By Richie Siegel
As much as we couldn’t care less about tweeters in the tweetosphere sharing every thought, quote and picture that comes to mind, there is a reason to have a Twitter. Now more than ever, with the introduction of extensions (which preview an article or image) and the number of useful accounts, Twitter is dripping with valuable resources.
I estimate that I get more than half my news from Twitter. Twitter has an advantage over individual news outlets, regardless of their size, because Twitter allows you to efficiently sift through content. By looking at my Twitter feed for a few minutes, I have access to close to 50 news and media outlets that I follow. Switching among 50 different apps is impractical and would take much more time.
Twitter accounts of journalists, academics and professionals also connect you with a plethora of content that you might otherwise miss. These types of accounts, along with those of other important people in their respective fields, serve as aggregators of content. They pick out the good reads and the important news.
Now, they aren’t perfect. Everyone pumps out a few meaningless tweets once in a while. The solution is to follow multiple accounts in a specific area. For example, if you are interested in technology, you should follow NY Times Bits Blog, Techcrunch, Mashable, The Next Web and a few others. This gives you a nice diversity of content. Even better, when a story pops up from a few of these accounts, you know it’s worth a read.
Following brands, stores and restaurants on Twitter yields exclusive information about sales and events. This leg up could mean nabbing a sale item before someone else or getting tickets to The Colbert Report before they sell out.
The other benefit to Twitter is the 140-character limit. This keeps people from ranting and filling up your feed. If you see an intriguing headline, you can go straight to the article. But if something seems trivial, you can move right past it without wasting time. This is an important advantage that Twitter has over other aggregating and networking platforms. If someone wants to write a whole essay as a Facebook status, they can and you will see at least five lines of it. If they tried to tweet the same status, it wouldn’t be published until it was cut down to 140-characters.
Twitter might not have realized this when the site first launched, but having the character limit perfectly suits mobile devices. When each message can only take up a certain amount of space, you can view more at once. With Facebook on a smartphone, you can maybe see three posts in the newsfeed, and less if one of the posts has pictures. But on Twitter, you can see at five or six tweets without having to scroll: a subtle advantage.
Next time you doubt the need for Twitter, don’t delete your handle, just unfollow everyone and start from scratch. Following a few dozen high quality accounts is better than following hundreds of mediocre ones. Twitter prides itself that less is more. I concur.