There’s been plenty of articles and discussion in recent weeks that confirm the fact that Twitter has gained kudos and gravitas as a valuable – if not indispensable – communication platform. The tweets on the demonstrations in Iran are only the latest example of the unexpected value of the networking platform. Clearly, few would still designate Twitter as a silly, trivial fad (though it can be both). Probably the best article I’ve seen on the topic is the recent Time story, which has been making the rounds in recent weeks (via Twitter I might add). The Time article details the unexpected depth of Twitter and focuses on the value of the social networking elements – the ongoing conversations and updates which blend personal updates, guerrilla news, chain discussions and recommendations.
In the early discussions on the value of Twitter, some questioned how it could be monetized or give birth to the killer business application. They were missing the point. Though Twitter has certainly shown its value as an immediate and informal news network, it also provides for a social interaction platform that provides intangible but unique and important benefits to its users. Call it human contact…but in a virtual setting. The author calls this having ambient awareness about developments across your social network. It’s proved particularly useful as a communication platform around events or conferences, as noted by Time, where conversation can be captured, shared and dissected instantly by a fluid community of users. This human element – shaped by millions of users both near and far in a shifting sea or followers and friends – is one of the strongest assets of Twitter.
The article also points to the emerging power of the search function on Twitter – which allows users to jump on any topic and has fostered the rapid spread of “super fresh” news (blending informal updates and personal captions) on major global events – and use of links, which opens the door to sharing much more than the original 140 characters. There are also accounts of how users have helped to shape the evolution of the platform – yet another example of the amazing wisdom of crowds. The article also raises very interesting questions about the eclectic definition of news and advertising on Twitter. But buried at the end of the article is perhaps one of the most important lessons about Twitters’s emergence – that Twitter reflects the incredible social innovation and creativity that fuels social media and related technology. That is the most lasting value rather than the platform itself, which will doubtless continue to evolve and morph.