows what and why – These are the kinds of Tweets I saw when I first signed up for Twitter and really didn’t get what the attraction was. Individually, these Tweets seem pretty meaningless, but cumulatively, they paint a picture of the personality and character of your network. That can mean a lot when recruiting candidates, looking for prospective clients, vendors and marketing partners.
    • (5%, 11 Votes) Replacement for Facebook updates – A lot of search marketers are not using Facebook as much as they used to and I think the simplicity of Twitter is refreshing compared to the sheep throwing, zombie biting, “who’s sexy” environment on Facebook. Since this poll was launched Facebook added chat which is pretty useful but I’m not sure it will lure away from Twitter.
    • (5%, 11 Votes) Influencing your network to do and think what you want – This falls in line with promoting content and ideas. Anyone that knows me knows I’m a promoter. When I see something interesting, I have no problem promoting it and influencing my network to attend a specific event, contribute to a charity or check out a new Twitter tool seems perfectly natural. Your network expects you to be opinionated, that’s why they follow you.
    • (2%, 4 Votes) Group and project communications – As for group communications, several events I’ve been to such as a session at the Web 2.0 Expo that created Twitter accounts (@micromedia2) attendees can follow and use to interact with the panel. I’ve also seen some organizations create accounts that can be used at more than one event or as a distribution tool like blog updates via RSS – only limited to 140 characters. I’d love to hear of some project communication examples with Twitter in the comments.
    • (1%, 3 Votes) Microblogging conferences – Made famous by Twitter’s launch at SXSW last year and also this year, I think live tweeting events will become more and more popular as services like LiveTwitting gain traction. That’s what makes Twitter great, 3rd party tools.
    • (1%, 3 Votes) Shilling for Digg and other social news votes – Explicitly and frequently asking for social media votes (publicly) isn’t going to win friends. Plus the mods for the bookmarking, networking or news site may be following you so it’s not worth it to abuse. What does seem to work well is to make it humorous or just ask people to check out something you’re trying to draw attention to. The social voting widgets on-site will give visitors the opportunity to act if they like the content.
    • (0%, 1 Votes) Pitching journalists and bloggers – With Stowe Boyd’s recent promotion of Twitpitching and other echoes, you’d think there’d be more activity of this type. At least a direct message of a news/story idea to a journalist that is following you would be pretty easy and acceptable to do. If there are any journalists or bloggers on Twitter reading this that have seen an increase in Twitter pitches, please share.

    One Twitter use that is definitely missing from this poll is, “Crowdsourcing your network” much like Stephen Baker did in this story on Twitter from yesterday’s BusinessWeek. Outside of sharing links to interesting things and networking, polling your network for answers to hard questions is probably the most productive thing about Twitter. In fact, I’m sure if we ran this poll again it would be the top answer.

    The other use is one that’s more commercial, like how H&R Block, Comcast and Zappos have been using Twitter for customer service and customer outreach.

    Wired’s Wiki has a list of some useful Twitter applications here.

    What kinds of interesting or difficult problems have you been able to solve by crowdsourcing your Twitter network? What commercial examples have you been most impressed with and what companies/brands were behind them? Are you using Twitter as a marketing tool?