I’m taking a look today at Twitter, a popular online service similar to the “status box” implemented by Facebook. Twitter gives users the opportunity to post small updates on their life via a personal RSS feed.
Here’s the basics. Once you’ve signed up for a twitter account you’ve got your own personal little twitter feed. Anytime you want you can go to your twitter home page and type in a little blurb, 140 characters or less. Whatever you’ve entered will then show up in your feed for people to read.
There’s a few different ways folks can read your twitter updates, popularly called “tweets.” For one, they can go to your profile on the twitter website. This will display your last several tweets and give them an option to scroll through older ones. Also, if they have an account with twitter themselves they will also be able to subscribe to your twitter feed through the website. Referred to as “following” your tweets will now show up on their homepage when they log into twitter. You can also directly subscribe to the RSS feed of anyone’s tweets using any standard reader. Twitter is also easy to integrate with your personal website so that you can display your feed anywhere you like.
Created as a simple status updating service, twitter is rapidly evolving to encompass more uses. For one thing, it’s being used by many as a chat system, something akin to the “shoutbox” you’ll see on the occasional forum only a little more personal. If you’re following someone and they make a comment that you have some sort of response to, you can post a little reply in your twitter feed. If they’re following you as well, they’re going to see it. In fact, this way to chat got popular enough that twitter caught on and made adjustments to accomodate it. The standard way to let somone know that you’re responding to something they said is to start you response with the symbol ‘@’ and the person’s username on twitter. Once they picked up on this, twitter changed the coding on their site so that the ‘@’ symbol would automatically cause the following username to show up as a link to that users profile page.
So why should we care about twitter from a business perspective? I mean it’s neat, people have this great little tool they can use to communicate with their friends and even form a sort of community, but what does that mean for me? Can I find a profitable use for this tool? I ran into alot of questions about the possibility of twitter for business use while I was checking the service out, and I came across one viable idea that’s worth taking a look at.
I’m gonna segway for a minute to one of my personal favourite websites. It’s a webcomic called MegaTokyo that’s been around for quite some time now. The site has seen enormous amounts of success even to the point of several published collections of the comic being released and available in almost any large bookstore. Now there’s one thing that the author of the comic does that has caught my attention several times. He has a spot for his own personal twitter feed on the site, but also includes a second twitter feed that relates specifically to the comic. You’ll see updates there on the status of the next strip. Things like “drawings done, working on inking,” or “almost finished, should be up by 3:00.”
This is an excellent move in my opinion. Using a twitter feed this way is giving the site two advantages. First off, it’s a way for readers to feel a little more connected with the project. They feel more intimately involved in the process of the comic if they know what’s going on every step of the way. It’s that sort of connection that converts casual visitors to fans.
Secondly, it adds yet another little bit of dynamic content to the site. Most content-based websites require fresh new content to arrive periodically in order to be successful. Megatokyo, on a regular basis, updates with a new comic strip every monday wednesday and friday. However, it’s not always possible for the artist to keep to that schedule. People have lives and sometimes they get in the way of writing and drawing a comic strip. When a fan of the comic visits the site and sees no knew content, they’re dissapointed. With the addition of the Megatokyo twitter feed, however, they are at least able to check out what the progress is on the strip, how soon it will be up, why it got delayed, etc. Along with fostering a greater feeling of connection to the project, it provides something ‘new’ for the reader to be checking up on, one more little reason to come back to the site… and that goes a long way.
Twitter is more than a trendy little service. It’s an excellent business and networking tool the potential of which has yet to be tapped. Anyone with an interest in social networking, blogging, online communities, internet entreprenuership or even just a desire to keep their finger on the pulse of the web needs to get in on this.Read More