Greatest Internet Phenomenons of 2007: Twitter

Twitter

Just as blogging had to get over the stigma that it was just an online diary for the attention starved, Twitter has finally benefited from people who have taken a second look after dismissing it as a place where the attention starved would log what they just had for breakfast. Although the service itself hasn’t changed much in the past 12 months, apart from the tweaking of a few features, Twitter users appear to have finally figured out how to use the technology

As Peter Kim writes on Forrester’s Marketing Blog, it’s not really about the rate of adoption with Twitter as it is how the technology is carving out it’s niche and microblogging is becoming a real channel. Forrester’s report on Twitter claims that 6% of adults use it regularly (although some question this number).

I’ve used Twitter for a few months now and, while I was extremely skeptical at first, I now use it to tap into a large group of people who’s opinion I respect or I have a generalized interest in. I can also dig a level deeper into the blogs I enjoy on a daily basis and really see some of the process that is helping formulate their points of view. When a story like Facebook Beacon breaks, I can get a feel for the sentiment from marketing bloggers within a couple minutes as the links make their way around and before many have had any opportunity to write anything thoughtful. Isn’t tracking sentiment important to marketers?

The term microblogging is a little misleading though. Twitter is essentially more of a “feed” technology than a blogging platform. About 1/3 of the profiles I follow on Twitter are news feeds of some kind who I don’t want to clutter up my RSS reader. Sure, I miss a few posts but it doesn’t bother me (just like it doesn’t bother me when I miss a couple rants from people I follow who are stuck in airports). Thanks to the Twitter API and applications like TwitterFox, I’m not really bothered by the volume of Tweets and I generally only look at it while I’m at my desk and ready to be part of the conversation that is taking place online. All my must read feeds still go into Google Reader, with no overlap.

It’s also worthy to note that there are no permalinks to Tweets. Sure, you are accountable for anything you write but it is a lot easier to have a Tweet buried than it is for a blog post that is indexed on search engines and cached in more places than any of us would care to imagine. You can always get burned, as Steve Rubel discovered, but Twitter is still probably your best Platform for off-the-cuff reactions.

2008 is proving to be an interesting year for microblogging. With Pownce and Jaiku gaining more steam, it’s going to be interesting to see whether or not Twitter’s limited functionality will be its savior or its fatal mistake.