Users are Defining Emerging Social Media Platforms

Twitter history

Although almost universally dismissed when it began to catch on, few can dismiss Twitter as anything less than a phenomenon now. Yes, like a lot of content on the Internet, you have to do some digging to find the good stuff but most experienced Twitter users claim that the larger conversation happening in their friend circle is more organic and unique than just about anything happening online.

After weeding out some of the ranters a couple weeks ago, I’m having a much easier time managing Twitter and can stay up-to-date with most of the people I follow pretty easily. While I find the Twitter site fairly useless, except to read the profiles of other Twitterers, software like Twhirl and my new IM client Digsby make it easier for me to follow people and send off a quick tweet without stopping what I’m doing.

What’s becoming clear with the rise of Twitter is that being an agnostic platform is one of the keys to growth in the Web 2.0 world. With social networking, it was the flexibility that took people from Friendster to MySpace and then streamlined functionality is what eventually drove them to Facebook. Web 2.0 took a cue from that development and focused on delivering streamlined tools but the one’s that really took off are the open technologies that didn’t try to dictate how end users interact with their service. This can definitely be said for the social bookmarking technologies and is probably, at least tangentially, responsible for the rise of Gmail.

Jeremiah Owyang is an example of this with Twitter. He uses Twitter as a social computer and states that it has many benefits over technologies like Google:

While Google is great for finding information and websites, it’s NOT great for getting opinion, hearing nuance, or telling me relational information. With Twitter, I can ask information about opinions, and receive responses from real people (many I know, most I don’t) that often have first hand experience with the question at hand.

Pamela Seiple says that Twitter is her favorite social media tool. She compiled a list of uses for Twitter, describing as a source of timely news and insight:

Many of the people I follow on Twitter are active social media players – bloggers, PR professionals, tech-enthusiasts. Therefore, the tinyurl’s they share are usually useful for me to check out. My logic is, if the people I interact with and respect on Twitter think something is important and worth a click, chances are I will, too!

The truth is that Twitter is a lot of different things to different people and, while many people were repelled by their “What are you doing?” tagline, there are probably just as many people who have redefined what the purpose of Twitter is and are using it on their own terms.

(“History of My Blog” cartoon by Hugh MacLeod)