The microblogging tool, Twitter, can communicate businesses, politics and emergencies for all types of people
By Laura Smith
November 21, 2008
Never did any one ordinary person think that they could be ahead of the news, ahead of the political trails, and ahead of the meteorologists on the Weather Channel. Now, thanks to the microblogging site, Twitter, they can be.
According to Jodi Mardesich of Inc.Technology.com, Twitter uses the simple message protocol (SMS) to send updates to public and private groups.
Ordinary people can be the first to break news when it happens or alert their fellow “tweeters” that it is snowing outside. Because Twitter can be accessed through a portable computer or Internet-adaptable phone such as a Blackberry, people can send these alerts while they are actually there, witnessing the scene.
The one catch? The updates can only be 140 characters long, limiting the alerts to be short and too the point.
“With its requirement for people to squeeze their thoughts into 140 characters or less, Twitter is a perfect tool for a fast-paced, mobile society,” said Janna Anderson, director of a research project called Imagining the Internet.
Because of this, Twitter has catered to many businesspeople and other professionals. In a sense, it is the “Facebook Status” of college students to older professionals.
“Most of the early adopters using Twitter to communicate today are writing on the road, from conferences, sales calls and other mobile situations in which they want to share tightly written information chunks,” Anderson said.
Twitter is now often being used to promote one’s company or to establish closer relationships with customers and clients as well, according to Mardisich.
According to Mardisich, Twitter has raise $20 million from venture capitalists alone and in July, there were more than 2.2 million registered accounts, four times the number there was a year before.
Another way Twitter can be useful is in politics. According to Eric Lee, author and blogger of “Web Design and Internet Consulting for the Trade Union Movement,” when the Hilary Clinton campaign began sending out tweets, over 4,000 followers arrived. When the Obama campaign did the same, it got 44,000 followers.
When former vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, came to Elon University for a campaign rally, Twitter was put to good use. Olivia Hubert-Allen, former Editor-in-Chief of Elon’s student newspaper, The Pendulum, used Twitter to update the student body on Palin’s visit and speech through the newspaper’s website.
“Twittering at the Sarah Palin event was one way that we could keep people who aren’t able to be at the event as updated as possible,” Allen said. “Twitter is just so fast and efficient, it’s a natural tool. Before blogs could be posted or stories uploaded to our Web site, our viewers could check out what we were writing on Twitter.”
Twitter allows for this by providing people to be in constant communication with others and spread news fast.
Going along with the idea of news being spread fast, this is another way Twitter is used, in emergencies. The Red Cross, for example uses Twitter to send out short messages following a natural disaster, according to Lee.
According to Day Tynan of PC World, Twitter can be used in an emergency to help save one’s life. The example he gives is of Berkeley grad student, James Karl Buck, who when photographing an antigovernment protest in Egypt last April, was arrested by Egyptian authorities. He quickly tweeted “Arrested” on his cell phone before he was taken away and a day later was released thanks to his Twitter friends who spoke to the US embassy.
In accordance to this, the State Department began using Twitter to issue warnings or advisories to US citizens traveling abroad.
Another feature of Twitter is that it is platform- independent. This means that an individual can use Twitter however they like and can receive messages when and where it is most convenient to them. Whether that is through the Internet, cell phone, instant messenger or RSS news feeds, Twitter can be used however one wants.
“This differs from texting on cell phones because it allows you to follow the information shared by interesting people you don’t even know and they are sometimes sharing extremely useful data,” Anderson said.
According to Tynan, as of now there are 2,980,083 Twitter accounts. The average tweets per hour is 27,000 and most tweets come from Internet Radio.
“Since you only have 140 characters to use it really makes you write efficiently, Allen said. “It’s easy for people to follow because the information is in small snippets — more like how we think or talk to each other — than long paragraph form.”
So next time you want to tell your friends your leaving town for a business trip, don’t pick up your phone call them, “tweet” it to them.