Despite all the buzz about Twitter a lot of people still tell me "it's a lot of people talking about what they had for lunch."
They're not entirely wrong, but they're not right either. So let me run through a few things to help you better understand what Twitter is and what Twitter isn't.
Twitter isn't a Website.
The Twitter website sucks. Everyone knows it, even the folks at Twitter. In fact,if you go to Twitter.com and expect to figure it out, you're just going to be overwhelmed and confused. Trying to understand Twitter from the site is like trying to understand your telephone by walking up to one of those huge phone-switch buildings and looking in the windows at the rows and rows of technical equipment. Sure, there is a lot to look at, but it's not going to help.
Twitter is a service
Think of Twitter like your phone company. Just as you use the phone service by plugging in your
phone, you are best using Twitter by getting a different application like Tweetdeck, Seesmic Desktop and Twirl, or even a good application for your mobile phone. That's why most Twitter devotees point out that Twitter is broken into two pieces: the company and the service.
Twitter isn't all inane.
Sure, some of Twitter is people talking about silly stuff, but if you listened in on every phone conversation in the world you'd find that much of it is people talking about junk. That doesn't mean you're going to throw away your phone for being useless, it just means you're going to pick the right people to talk to. If someone can provide you with useful information, you'll call them
(or answer their call). If not, then you don't.
Twitter is your customers, partners, friends, relatives
This is where we get into deeper value. Imagine being able to search every conversation going on in the world at any moment and find the people talking about your company or discussing an issue that your product can solve. That's what Twitter offers. One easy way to get into this is by using Twitter search. If you want to go a little deeper, an advanced page on Twitter search lets you include specific terms, multiple terms, eliminate terms and even search by geography. Very useful for restaurants and other companies with a specific geographic focus.
Twitter is SEO Friendly
Recently Twitter searches have started showing up at the top of Google results. In fact, many in the search community believe that Google feels the threat of Twitter, since it offers an instant glimpse into information. Google famously provided information to the CDC of people searching on the term "Flu" in order to understand where the flu is spreading in the US and around the world. But with Twitter you can find out in real time how people are feeling in your city. Not how they WERE feeling, but how they ARE feeling, right now.
Important for your company, however, is the fact that people go to Google to find out information about products. Often they go with a problem and let Google answer it. Twitter helps them find you. Even more importantly, they're starting to go straight to Twitter to ask their friends and get instant feedback.
Ultimately, Twitter is who you follow
Twitter lets you select the people important to you and talk with them. Sure, you can just listen and see all the stuff your customers, colleagues and friends are saying, but you can also talk with them. Many people will now say "my customers aren't on Twitter," but frankly that's a tricky supposition, you don't know that until you ask. Also, even if they're not on Twitter, you may be able to glean information to help them do their business by listening to THEIR customers. Even better, if you find that your customers are there, you can talk with them quickly and efficiently in a way that makes them comfortable.
Oh, and if you're going to start, why not just follow me?