The team behind the Twitter "micro-blogging" service is redesigning its website. The brand new design will make Twitter easier to use, flashier, and a lot more like Facebook. And maybe it will finally find a place in the online lives of those of us who've been reluctant to jump into the tweet-storm.
Twitter has not been as big a hit among people over 40 as Facebook has. Its appeal has been lost on many of us because of the way it works—having a conversation with someone on the service is a bit like shouting over the noise at a rock concert. Facebook, on the other hand, has more of the feel of a cocktail party among friends, and it's easier to follow the thread of conversation. It may have something to do with the perception of Twitter being for the self-absorbed, too—who needs to drop 140-character message-bombs on the world telling where, when, and how they had a muffin for breakfast?
Now, Twitter is making its service easier to use. The site will soon include multimedia in the "tweet" stream, allowing people to post pictures and video as part of their messages. The site will also show conversation threads, with responses to "tweets" showing up beneath them much in the way Facebook's comments show up under status updates and other posts.
But beneath the surface changes, Twitter is still at its heart a big, public meeting place where everyone gets a chance to shout from the soapbox. So why should anyone—let alone people with teenagers, steady jobs, and a stack of responsibilities spend any time doing something as goofy sounding as "tweeting"? Here are a few reasons:
- Getting a complaint noticed. Most large companies now have Twitter accounts, and actively monitor what's being said about them on Twitter. If you've got a gripe, and you "tweet" it, odds are you'll get a response from someone about it eager to put it right—before your complaint generates a social media relations nightmare.
- Getting advice from experts. Corporate marketers arent' the only ones tracking Twitter. ExpertTweet, an application for Twitter, helps connect users with experts on various topics over Twitter. You can also follow leaders in different topic areas, tracking them as a Twitter list, and message them publicly—even if you don't know them. Chances are good that they'll answer—while President Obama doesn't answer tweets to him directly, there are plenty of well-known people who will.
- Connecting for others with the same interests or problems in "real-time". All of Twitter's public posts are searchable within Twitter, and with several search engines, so you can often find people "tweeting" about the same subject you're interested in at almost the same time. You can then respond to them and even start a group conversation using things like "hashtags" to make it easier for others interested in the topic to find and join.
- Finding business connections. Salespeople use Twitter to keep connected with prospects. Some companies tweet their job openings. Tweeting about professional topics in a concise, knowledgable way can get you noticed by people in a good way, and might pay off with a deal or a job.
- Having a conversation on the go with someone at a PC. Because Twitter works from any phone that can send SMS text messages, you can send and receive 'tweets' from anywhere. That's especially handy for conversations by text with someone who isn't on a phone—"direct" messages can be read privately by people you're connected to on Twitter from a phone's SMS messages, a web browser on a computer or phone, or from a Twitter-enabled "app" on a smartphone or PC.
- Finding out what's "hot" without having to ask your kids. Twitter's "trending" topics can tune you into what's going on in pop culture in a hurry, and help you blow your kids' minds by equipping you with bon mots about Lady Gaga's meat dress at the MTV VMAs.