So I've become a fan of twitter. I wasn’t always.
When I first signed up to use twitter my reaction was kind of uhhh... so what’s the point? This is just my facebook status isn’t it? Why would I post it separately here? meh... not really impressive. Remember that a part of my job is signing up for interesting and new services, checking out their product options, their feature list, market positioning, business case, etc. In fact there seemed to be a number of issues with the product - so I can't import my friends list from another service? So I cant make groups? So how do I find people who are interesting? Do I really want to know that Kevin Rose is drinking tea and meeting up for beers? Wait... there’s no business model?
So just like all other services that I sign up for just to check out - twitter got relegated to the same status as the long forgotten items in my junk drawer: I left my account online but didn’t log in again for another six months.
And then something happened...
Waterfall 1: Twitter Exploded in the News
I couldn't tell you exactly when - in fact I doubt there was a specific date - but as twitter began to gain traction and popularity, you could just see the media grabbing onto it as a potentially life changing product (along the lines of Facebook). Now there could be a number of reasons for this: twitter had finally reached a mass that it had become a force that could simply not be ignored, many tech media pundits had become early adopters and by the time the media had picked up on it they were already twitter power users, and for many people (Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht of Diggnation come to mind) their twitter accounts became almost just as important as their email addresses for communicating with the masses. Whether twitter was an incredibly efficient way to communicate small important pieces of information, or it had managed to tap the previously unknown human desire to update the world on every tiny aspect of their lives, and is simply proof to the egotism that exists in each and every one of us - we sure know that my original "meh" was so incredibly off the mark.
Waterfall 2: Twitter Friends
So I wanted to see what the hype was all about - what were these people getting out of the service that I had missed the first time around. I got back on board and mass invited everyone in my Gmail list to see what would happen. I got the expected response - about 5% of them signed up for the service and only a couple of them started using it - particularly those who had some sort of relation to the tech industry like myself (im assuming they too were interested in seeing what the hype was all about). For the first couple of days I tried updating my twitter and my facebook account separately but they were the same status messages so eventually I just linked them up. That’s how it started, instead of going to Facebook to update my status and having to log in and view the incredible amount of information about every acquaintance iv ever known puked onto my homepage - I would go straight to my twitter account, clean and simple, and I would update from there without the fear of getting drawn into the social whirlwind of facebook updates.
But at the end of the day twitter was where I was updating my facebook account from - it wasn’t where I was receiving any particular news or had a different set of friends - so I decided to remedy that through a couple of Google searches (along the lines of "top 10 technology twitter follow") and the use of twitters handy Find People feature. Within about 30 minutes I was following about 30 people (20 more then my original 10) and then I called it a night. When I woke up the next morning and logged into my email - twitter had exploded in my inbox. I was inundated by "XYZ is following you on twitter" emails - about half of them had auto followed me when I had added them, but the other half I had no idea where they had come from! I was being followed by someone in the Adult Industry, people in technology fields from Pakistan and the Middle East, a few developers from around the world, and a collection of twitter accounts that I couldn’t gauge anything from except that the users were going out to grab a coffee, were having a bad day, or were down with the flue. Where these people had come from or how they had found me - I'm not particularly sure - but it was clear that once I had broken some particular barrier in the number of people I was following, my twitter account had become a lot more visible to other twitter users out there.
My twitter account had just waterfalled.
Waterfall 3: Account Update Frequency
And now all of a sudden my twitter account had a different set of followers then the people I had on facebook. I started compulsively updating my account (for me that means 3-5 posts a day, which was still 3-5 more times then I ever updated my facebook status). I started posting interesting news stories that I had found on the net, random questions that needed an equivalently random answer, and directly replying to people whose questions I could answer. In essence, I became an active twitter user. While the first and second waterfall effects dealt with outside influencers i.e. the media and being followed by other twitterers, this third was completely my own. True proof to the term stickiness when we talk about Web Product evaluation. Twitter is sticky, heaps sticky.
Today marks the day that I disconnected my facebook account from twitter. I still use twitter to update my facebook account (I changed from the Twitter app on facebook to the Selective Twitter Status tool ), but the majority of my twitter posts are for the twitter community - not my facebook friends. I let my facebook friends know if im sick, have had a rough day at the office, or if I plan on partying this weekend - information that I still provide my twitter friends, but alongside new web applications I have found, interesting news stories, blog postings, pictures and videos (using third party apps). My twitter following is still small, and im not even close to having thousands of followers - but I have definitely reevaluated my original opinion of twitter - and it has become one of my social sites that I absolutely have to check daily. Does it add incredible value to my life? Im not sure - the information I get through twitter I can find in other places as well.
But it’s definitely viral, it definitely does offer some value, and im definitely interested in seeing where it goes from here.
Follow Me on Twitter!