Twitter really can be useful!

TwitterI’ve had several conversations about Twitter with executives from different organizations over the past few weeks. The frequent response on their end was something like “you’ve got to be kidding, Twitter is stupid.” A year ago, I would have probably said the same thing. But this week I was actually irritated when I got an e-newsletter that I wanted to share with my Twitter followers and couldn’t do it easily because it had no forwarding functionality connected to Twitter!

Here are three things I’ve learned about making Twitter a useful tool.

1. Know why you use it: For me and the majority of users Twitter is a business tool for learning and sharing relevant information. For some it is a tool for getting real-time alerts from trusted brands and news sources. Yet for others it is a social networking tool for providing instant personal updates. I don’t like being overwhelmed with mundane personal trivia via Twitter, but that’s me. There are other social sites where I can stay in touch with my personal network. I prefer to use Twitter for a specific informational purpose. Which leads me to point number two…

2. Chose carefully who you follow: Robert Scoble (aka Scobleizer) is a leading expert on social media and recently penned a great post on his blog entitled You are SO unfollowed! I recently reduced the number of people I follow based on what they tweeted. If I found their tweets useful, I continued to follow them. If not, I unfollowed them. I found the benefit of Twitter improved dramatically from this process.

3. Think about the organizational uses of Twitter: A recent article in the New York Times highlighted Twitter’s use as a customer service medium. JetBlue sends me special offers that help the airline liquidate unsold, perishable inventory. The Air Force tracks public sentiment on relevant issues.

Twitter has many uses that help you connect to its growing user base. If you don’t know what they are, ask the digital natives on your team. If you don’t have any of your own digital natives, ask the ones on my team.