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7 Things I Learned on Twitter in 7 Days

Plenty of my friends and colleagues are devoted to Twitter, but I also get a lot of eye rolls and blank stares when the microblogging buzzword comes up. And a new study claims that 40% of tweets are “pointless babble.”

Well, if all you get from Twitter is pointless babble, then the community you follow is probably the Twitter equivalent of a party at the Playboy mansion: sexy and shiny on the surface, but nothing much of lasting value. (Not that I’ve ever been to a party at the Playboy mansion, so of course I’m taking a wild stab in the dark with that characterization. Pure speculation.) If, on the other hand, you follow people who might be found lingering over a bottle of wine on your back porch or presenting at your favorite conference, then you get a rich, interesting, funny, immensely useful stream of information, opinions and insights.

To prove my point and explain why I personally use Twitter, here are 7 useful things I found on Twitter in the last 7 days:

1. Annie Leibovitz, one of the world’s most celebrated photographers, is near financial ruin.
Use: Pop culture 101

This New York magazine article tells a fascinating story of how Annie Leibovitz is in massive debt and at risk of losing all rights to her vast catalog. Shocking! It fed both my interest in pop culture and my desire to soak up quality magazine writing. I actually came across this article because someone tweeted about another New York magazine piece that sounded interesting, and I ended up doing a little extended reading while at their site. (P.S. – Here’s to Annie turning it around and starting a new chapter, yeah?)

lightbulb

Twitter is full of bright ideas. Get it?

2. Nike shoes were inspired by waffles.
Use: Inspiration and creativity
@Twalk retweeted @KathySierra’s post about unexpected places where people find inspiration, which in turn is an inspiration for me and a reminder to keep my eyes open and look for possibility and connection in everything around me.

3. Where to find $5 parking near Chase Field in Phoenix
Use: Well isn’t this handy!
A true example of only-on-Twitter interactions.

Tweet 1: @TimNekritz linked to his blog post about branding and ballparks.
Tweet 2: I replied, saying I’d be visiting the Phoenix stadium soon, and his post would be on my mind during my visit.
Tweets 3-5: Phoenix resident @lanejoplin chimed in and wished me a good time at the park. I asked if she had any game tips, and she promptly provided me with a stadium restaurant, directions to the park and a Google map showing where I can park for $5. If Chase Field has parking fees in line with other Major League stadiums, she probably saved me at least $20.

4. A new book for my reading list
Use: What I should be reading/watching/attending
I’ve picked up great recommendations on music, film, books, museums and dining from Twitter. This little tweet from @Tucson_Cowgirl caught my eye:

Book recommendation tweet

Sweet, a new book to read and a source of info about my new town.
 
5. How to avoid being fined $500 by the City of Austin.
Use: Critical news and information
Even though we live in Tucson, my husband and I still own a home in Austin, and it features a beautiful fountain that he built. Luckily I follow @austintexasgov and saw their link to the new watering restrictions, including one that prohibits running an outdoor fountain. By following city accounts, helpful Austinites and local news organizations like @statesman, I’ve got all I need to remain a law-abiding, water-conserving virtual citizen.

6. A hit-the-nail-on-the-head perspective on the role of PR in 2009.
Use: Professional advice and best practices
@kristen_okla retweeted a fabulous post from @shel on how PR and marketing are still valuable tools in a world where peer-to-peer word of mouth seems to rule all. I already view my role as a PR practitioner in the manner he describes, but it’s helpful to see a.) my instincts and practices put into words and b.) confirmation that I’m on the right track. Twitter gives me access to some of the brightest minds in my industry and helps keep me on my professional toes. It’s kind of like being at a great conference all year long.

 7. Opportunities to meet cool people in my new town.
Use: Building real-life relationships
@ssr11 noticed I’m new to Tucson and immediately invited me to coffee and the Tucson Tweet Crawl. I also learned of and attended a Social Media Club Tucson meeting with @AaronMSB and his “Swinging with Social Media” talk. I’ve been in a new city 3 weeks, and I’m already making connections.

On Twitter, it’s all about who you follow. Now I’ve given you 7 uses for Twitter and, let’s see, 11 helpful people to follow. And this is just a sample of what I got from Twitter in one week.* Seems like a lot more than pointless babble, no?

*Of course Twitter is also about what you give. I also try to keep these 7 uses in mind when writing my own tweets.

Sound off: Why do you use Twitter? Or, for some of you, why do you avoid it like the plague? Discuss!

Photo by Chuck Coker

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I write what I know (and love). Mostly higher education, writing and public relations.