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November 12, 2007

5 ways to use Twitter beyond plain, old, public IM

After a few false starts trying to figure it out, I've been using Twitter fairly regularly now for about two months and change.

Yes, it can be a frivolous timesuck, just like lots of other social media. But I think if used judiciously and applied creatively, it's a pretty amazing tool, especially now that it's become so popular (read: broad reach).

Here are 5 ways that either I personally like to use Twitter or have found others using it creatively and well.

1. Point people to great, newsworthy stuff

Folks like Jason Kottke build their entire blogs on culling great URLs and sharing them with their readers. For people like me who write more essay (personal blog) or how-to type posts, Twitter serves as an excellent, secondary links blog.

The writersstrike Twitter is doing a great job of this, posting links to funny/interesting/timely coverage of the current Writers' Guild of America (WGA) strike. (Writers' Strike Twitter)

2. Extend your brand

I'm not sure if famous artist Jenny Holzer's intent was to do this. But words are her vehicle anyway, and so Twitter serves to reinforce this. I'm guessing she's just a great artist who found a cool new medium and went for it. But her pithy and provocative observations also serve as a great introduction to her work. (Jenny Holzer's Twitter)

3. Create community

New media guy and uber-connector Chris Brogan has such a large following and such interesting Twitters that there's a separate "channel" just to track the responses to his Twitters. I've found some interesting conversations and people via both streams (Chris Brogan's Twitter; I'll post the other when I find it.)

4. Make 'em laugh

I'll admit it: I subscribe to certain Twitterers b/c they make coffee come out of my nose. There is always value in being entertaining. Plus, given all the stress people are dealing with today, it's a public service. (Merlin Mann's Twitter; Wally Torta's Twitter.)

5. Teach yourself to write short

I wrote about this in my most recent newsletter, but it bears repeating: for those of us with a tendency to blather, Twitter's 140-character maximum per entry is a great exercise in honing your thoughts.


For more ways of using social media as tools for improving your communications skills, email me and I'll forward a copy of the November issue. Or just sign up for a subscription (c'mon...you know you wanna!) and it will be sent to you automagically.

BONUS: Excellent 5-er post about Using Twitter for Good up at lifehack.org written by (you guessed it) Chris Brogan. He's bad! He's nationwide!

So...what ways do you use Twitter? Or don't you?


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