From Whence the Tweet?

I just read this great tidbit on ReadWriteWeb that discusses how people use Twitter. Some base statistics from a report done by the “Consumer Internet Barometer” include these: “…the majority of Twitter users (42%) use the service to communicate with their friends. About 29% use Twitter to update their status, 26% to find news, and 21% for work-related reasons. Oddly, only 0.3% said that they use Twitter for fun.”

So that got me to thinking about why I use Twitter? Before I answer, it’s interesting to make the distinction between “why do I tweet” and “why do I use Twitter?”

To me, a tweet is a <=140 character push of information to followers. Therefore, I “tweet” because it is challenging to compress a piece of information into bite sized pieces. That challenge is what attracts me to the tweet. On the other hand, the overall “use” of Twitter encompasses not only tweeting, but the reading of, and interaction with, the tweets of others.

Now that we have that out of the way, why DO I tweet?

1. To Comment on Others Updates:
Twitter is a social application, after all, so one must be social to use it. I find tidbits here and there that I want to comment on – conversations (sort of) that I want to be a part of. On Twitter, especially when you’re at an event that attracts the Twitterati, it’s easy to fall into a trending, topical “discussion” with others, more or less in real time, and irrespective of geographical locale.  Electronic socialization at its rawest.

2. To Disseminate Interesting Information: I do my best to read as much as I can throughout the day. Every once in a while I’ll come across an article or blog post that I want to pass along to others. I’d like to think that, apart from the spammers, my followers have similar interests to my own. Therefore, if I find something interesting my hope is that others do as well. I cannot quickly or easily turn a phrase or spit out repeatable, 140 character parables or bits of advice, but I’m pretty good at passing along the wisdom of others.

3. To Disseminate Promotional Information:
There is a certain amount of gentle push marketing one can do on Twitter. I loathe those who use the service solely as a pulpit for touting goods and services, but it’s not a crime (at least in my neck of the electronic woods) to tout a new product or service once in awhile.

4. To Acknowledge Others: One could argue that this is related to disseminating promotional information, but I enjoy hearing what others say about me, about the company I work for, or even about industry-related topics like ASP.NET or ColdFusion. When someone says something I enjoy, respect, or even revile, I note it and pass it along. This, too, can be a bit tedious, especially if all you do is re-tweet compliments for yourself or your business. However, in moderation it’s no great breach of etiquette.

So that’s it, in a nutshell. I could probably write a dissertation on the benefits of brand monitoring and building authority via Twitter and related services, but I’ll either leave that for a future post or for those far more intelligent than I.

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