‘I don’t get Twitter, isn’t it just like status updates on Facebook?’
I think I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve had this conversation, and it amazes me every time that micro-blogging and following doesn’t translate to so many potential users.
To see Twitter simply as a broadcast media you miss out on one of the most significant elements of the platform, which is its ability to build multiple customised streams of data which relate to your interests and specialisms. Twitter allows you to keep abreast of the latest developments in virtually any field in real-time.
Take for instance, Ornithology.
Finding birds on Twitter!
Now I know nothing at all about birds, but if I was to suddenly take an interest, I could do a lot worse than use Twitter to find out about it. The first tool I would use is the search bar to research Ornithology.
The feed has a plethora of users posting images of birds they have seen, articles and websites all relating to Ornithology. I can also now see a number of popular #hashtags (searchable keywords) relating to Ornithology, such as #birding which gives me information about what types of birds Ornithologists have sighted, and where.
I can then refine my search further to #birding uk, which now tells me exactly where sightings have been made in the UK. I could use this information to plan out my trips to see these birds in the wild.
Another useful tool for me would be the ‘People results’ which are listed on the right hand side, next to each search feed, these users all write content relevant to my search queries and so choosing to ‘Follow’ them will populate my ‘Home’ feed with lots of relevant information about my new hobby!
You could also browse through those user’s Followers to find other like-minded people; all of a sudden I’ve got a vast library of real-time content updating constantly about Birds, Birders, Birding and all things Ornithological.
On the flip side though, Twitter is unbeatable as a focussed broadcast media, the ability to crowd-source content using #hashtags has fantastic potential for many fields.
Say for instance that you had spotted a particularly rare bird, for example a Montagu’s Harrier (Thank you Jeeves!) by creating a hashtag ( i.e. #montagusharrier) you and other users can search for the latest information about this bird.
By using the #montagusharrier tag, you could tell other Birders exactly where you saw the bird, and when. You could post images you might have taken, sound clips, video, blogs, the list is endless.
This information could be used to plot the bird’s movements, help other Birders and might even help to inform scientists about its behaviours!
An unusual example but one that shows the depth of information you can call from Twitter relating to any topic. I hope that this post may have provided some clarity about what Twitter does, and why it’s not ‘just like status updates’!
Alex Walker, Sage Accountants’ Team