The most important concept to grasp is the fundamental nature of Twitter: It is an ongoing, global, democratic conversation. It is not a blog, USENET, Facebook or MySpace, or an instant message platform, though it does have certain elements of all of those. Let’s take a look at these elements in a little more depth.
Discussions on Twitter continue constantly, whether you’re there or not. And discussions are meant to be ephemeral, vanishing after just a few hours. Twitter is like a dinner party where everything you say hangs around in a thought balloon but fades rapidly after. In my experience, the mean time that a message will be read is about 15 min. After this, tweets tail off and vanish in a few days.
Twitter is global, encompassing many languages and disciplines. But each user self selects their own content based on who they “follow”. Everyone’s experience with Twitter is different, because everyone follows different people. Some talk about technology, others about celebrities, local happenings, sports, or sex. And many discussions take place in languages other than English.
Twitter is also wonderfully democratic, allowing direct conversation between people who would not otherwise be able to converse. I have interacted directly with celebrities (and sometimes their ghost tweeters) and industry titans, and it is wonderful to see how many people are thrilled to converse with me.
Critically, Twitter is a conversation not a broadcasting platform. I wish marketers and “social media experts” would spend more time helping their clients actually to converse on Twitter as real humans, rather than simply spamming it with nominally on-topic content. The best tweeters are those who engage in real conversation not just shout from the rooftops.