Lee Odden

Reader Poll: How do you use Twitter?

reader poll

UPDATE: Survey Results on Top 10 Uses of Twitter are here.

Without question, the microblogging platform Twitter (follow me here) is a phenomenon many of our readers are exploring or trying to figure out. Whether you’re in search marketing, advertising, interactive marketing, journalism or public relations, there are many ways to use Twitter as a communications, networking and even a socializing tool.

Some people post the most benign information such as the mass fixation on Twittering while in airports. Others produce steady streams of thoughtful goodness, insights and links to content you simply won’t find anywhere else. Twitter can even be a productive marketing tool and if you look, you’ll find an amazing number of resources on it.

Twitter and other microblogging platforms like it (Jaiku, Pownce) can be a distraction and they can also be productive. How do you use Twitter? Is it productive? Here’s our TopRank Reader Poll Question on Twitter:

What is your most productive use of Twitter?

  • Sharing links to items of interest to your network (30%, 88 Votes)
  • Networking for new contacts (22%, 64 Votes)
  • Reinforcing current network contacts (16%, 48 Votes)
  • Promoting specific content (7%, 22 Votes)
  • Re-distribution of content from blog, web site (7%, 21 Votes)
  • Twitter cat posts: flight delays, eating habits, who knows what and why (6%, 17 Votes)
  • Replacement for Facebook updates (4%, 11 Votes)
  • Influencing your network to do and think what you want - muhahaha (4%, 11 Votes)
  • Shilling for Digg and other social news votes (1%, 4 Votes)
  • Group and project communications (1%, 4 Votes)
  • Microblogging conferences (1%, 3 Votes)
  • Pitching journalists and bloggers (0%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 294

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I’ve limited the responses to just 11 to encourage our well above average readers to share in the comments. What are your most productive uses of microblogging formats like Twitter? Are you a super Twitter user or are you wondering what it is and what to do with it?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.

Comments

  1. Hello Lee, this is my first visit to your blog and, oddly enough, I saw your link to this post on Twitter.

    Twitter gives me a chance to interact with a number of people, almost in real time, in a way that I wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. In fact, I think it is becoming a more relevant “social news” application to me than a site like Digg, even though it is limited to the number of people that I follow and whatever they wish to talk about. It’s also beginning to replace my news aggregator, or at least supplement that function, since a number of my favorite bloggers are dropping their links here. The chatting aspect of Twitter gives it an edge over Google Reader, Netvibes, or whatever else you use.

    I do use Twitter to promote things that I’d like other people to see, but I am also enjoying the conversational aspect of Twitter.

  2. Twitter is like hanging out at the bar during an SEM conference with advantage of being able to hear everything that’s going on and being able to take part in whatever conversation interests you.

  3. Lee,

    I hadn’t considered using it until lunch with Andy Beal last week when we were talking about the general lack of socializing as independent consultants working from home. I was explaining to him that at least twice a week, I work from a coffee shop, simply to be around people. He said that, in effect, Twitter was “his coffee shop.”

    Since using it for the past few days, that’s the most productive thing I’ve seen is that it keeps me focused by being just enough of a social distraction.

    Aside from that, I’ve seen some great content I wouldn’t have otherwise found!

    Ben

  4. spostareduro says:

    I’m certainly a Twitter cat person and I enjoy it when others do the same..It helps me to get to know the crowd I surf with, either as competitive analysis or simply to know what their interests are in order to be a better friend and or presenter of information.

  5. Wow, Todd Mintz hit it on the head; great answer.

    Actually, Twitter has become a new quasi-RSS feed for me. I’ll get on the train for the morning commute, cycle through all the overnight tweets, and send the interesting URL’s to my work email via my phone. Because of this, I was able to delete a bunch of feeds in my feed reader.

    In the end, it makes me more efficient. I’ll take those apps all day long.

  6. I’d add a couple of things to your list. Several of your options apply to me, especially the people-related ones. I’ve made countless connections through Twitter with people I would never have ‘met’ otherwise.

    I also use Twitter for discussion and debate. I find it’s a great tool for gaining thoughts and opinions quickly as it forces people to cut to the heart of the issue.

  7. Here are my primary uses for Twitter. Some of them I only discovered after actually starting to use it.

    1. A personal log/journal of things I’ve done.

    2. I thought my mom and dad would enjoy following it :).

    3. I wanted a more personal blog since my current one is more “professional” in nature.

    4. To give “Hyper-followers” a glimpse into my daily life. This can build your credibility.

    5. Throw out a quick question to my circle of friends and colleagues and get quick answers.

    6. It can drive traffic.

    7. Keep in touch with personal and professional contacts.

    If I didn’t find at least a few of those uses, I wouldn’t be using it. There are just too many tools with too little time to use them all.

  8. Albert Maruggi says:

    truth be told it’s a little of each. The interesting trend I’m seeing is the selling of personal networks.

    if we all band together, then this function Influencing your network to do and think what you want – muhahaha, becomes even greater. It’s almost like the direct mail of microblogging. Ok follow me here, you rack up hundreds even thousands of people in a variety of interest pods. Then you match them to your client base. Get a product launch or idea spike going and muhahaha instant success.

    Look client, I got 100(0) people to download your trial, see this social media stuff really works. That was just a trial project fee, imagine what we can do on a larger monthly retainer? muhahaha

  9. Hello Lee,

    Nice poll and a good way to use Twitter. Believe that people, despite what they say, are either in the “cat post” camp or “muhahaha” 🙂

  10. Great idea, Lee. I check twitter first these days to see what the pulse of the industry is, news updates, how friends are doing, my local weather, etc.

    In my twitter tribe, there’s a nice blend of work/life comments. Glimpses into personal and professional experiences. Microblogging is instantaneous, continuous, and for me addictive. I love knowing the vibe of my network on several fronts: business, buzz, and personal stuff all the time.

    Looking forward to seeing your results.

  11. Melany Gallant says:

    Hi Lee,

    I use Twitter mostly to share interesting links with my network but I also use it to share experiences and make connections with people. I love how quick and easy it is to microblog and it’s fun!

  12. Wow, great responses all! Thank you also to those that have passed on the link to this poll. There’s some great feedback and insight out there amongst the Twitterati that will benefit us all.

  13. Kevin Cobb says:

    Great question, very interested in what others think.

    For me Twitter is the great in-between. It is more personal, even when sharing professional discussion.

    My favorite part of Twitter are the random thoughts that make life entertaining. Before Twitter, I never knew that everyone else was just as crazy as I am, and thought totally random things on a regular basis.

  14. Hmm, where’s the option for most of the above? 😉

  15. Twitter can be productive? 🙂

  16. Hey Tamar, I think you found it – it’s the comment. 🙂

    Kevin, we’re on the same page – I find myself posting a mix of somewhat personal but also professional info on Twitter.

  17. Patricia F. Anderson says:

    Interesting question, but I dread polls about Twitter use because they rarely include the options I really want to see there. Here is what I tweeted to you regarding How I Use Twitter: “discovery, tracking, connection, socializing, morale boost, trends, currency, humor/wit, friends, news, health, reference.” You ask questions, you answer questions, you share cool stuff, you find cool stuff other folks share, you laugh at what they say or do (like you forgetting your wallet with a full tank of gas), you track news before it hits the local horizon (like the fire in Toronto two weeks ago, which I heard about via Twitter before my Canadian friends did).

  18. ’twas hard to pick one. My fave seems to be everyone’s fave, though out of the list I the only ones I _don’t_ use it for is the Facebook thingy and the shilling for votes. It’s more and more valuable to me as I run my twhirl on desktop during the work day.

    Everaware that my tweets are tweeting as my workday progresses, sometimes I scroll back but just like in life, some opps are lost because others are being exploited. Sigh, one realizes one doesn’t have to be omnipresent. Thankfully. 🙂

  19. Thank you Patricia!

    Scott, I also use Twhirl and without it, I don’t think I’d use Twitter as much.

  20. I use twitter for everything on the survey…well, not for shilling or redistribution (only because I haven’t written a blog as yet). I’ve created a second account for after hours as well as my first account which is focused only on professional networking. It’s really hard to keep them separate though and I’m beginning to duplicate some of each to the other ;-p

  21. I’m a twitter Newbie – not sure what specific purpose I want to use it for…just experimenting.

    Thanks for friending me, Lee sorry to hear about the expensive gas and losing your wallet…maybe you need one of these:
    http://search.hottopic.com/clothing/Wallet%20Chain

    😉

  22. One thing I find useful is trying to find an immediate solution to a pressing problem. It’s always worth a try. 🙂

  23. @Adam, that’s funny. It would go well with my chaps and leather vest. 🙂

    @Barry, it’s great that you mentioned that because I used Twitter to connect with someone to answer a key question just yesterday. Definitely worth a try one on one via direct message but the one to many option is good too. You can “crowdsource” or “twittersource” answers to your pressing problem.

  24. Since I’m a direct response marketer, I’d use twitter to promote specific content. At first, I think my main focus would be on driving people to my site at http://www.JohnAngelCopywriting.com. If that worked well, then I’d see how else I could use twitter to drive people to other sites.

  25. I’m just getting into twitting and sort of use it like music in the background while I work online, keeping an eye on what my fellow twits are discovering, sharing, etc…

  26. I Twitter to keep up on our industry – SEO/Internet marketing – from the best minds.
    When I worked from home Twitter kept me sane. It’s also a good place to get ideas to blog about.

    Janet
    http://www.twitter.com/newspapergrl

  27. For me, Twitter is a constant stream of information, insights and inanities that keeps my brain engaged. It also keeps me connected with fellow travellers in the social media marketing sphere.

    If I may shill for my blog, I’ve launched a Twitter business plan contest . I’m interested in seeing if people can encapsulate the basics of a business plan into a single tweet

  28. Twitter is a very good resource to get ideas from and keep in contact with your family, friends, and co-workers. It is an easy way to communicate and I recommend it to everyone that hasn’t tried it yet.

  29. Jason Bartholme says:

    I use Twitter two different ways. One communicate with like-minded people. I am the lone SEO at my day job and often need advice or recommendations from others in the industry. It’s easy to tweet your question and have it reach a good number of people that know what you are talking about.

    Also, Twitter is a great way to interact with new people. Since Brain Chappell’s post on Marketing Pilgrim of 200+ Search Marketers using Twitter (http://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2008/01/internet-marketing-experts-twitter.html), I have almost doubled the amount of followers. It’s good to make new friends and contacts.

    The bonus reason is to nicely pander for social bookmarking votes, diggs, and saves.

  30. Twitter is the new water cooler.

    In the interest of brevity here, I just wrote a post about my experience so far with Twitter on my blog at http://www.stephanspencer.com/social-networking/getting-into-twitter-my-take

  31. This is great, nearly 100 responses so far. This post just made the home page of Sphinn, so hopefully we’ll get a few more replies.

    Interesting insights Stephan. That “in the interest of brevity” thing, that’s clever.

  32. Wow, I was surprised to see that my reason for using twitter was up on this poll: I just wanted a quick and easy way to update my facebook status without being dragged into whatever new came through the facebook news feed.

    And then I added a widget to my blog, too. So I suppose I’m also using it as a form of microblogging, but mostly in the sense of “status updates” still.

    I actually had first signed up to twitter for using with the Toodledo task manager, but haven’t gotten into the hang of using it for this reason (using Jott to send to Toodledo instead).

  33. Jacqueline says:

    Does anyone have a life outside the internet any more? Is twitter etc etc taking over?

  34. Hi Lee
    I’m with Ben W – work freelance from home in the middle of nowhere so twitter helps make me feel less isolated. I’m a translator & follow lots of entertaining dutch & brazilian tweeters (translators & otherwise – keeps my languages fresh!) Don’t like to think i’m in the cat camp & haven’t yet succumbed to the peculiarly strong gastronomy faction but am weirdly fascinated by tweets on sandwiches, breakfasts and baked goods…keep up the good work

  35. Lee, I tried out twitter about 9 months ago and quickly saw how consuming/draining it could be, so I gave up. A few weeks ago I thought I’d give it another chance, and the very first day I did I ended up with a topic to blog about and got a link from someone I was twittering with that gave me the idea. Not a bad start, so I gave it more of a chance.

    Now I find myself tightening with my network and meeting new people in the SEO industry. Following others that aren’t familiar with me and getting in on a conversation has helped me to meet new people and even build some new tools (livetwitting.com with Danny Sullivan) and another one that you helped me get started, to be released soon).

    You can’t let it drain your day and keep you from work, above all. It is good to use a program like twhirl that isn’t too distracting but gives you quick updates if you’re interested.

    Great topic Lee!

  36. Since I could only chose 2 reasons I use Twitter, here are all of them:

    1–Use as a reading hub in place of RSS for some sites (CNN, WSJ, NYT, etc)
    2–Networking
    3–Adding more depth to relationships I already have
    4–Getting to know those I just came in contact with and allow them to get to know me
    5–Learning about new social media tools/trends etc.

  37. Dee, Michael and Shannon, thank you for responding to the Twitter poll and also for your comments! I’m hoping we can get the number of respondents over 200 before reporting the results.

  38. Lisa Hoffmann says:

    I love using twitter to network and socialize, but I also use it to stay on top of what’s new in the tech world. I’m new to social media (although I’ve learned enough lately to earn some respect from my teenager – and that’s no easy task) and have a hard time keeping up as everything changes at the speed of light.

    Since twitter is pretty new to the social media landscape, a lot of users are tech pros and constantly send out links and tips about what’s happening, so I learn much faster than I would otherwise. I’m a certified junkie and use twhirl to manage my habit.

  39. robin seidner says:

    Lee,

    I use twitter like I would RSS, if I had the time and patience. Its frankly much easier to check out content after someone else does – I get my network’s good housekeeping seal of approval, so to speak. Also, many of the folks I follow are people whose blogs I would read, so I can get a quick snapshot of what they are writing about and decide to visit or not.

    As for me, I tweet about random stuff in my life, also about my blog posts, or questions I have.

  40. Lee – the extent and caliber of the network is amazing. “met” and secured a top speaker for an event, interviewed a ceo of a billion dollar corporation, received quick feedback. what surprised me is the extent that twitter has developed into a community where people feel connected to the extent that they do reach out and help each other. i think the sharing of personal experiences .. even the mundane .. increases that willingness to ‘care.’

  41. hope this helps with your 200 goal.

  42. Thanks to responding to a tweet from @ChrisWinfield (in less than 2 min) I may have some major press this week or next. That would probably fall under building relationships with those in my network.

  43. I’m a networking kind of person, so I use Twitter to touch base with the rest of humanity. No phones are required. 🙂

    Barbara

  44. Twitter has allowed me to keep in touch with folks around the globe who are as passionate about podcasting, tech and social media as I am. It can be a lonely world when you are the only person in your immediate vicinity who gets it. The folks on Twitter keep me informed and entertained. It’s like having all of my friends within fingertip reach.

  45. Lee-
    Dragged me in with a Tweet….

    I really like TwitterLocal as a local networking tool. I have made a number of new connections just by listening.

  46. @Britopian – Thanks Michael – I do too.

    I think you’re right Lisa, online changes so frequently, something like Twitter can keep you up to date and quickly (like the China Earthquake or Google’s Friend Connect).

    Next gen tools will be about filtering the noise I think.

    @chiropractic – Michael D. that’s a great story. WSJ? Please be sure to drop the link when it publishes.

    Twitter can be a great connector Barbara – world wide and in real time. Powerful.

  47. So many sites – so little time. But Twitter makes the cut for me because I want to ‘know” those I follow on a more personal level – what makes them tick. So I really enjoy the insights, even when someone gives the cat his personal can of tuna vs cat food. Sharing experiences is what life is all about! Besides, it keeps me sane to know I’m not the only one out there thinking crazy thoughts or sometimes doing the family thing.

  48. All my other sites, networks, etc. take so much work, I feel like I need a site housekeeper, maybe I should outsource to India…anyways Twitter keeps it short and sweet and covers so much territory. For a funny story about outsourcing your life, check out: http://www.smartmoney.com/esquire/index.cfm?Story=20050909-outsource

  49. Vin Subrajmanan says:

    Twitter being useful? Course it can. It’s a gigantic marketing tool that is fairly benign in its aggressiveness. The important thing about using web-based marketing on a social network like this is to make sure you aren’t spamming, aren’t pushy or annoying, which will alienate existing and future clientèle. There’s a great survey
    related to this run by MindShare, a customer service analysis company. Also, Twitter is pretty awesome for simply keeping in touch!

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