Articles about Astronomy related topics. Information about public Astronomy outreach projects, observation notes and review of other Astronomy blogs.


Observations and opinions about wide and varied issues and challenges facing the environment.


Opinions and commentary about science related topics.

Social media

Commentary, reviews and opinions about the fast moving world of social networking web sites, applications and web services.


Opinions and observations about wide ranging topics related to technology.

Home » Social media

Why do you use Twitter?

Submitted by on April 5, 2009 – 18:04One Comment

Why do you use Twitter?The question of this article is, “Why do you use Twitter?”. It’s interesting to hear the answers from various quarters. Some people laugh at the mere notion of Twitter, some simply don’t get it, others use it prolifically and can’t stay off it whilst yet more have started to use Twitter as a tool for business.

Let me flip the question of this article towards myself and tell you all why I use Twitter. I got in to Twitter very much as an early adopter almost two years ago right when Twitter itself got started. The idea is that by using Twitter, you can post short 140 character messages to update friends about what you’re doing. The updates can be as mundane as “Just woke up, feel crap, need coffee” to “spent the last thee days working on an amazing article about my research work. Those interested can read about it at: http://www…..”. You find some people have full blown conversations on Twitter. The brevity of the messages acts as a catalyst to boosting the tempo of the conversation. No long ramblings; just short and pithy, to the point, up to 140 character long messages. The often ignored feature of Twitter that newbies who have just got in to it miss is the fact that you can lock down your messages so that only those people whom you deem to be your friend can actually view your “Tweets” – the term used for messages sent on Twitter. By default, whatever you say on twitter, can in theory be read by almost anyone who logs in to the Twitter web site but by making your “Twitter stream” private, something you can easily do in the configuration and settings page of the web site, you preserve your right to pick and chose who can see what you’re saying.

There are four types of Tweets that people can send. The most basic is you telling the twitterverse (as in all those people using twitter) what you’re up to. You type a message, up to 140 characters long and hit submit button and bam, everyone knows what you’re doing. All those people who are “following you” (more on that later) will read your message and another else who comes across your Twitter feed will also be able to see your message. The second type of message is a message directed at (@) somebody. In twitter syntax, you do this by appending an @ symbol in front of a Twitter ID (without a space between them) and what this does is allows everyone in the twittervese to see your message as well as alerting one or more people in particular that you’re addressing the message at them, all be it in a very public manner. You could do this, for example, when you’re talking about someone else in the third person, so to bring them in to the conversation, you could mention their ID in the message with an @ symbol so that the person concerned is alerted of the message, allowing them to reply. The third type of message is a direct or private message. This type of message is sent direct to the person you want to send it to and no one else can see that message. Fortunately, you can only send direct messages to people if and only if they are already following you. The notion of following someone is simple. If you see a message by someone on twitter that’s generally out in the open, and find it interesting, you can start to follow that person so that future messages posted by that person gets flagged up to you. They in turn can follow you back if they find your messages interesting. The fourth and final type of message you can send on Twitter is a “re-tweet”. This is simply when you read something on Twitter that someone else has posted and you repeat exactly what they said. Why would you do this? Well that person follows a certain limited group of people, but it doesn’t follow that everyone following you also follows that other person. Therefore, by re-tweeting someone elses messages, you are essentially boosting the “broadcast range” or the audience reach of that other persons message to your own circle of friends. They too can continue to re-tweet the message you just re-tweeted to them and so the cycle continues and so the reach of the message continues to widen.

As you can see, Twitter, as a tool used to virally spread messages in a kind of word of mouth manner, can be very powerful and extremely rapid. In terms of time frame for a message or occurrence of an event to get out there on Twitter to many thousands or millions of people, it could take a mere few seconds or minutes. This was evident during the recent terror attacks in Mumbai, India when thousands of eye witnesses near the region of the attacks started to send out messages on Twitter and in fact is was on Twitter than a lot of people around the world got to hear about the attacks even before the top local and international news agencies picked up on it.

Right, back to my question, then. Why do I use Twitter? I use it for two main reasons. Twitter is one of the many tools I use to market and promote things I do. For example, I write this blog and I help promote local clubs and societies. I work at a company and I happen to enjoy what I do and I love the product I’m working on. I use Twitter to tell the world about what I’m writing, what I’m promoting and what I’m working on. By posting a message on Twitter about the photograph I just uploaded to my account, I immediately get eyeballs looking at my photo which sometimes results in more and varied comments being left on my pictures.

The second reason I use Twitter is perhaps more interesting then pure self promotion of what I do or write. I use Twitter more and more to see what people are saying about “stuff”. For example, lets say there’s a high profile technology forum in town, with prominent key note speakers and I couldn’t make it for what-ever reason to the event. I can use Twitter to search for messages regarding that event and stay abreast of what’s going on there. Many people at such events will have their mobile phone on with Twitter software installed on their phone handsets. As they’re sitting in the audience and listening to the proceedings, they will twitter short excerpts of what someone said, or the a summary of the announcement just made. They often tag their message with a word appended with a hash symbol (#). This, in Twitter lingo is called a hash tag. There are many dozens of web sites that have sprung up dedicated to indexing hash tags and making it easier for you to follow all the different topics threads coming out of Twitter.

Lets say you’re a large multi-national business selling a cable TV service or a phone service to millions of customers nationally or even world wide. Large businesses occasionally suffer from mismanagement or under resourcing which leads to much customer dissatisfaction which in this modern day and age gets broadcast around the world in many different ways. Some people bitch about the poor customer service they’ve received in their blog, other people SMS their friends to complain about the long waiting time on hold when they try to contact the company by telephone and increasingly, more and more people are venting their spleen on Twitter about their poor experiences with using services and products. It works the other way too. Many people are also raving about great services and products they’re used via Twitter. Intelligent companies out there have started to cotton on to this fact and now regularly have staff who monitor Twitter to see what customers are saying about them. By doing this, they can quickly move to fix a problem before it blows up out of proportion and starts to damage the companies image. More interestingly, Twitter now gives companies a very personal two way communication tool to reach out to their customers. What’s even more interesting then that is that companies will often not just talk privately to individuals but in fact publicly address at least part of the complaint or question. This, in many ways, humanises companies, especially those large faceless corporations that often have notoriously banal responses to customer service queries. It also allows a company to join the public conversation about them in a way that has never been possible before.

Therefore, for me, Twitter is one tool out of many to get my opinions and thoughts out to a larger audience and it’s also a way to track what other people are saying about other things I’m interested in. For many of my friend who are also on Twitter, they don’t use Twitter like I do at all. For them, Twitter is another way of instantly communicating with friends, getting to know other people from around the world and striking up a conversion. Twitter has many uses and as the service grows and evolves, I’m sure many more new and interesting uses for Twitter will emerge.

I’d like to know why you use Twitter. Please leave a comment on this article and let me know and by all means, do ping me a message on Twitter. The link to my Twitter ID is below.

Follow me on Twitter!


  • instant payday advance

    I am mostly retarded to the twitter thing. I don't get it and I am not sure that anyone would care what my status would be. I do understand your uses for it.