Twitter is like a blog, like Facebook, like Google – but it’s actually totally unlike any of those things. It’s massive, but still small compared to other platforms. Simple to use, but somewhat confusing to most people, even those that have an account. The raw numbers around Twitter use is amazing, but the interaction model is what’s even more amazing. I’m still getting my brain around all of it. And in the last two weeks, I’ve come to understand an entirely new layer to actively using Twitter.
First, the numbers. In May 2010, Twitter had ~90 million unique visitors, up from ~37 million uniques in May 2009. In May 2010, Twitter users sent nearly 2 billion tweets. That’s not as many users as Facebook. But this isn’t the same interaction model as Facebook. With Facebook, you post updates and links that you want to share with your Facebook friends. It’s open, but it’s closed. With Twitter, you post updates and links that you want to share with the world. And the world does the same back to you. And it’s real time, interactive and searchable.
Up until a few weeks ago, I used Twitter to follow writers, companies and friends; it allowed me to get links to news and updates that I cared about on a real time basis. I understood how to reply and direct message, and I even understood how businesses could use Twitter to engage with customers, provide real time customer service, etc. I would post an occasional tweet (linking to my Facebook account), but mostly because I knew some of my friends and contacts were using Twitter instead of Facebook, and I wanted to cover both groups.
But then I started using Twitter Search. And I started replying to Tweets more often; and not just from people I knew. I started putting myself out there just a bit further, and an entirely new layer of the power of Twitter became apparent to me. All of a sudden, you realize that you can interact in a meaningful way on a real time basis with what feels like the entire world. Or at least the entire world of people on Twitter that are engaged in what you want to be engaged with, and vice-versa . While that might seem small niche, it’s actually not. 1% of 90 million users and 2 billion tweets per month is still a big number. So is 1% of 1% of those numbers. And it’s growing, and getting even more connected every day.
Try going to search.twitter.com and searching for something that interests you. Or download TweetDeck for your laptop, iPhone or iPad and set up some search columns. It’s like plugging into an entirely new universe or dimension. Reminds me of plugging into the Matrix or when Bruce Almighty can hear everyone in the world praying at that very moment. Blows my mind. Inspired me to start a blog.