Last week Twitter repositioned itself from a social network to a news channel. For those of us who have been tweeting for a while (7 years in my case) this is not a huge surprise as we have seen the network become less social as it has grown.
It is, however, the go-to place for breaking news, with users regularly finding out what's happening in the world in 140 characters or fewer. The balance has tipped away from conversation and towards broadcasting.
Broadcasting to the world
One of the primary differences between Twitter and its social media rivals (Facebook in particular) is that it is all public. You don't have to be friends with someone, or even following them, to see what they are saying. It's all public. Using search and hashtags you can see, retweet and reply to anything anyone else tweets.
Social media for business
For businesses, the broadcast element allows them to tweet links to blog posts, web pages and events. Twitter is great for driving traffic, and is a gift to those of us who use inbound marketing to get new business. Of course, if the information is not useful or relevant to your followers you will lose them, so it's not a ticket to spamming them with sales messages. Unfollowing is very easy.
With the overload of information being broadcast, it's more important than ever to have a clear social media strategy - be clear about who you are targeting, why and what you want to tell them.
It's all live
According to Erin Griffith at Fortune "Twitter is still the go-to place for politicians, business leaders, athletes, and Kanye West to make important announcements."
And Twitter's CEO, Jack Dorsey, said, "the easiest way to get what Twitter is, is to show people a live event–things you can’t find anywhere else—and connect people and encourage them into the conversation."
Think about big TV events such as the Wimbledon final or the World Cup, and Twitter is the number one place to exchange views with like-minded people you have never met. There were 618,000 tweets per minute about the World Cup final in 2014.
It's still good to talk
The good news, then, is that the magic is still in the conversations. While it is less common now to chat on Twitter, that just makes it more special.
There are a few ways you can harness the benefits of the connections Twitter can help you make.
- Ask Questions - start a conversation by asking a question. Twitter users are extremely helpful so if you put a question out there, someone is likely to answer. And through the holy grail that is the Retweet, your question can reach hundreds or thousands of strangers who might just have the information you are looking for.
- Answer Questions - look out for (or search for) questions you can answer. Be helpful without being pushy, and you will be amazed at the opportunities that can open up for you.
- Retweet Useful Tweets - a retweet or a mention can attract the recipient's attention and start conversations.
- Be Polite - a nice chatty "thank you" for a retweet or mention can be another great opener.
- Jump in - don't be afraid to join in a conversation between two or more people. A little banter goes a long way and can be a fantastic way to introduce yourself to a new contact.
So, don't write off Twitter as just a broadcast medium. Use it for both broadcasting and conversations to really make the most of its unique benefits.