Social networking

What Twitter Is Really For

May 5, 2009

in Internet,social networking

by David Hakala

Recent press reports indicate that people are deserting Twitter in droves. The short-message social network that captured headlines for weeks is suffering from information overload. You sign up with Twitter, follow a few people, activate the RSS feed, and instantly you are flooded with dozens of messages like this:

“Just ate a baloney sammich.”

“Look at the cute thing my baby did…”

“Taking out the trash.”

Who cares, right? The problem is that question on’s home page, the one that text-messaging teens constantly send to each other: “What are you doing right now?” If I want to know, or just open a more meaningful conversation, I’ll ask you. But I don’t want 50 trivial updates per day!

Twitter should be used to convey meaningful messages with “the soul of wit”: brevity. It is often said that truly powerful mission statements are less than 25 words long. People can readily grasp such a short message and remember it. Twitter gives you only 140 characters in which to make your point. You have to think about what you’re writing.

Think of Twitter as a mini-blog. When you have a brilliant idea, find a spectacular site, or read a bit of news worth sharing and discussing, Tweet it and move on. Don’t get all hung up on writing Tolstoy.

If your Tweets have a theme, such as “flower of the day” or a particular philosophy, you will build up a following of like-minded people. That’s how you make friends instead of losing followers.

A business can set up a Twitter feed simply to keep track of what people are saying about it. Drop news items into Twitter now and then, and customers will start following your feed. You get to read what they say about your company, and about what they had for lunch.

Tweeting meaningfully can help you develop a widespread network of friends, business partners, and kindred souls. Answering that foolish question on Twitter’s home page will get you shunned like the village idiot.

David Hakala has perpetrated technology tutorials since 1988 in addition to committing tech journalism, documentation, Web sites, marketing collateral, and profitable prose in general. His complete rap sheet can be seen at