Getting Value Out of Twitter: Making the Most of Information Overload
Twitter took the internet by storm just a few years ago, exciting the tech community with an instant way to communicate with others. As word of the service has spread, more are jumping on-board. While word of mouth gets people to sign up for the service, a clear explanation of how to use Twitter causes people to leave just as fast.
Underneath the surface, there is a real value in this ocean of messages.
Follow With Care
The best way to get valuable information out of Twitter is to be selective about who to follow. Twitter offers a list of suggested users to get started but it's generic. A better solution is to search Twitter for companies or celebrities of interest. A search for CNN, MSNBC or Shaq will yield tailored results.
There are a number of celebrities on Twitter that promote themselves through their work and are easily found. In most instances, a celebrity's ID is there actual name with no spaces. Famous people such as Shaq, LeVar Burton, Dave Matthews can all be easily found. By following specific people, only information requested comes through instead of a flood of useless updates.
Use the Hash
Keywords in Twitter updates (called "Tweets") can help locate topics or trends that are of interest. People intentionally tag a post with the # symbol followed by a keyword. These hash tags are picked up by a website and allow easy access to what is gaining popularity. During trade shows a large amount of tweets can appear with #CES or #MacWorld. By tracking these, it's easy to find people with similar tastes.
In addition to hash tags, Twitter has its own built-in search which can get to exactly what would interest users. It has an advanced search mode, allowing results to be filtered by date, location, attitude and even language. The ability to search for not just a topic but local people who are interested in that topic, opens a door to meeting similar people that are close-by.
Change is Good
One factor that is often overlooked with social networks is the ability to update and alter what it brings to each user. A person can be "un-followed" with just a click of the mouse and as new interests enter our lives, those new keywords can be found. The results of what Twitter can bring are dynamic and nothing is set in stone.
If someone tweets off-topic too much, it's easy to remove them. If someone is harassing or offensive, they can be blocked. By updating how the service is used, it can consistently deliver valuable information. There's no shortage of people out there and there is always something to learn. By planning out what method works best for each user, Twitter's value can be seen within just a few hours of use.