Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Twitterholism

My name is Marc, I’m (almost) thirty-five years old and I’m a Twitterholic.

There, I feel better for getting that out in the open. Twitter has become my latest addiction. My drug. My window on the world that keeps me sane. It’s first application (well, my twitter reader, Twhirl, is) that I open in the morning and it sits on my desktop updating the tweets of the 700+ people I currently follow through out the day. And throughout the day I’ll give the 750+ people that follow me updates on what I’m doing and how I’m feeling and other random stuff. It’s genuinely fascinating and addictive – even more so than Myspace or Facebook.

For those who don’t know, Twitter is a ‘mirco-blogging’ service. You are given 140 characters to tell the world what you are doing in an update which can be ‘locked’ or on public display. Locked profiles require the profile holder to give you permission to view it, but open ones are there for all the world to see. Here’s mine.

In some ways twitter is very much like other ‘social networking’ sites in that you can ‘follow’ (or ‘friend’) who you want and they can follow you back. All this means is that when you follow an individual their “tweets” (that’s what they call the updates) appear on your twitter homepage whereas if you don’t follow them you’d have to look at the public timeline or their profile to see them.

But what I love about twitter over and above the other SN sites is the immediacy of the interactions it creates. When you use one of the many apps that have sprung up to facilitate twitter use, it’s like being involved in one giant IM session. People reply to your tweets, you reply to others, it’s almost intimate but on a global scale. Sometimes you have to remind yourself when replying to someone that the whole world can see what you’re saying.

It’s also good for shared experiences. Watching BBC Question Time and ‘live tweeting’ it with a couple of hundred other people make the political debate show all the more interesting. (follow the tag #bbcqt to see what I mean). And this past series of The Apprentice was even better for me because with Thwirl open it was like watching the show with some of your best mates around your house all making comments at the TV.

I know, it all seems very frivolous, but twitter is more than that. Over the pas year or more, several news stories have been broken by ordinary people on twitter to be picked up by mainstream media later. During Prime Minister’s Questions today, the BBC picked up tweets tagged with the #pmqs to include in their TV and online coverage. Over 3000 tweets in the hour that BBC Question Time was shown (10:30 to 11:30 PM no less) during the MP’s expenses scandal was enough to get them to move it to 9 PM the following week.

I’ve also been using twitter to promote Kissed by a Rose. I’ve tagged tweets about the book with #KbaR so they can be found on twitter search and tweets have included one liners from the book, reader comments, links to excerpts and where to buy it. I have to admit, I won’t know for a few months until I get sales figures if this type of marketing has worked, but I do know of several twitter uses who either asked me directly for a link to buy or have told me they have bought it.

I try to be interesting when I tweet. I don’t always succeed, but I do try. I use Twitpic to share photos and Twitterfeed to push this blog’s RSS feed to twitter (in the hope more people might read it). I also used Loudtwitter to have my daily tweets archived to a separate blog – My Twitchive. I also have any tweets I make through Thwirl sent as ‘status updates’ to my facebook and myspace accounts via ‘ping’.

But, the thing about attracting followers on Twitter is to keep posting updates. And generally I can tweet through the working day when I’m at my desk or in the evening after the little one is fed, watered and put to bed, but I find it hard to tweet at weekends and during holidays (which is why I really need to get an iPhone, lol).

So, to keep my stream updated I’ve now got a bunch of other RSS feed pushed through to the stream. News stories that interest me, blogs I read, and the updated and new stories at StoriesOnline. All well and good, but I’m looking for more. So, if you have an RSS feed I might find interesting enough to push to my twitter stream, let me know. It could be good for both of us.

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