Today’s Plinky prompt: Is Twitter a great way to keep in touch with people, or a time-waster?
I haven’t used Twitter much for keeping in touch with people I know. In my opinion, that’s what Facebook is for.
I have used Twitter to broadcast announcements for my job (@tuResearch) and my parents group (@SoTXadopt). Off and on, I have used my personal Twitter handle (@scholz) to promote my blog or to live-tweet an event.
I think it is definitely possible for Twitter to be a waste of time, but that depends on the ways you use it and your goals in using it.
There are lots of people who post pure garbage on Twitter. It can be an echo chamber for trolls and bigots. Check out this site to see anti-gay slurs on Twitter in real time. (http://www.nohomophobes.com/#!/today/) Basically, what people used to only say aloud to their dog now gets broadcast to the entire world. There are obvious repercussions to people losing the ability to censor themselves.
On the other hand, if you follow the right people, Twitter can be a useful source of information and a way to build relationships. Who the right people are depends on your goals for using the service. Most of my twitter feed consists of news outlets, non-profit consultants, higher education experts and the occasional geekdom celebrity (e.g. Wil Wheaton or Chris Anderson).
The ability to include user handles and hashtags in your tweets means that you can make sure a certain community can find your message. It’s quite an interesting approach to communication.
I personally prefer Google+ for these purposes and use my Twitter account rather sparingly. Google+ allows you to tag handles, hashtags and direct your posts to certain groups. It’s also more visual than Twitter, featuring photos and videos prominently in the post, and there’s no character limit.
Twitter has made some design changes recently which allow for better use of images in the stream. Unfortunately it has also made some decisions about how it works with third-party apps that may prove detrimental. It stopped allowing integration with IFTTT and rumor has it that other apps, like Hootsuite and Buffer may be next. These third-party apps allowed people to customize their experience, integrate twitter with other websites, schedule tweets for optimal times, etc.
I haven’t followed these changes closely, but what I’ve heard is that they are motivated by a desire to keep users on the site in order to secure advertising revenue. The new social network APP.net was founded in response to this monetization issue. I finally joined APP yesterday after they announced that they are reducing their rates to $36/year. Yes, APP.net is a paid service; In fact, that’s the point. Their founder says that he’d rather be beholden to the users than the advertisers. This is an experiment worth watching.
For people just starting out in social media, I recommend Google+. G+ and APP.net don’t have the user-base of Facebook or Twitter, but they are likely to grow a lot in the future, while Twitter may put itself out of business by closing itself off and antagonizing users. Of course, even MySpace is trying to make a comeback right now, so I predict that Twitter will hang on in some form and that we’ll see a growing diversity of social media communities going forward.