What’s so big about twitter?

cell phone with a twitter stickerLast night we, at Arcimedia, went to our second event hosted by the Social Media Club of Charleston.  While last month’s gathering came down to a few getting-to-know-you beers during happy hour, yesterday’s meeting format was more akin to an open-discussion, social networking symposium; with one word dominating most of the dialogue:  Twitter.

It seems that there are still many people, those who are social networking engineers included, who still do not understand the big deal about Twitter.  Who cares?  Why do people enjoy it so much?  Where is the power?

To answer this, let us go back to around 2002/2003 when Nextel came out with their mobile-to-mobile instant walkie-talkie service.  At that time I used Nextel as my carrier, and if they didn’t screw me over with all kinds of extra fees and charges, I might still be with them today, but I digress.  Ask anybody who used the service and they will tell you that the Walkie-Talkie feature accelerated the rate of communication by getting rid of the bull-crap in conversations.

Fast-forward to today.  In the world of online communication, Twitter is the Walkie-Talkie of the internet, except it is more than that.  In the days of Nextel, my communication was limited to one person at a time.  Today, not only can I communicate with multiple people simultaneously, all of those posts are shared so that everyone else can weigh in and add to or benefit from the discussion.

To me, here’s where the problem is.  A lot of people think of the 140 character communication format as “Twitter,” just as people think to put a “Band-aid” on a cut, not an adhesive bandage.  Twitter is just a brand name of technology, and this exact same functionality can be found using an open-source platform like identi.ca, building it yourself in php (but why reinvent the wheel), or to somehow pioneer your own social media SMS technology.

“Twitter” isn’t really the big story here; it is the rapid-action, cut-the-crap style of communication that people need, use, and want as part of their daily discussion platform.

If you can understand the power of the walkie-talkie *beep beep*, then perhaps you can grasp the strange power and force of this entire social media trend.  Twitter is simply a glorified social networking walkie-talkie

About Andrew Turner (aka Arcitech)