The importance of Twitter isn’t really that it does anything new, but more that it facilitates a new type of behaviour. Imagine a world where you can know what your friends, colleagues and associates are doing, thinking and what they need, in real time or later on. That’s what Twitter does.
There are quite a lot of resisters now, which is fair given the hype and the fact that many mainstream journalists like to make themselves sound clever by making Twitter sound pointless (when will they realise that poking fun at an inanimate service displaying massive global growth and queues of investors only makes them sound like there’s something they’ve missed?). It can also be a little disconcerting for newcomers when a lot of people you don’t know express an interest in what you’re posting by following you. Some people, though, might not have realised that they could have many of Twitter’s benefits by setting up a private account.
How: After creating an account, just go to ‘settings’ and tick the box that says ‘protect my updates’.
You can then share updates, news and requests for help without broadcasting them to everyone. Private messages can also be more easily sent – and answered – than the more cumbersome mode of email*. Don’t post anything up that’s completely confidential; tweets can be very easily shared.
For those who would simply like to dabble in Twitter, or improve communication with people they work with or are friends with, it’s perfectly acceptable to simply let them know your account name so you can follow each other. Some people get annoyed if a stranger with a protected account follows them – they don’t see why they should share with you if you’re not sharing with them – so if the point comes when you want to venture beyond your own community, you might want to throw off that padlock and go public. It’s totally up to you.
And if signing up is a step too far still, don’t forget you can still make use of Twitter’s really useful search facility any time. Here’s what Twitter-users are posting about Stoke-on-Trent right now as an example.
* Yes, I am writing this post in the hope I will be able to send fewer emails