Tools can be used for good and evil. That is certainly the case with the social media tool called Twitter. Tens of thousands of reviews and commentary have been written about the simple yet powerful communication device. Allow me to add my voice now that Twitter has been a part of my life for several years.
The Early Days
Twitter was launched in 2006, but it really gained recognition and momentum a year later in 2007. My son, Sam Rainer, was an early adopter. He convinced me to try to the tool. I was a skeptic. Why should I waste my time writing 140 characters about what I was doing? Why would I want to read what others were doing? Indeed, one of the first tweets I read was a person telling the world that he was flossing his teeth. My skepticism increased.
Some of the early analyses of the content of the tweets were less than favorable. For example, in 2009 Pear Analytics provided the following descriptions of the thousands of tweets it analyzed. Most of the descriptors were certainly not that flattering.
- Pointless babble: 40%
- Conversational: 30%
- Pass-along value: 9%
- Self-promotion: 6%
- Spam: 4%
- News: 4%
- Other: 7%
From Skeptic to Advocate
Now that Twitter has settled into the world of mainstream social media, we are able to take a brief historical assessment of the social media tool. I can only speak for myself, not the millions of other Twitter users and inquirers. From my perspective, I have moved from a cautious skeptic to an enthusiastic advocate.
Indeed, Twitter has added value to my life and leadership that I never dreamed possible. As social media continues to grow in size and importance, this microblogging tool of 140 characters has become one of the powerhouses. For me, its value falls into five different categories.
Five Reasons, Five Values
Obviously people use Twitter for a variety of reasons. And obviously the motives of the users are mixed. I can say with clarity and conviction, though, its value in five areas for me is immeasurable.
- Trending topics. Twitter allows me to look into the eyes of millions around the world to see what people are thinking and saying. Almost daily, I read the trends on my Twitter page. I feel more informed seeing what’s important to everyday people without the filter of news media.
- News. The first place I typically receive local, national, and world news is Twitter. The great advantage is that many of the news tweets come from eyewitnesses to the news. It is news in real time, raw and unfiltered.
- Family. Every adult member of my family is on Twitter: my wife, three sons, and three daughters-in-law. I love hearing about their lives and activities, and I usually get a good laugh at many of their tweets because the Rainer gang has a healthy sense of humor. I can’t wait until my grandchildren adopt the tool.
- Integration with other social media. I am grateful to Twitter because it allows me to integrate it with at least three other social media tools: Facebook, my blog, and Google+. The four venues complement and amplify each other.
- Leadership. As a leader of a large organization, I tweet for my own visibility. It is important to me that employees and any others who follow my leadership hear my voice on a regular basis. In the old days, MBWA (management by walking around) was deemed important for visibility. Today LBTR (leadership by tweeting regularly) is indispensable for me.
Certainly others could write their own five-year review of Twitter and be less positive than my own assessment. I am, however, grateful for those who created it and the millions who use it. My life and leadership are better for it.