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Hate Twitter? I used to...confessions of a convert

Contemplating the heady flow of data in and out of my current work environment, it surprises me that I am returning again for a quick chat on Social Media, more so that I am choosing Twitter to chat about.  Why Twitter? Well because Twitter just turned four years old and recently just tweeted its 10 billionth tweet.

Twitter may also help lend some humanity to this conversation because I was a late convert to Twitter. In fact I loathed the very idea of it. I saw Twitter as a realm filled with 10 – 20 year olds sharing inane details of their lives like, “I just  ordered a hamburger with Jane”, “now we’re eating hamburger with Jane”,  “Jane just saw a cute boy” and so forth. A revolting commentary on humanity, I thought.

Let me assure you that while there is a steady stream of this shallow consciousness readily available on Twitter, it is by no means its core. Twitter is ripe with scientist sharing breaking research, social and humanitarians causes, every educational topic you can imagine and tips and trends beyond any capacity to capture it all.

It allows you to pick and choose your topic, the style and perspective of topic gurus while at the same time sharing your own angles, content and ideas. As an example, Barack Obama has over three million people following him and he throws a Twitter comment out on average three times a day (as a side note, our fearless leader Stephen Harper has 48,000 followers and tosses 0.03 tweets a day our way).

I look forward to Tweets from my contacts I have chosen or been introduced to via others' messages.

I receive the latest industry news within disciplines I enjoy such as technology, innovation, business start up, adventure travel and more. I know what you are thinking–'Amber, my newspaper or industry news can do that'. I would suggest your traditional source gets some of it (since media gets over 65% of its stories from social media) but not nearly as fast and not nearly as varied in content as what you will find via Twitter feeds.

So, in summary, what is Twitter? It is a stream of conversation that takes place at the speed of 140 characters per discussion. Generally, these snippets are a summary for a link in the Tweet that goes to a website or blog for expanded conversation such as: Google Redirects Chinese Site to Hong Kong - http://bit.ly/xxxxx [Updated w/ statement from Google]

What is it good for? In following key people, you can keep up with the latest announcements, trends, and industry tips. Honestly, you can keep updated on most things you desire whether it's product sales, concert announcements, or whatever. Let your imagination roam.

On the flip side, like all social media, this is a conversation so there is also your stream outward to consider. On this side Twitter can benefit you by improving branding, organizational communication, customer service, network building and traffic driving to your online sites, to name only a few benefits. As with any social media tools, how you use it and how it will benefit you depends on your goals and those of the people you want to interact with.

I would suggest Twitter needs other elements to be really useful. Twitter.com is where you sign up for an account, but as a tool it is fairly limited.  Next step additions such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck will allow you to better manage your tweets and instantly post them on your other Social Media Sites.

I hope this is enough to pique your interest. In my next article I will go into a bit more detail on setting up Twitter.

I suspect some of you may still just wish Twitter would go away--but this little world run by a Bluebird Icon is likely here to stay. In fact I suspect Twitter may become an integral and growing spoke in the online hub connecting websites, people, ideas and conversations around the world.

Amber Hayes is a technology consultant practicing in the Kootenays and beyond.