Recently I keep hearing the same story over and over about twitter. The headline reads 40% of twitter is pointless babble. Now of course there are a variety of reasons the headline is misleading. First and foremost is the method the study used to determine pointless babble. Of course there is always a random tweet out there, even I occasionally engage in what is clearly pointless babble, but in a lot of cases what you or I may think is pointless babble may be of great value to someone else. I know in Facebook (FB) land I don’t mind random posts about what someone is doing, after all I do have a true friendship with most of those people. Another problem with the headline is the subtext. Essentially they are trying to say that twitter is pointless. Here is where I would like to show you the power of twitter. I’ll show you how I’ve used it in some very powerful ways.
It started last year (2008) when I was working on a project for work. I was trying to interface a router with my Comcast internet. Sounds easy, but for some reason my router wasn’t working. In frustration I tweeted about it and in my tweet in included Comcast. Not long afterward I got a popup from a Comcast representative asking me what the problem was. At first I was a little weirded out, but after we went through a few steps together I found it quite helpful. I didn’t ask for Comcast to contact me, but they did and they were quite helpful, probably more so than if I had called. It was at this moment I realized just how powerful twitter can be. I probably posted the same “tweet” on FB, but certainly didn’t get an answer through FB from a Comcast rep. The nature of FB is closed, which is in some ways a very good thing, but in this instance even though I have 3x as many friends on FB I still wouldn’t have gotten a Comcast rep. I’m just not friends with any.
More recently I needed to book a bus between Boston and NYC. I was booking for a Tuesday departure and Tuesday return. As such I needed a late bus. The one company I wanted to with, Bolt Bus, didn’t go late enough. I searched online, but I really wasn’t turning anything up. So I tweeted. Another difference between my FB friends and Twitter friends is that more of them are local or tailored to my profession. I figured if I tweeted there were plenty of Boston followers that would help me out. I got this response in little time at all. Not only did Megabus work out, but I got the round trip tickets for $2.50. In the process the official Megabus twitter account also contacted me.
Probably the most fascinating story is the one that happened recently. My wife got in a minor accident with an MBTA bus. From the sound of it she cleared the red light, but there wasn’t enough space for the bus to make the turn. The end result was that the bus hit our car. When my wife confronted the bus driver he had already let out all of the riders leaving no witnesses. To make matters worse the bus driver already made up a story to try to make my wife the guilty one. I tweeted about the situation and got this in response. Which eventually led to an actual witness. Fortunately, it looks like everything is going to be taken care of without such a witness, but it is nice to know I can contact one if I needed to.
This *is* the power of twitter. Sure there are times when I get random tweets, but for the most part I ignore them. And of course there are plenty of people not worth following, but that is why I don’t follow them. But when it comes to getting things done or answering questions that Google doesn’t suffice for twitter is there and is quite powerful. These are just my personal examples, there are plenty more. Examples like breaking the news about Michael Jackson, or following real life opposition in Iran. None of this is pointless babble. It has real worth, and despite what anyone may think of twitter it is what you make it. If all you want is pointless babble have at it, but you can make twitter much much more.