What Does Twitter Look Like?

Image by Matt Hamm

Image by Matt Hamm

Believe it or not, the NUMBER ONE search term that brings people to my website is this seemingly odd question:

“What does Twitter look like?”

If you’re already using Twitter, bear with me. I’ll want to hear your answer in just a minute — and so will the people who land here by asking this question.

In fact, if you’re already using Twitter, your initial response to them might be:

“Why don’t you just hop on over to Twitter itself and find out?”

But it isn’t this easy, not really.

If you don’t already have a Twitter account yet, and you just want to check it out, it can be surprisingly difficult to get an actual feel for what Twitter looks like, never mind to really grok how it works.

First, I’ll explain why this is. Then I’d like to share with you what Twitter looks like to me, today, for instance.

How hard is it to find out what Twitter looks like?

OK, it’s not super-hard, but it’s more difficult than you might think, especially for the uninitiated, and the hesitant.  For instance, if you visit the Twitter website without any login credentials, you’ll see a relatively bland and content-free sign-in page (click on the image to enlarge):

Twitter Welcome Page

Twitter Welcome Page

You could try to peek behind the curtain by clicking on one of the “trending topics” on the bottom of the welcome page.

Twitter Trending Topics

Twitter Trending Topics

This will at least show you what Twitter’s basic interface looks like. You’d get to access the visuals of the site, and you wouldn’t have to sign up or anything.  But this still wouldn’t tell you much about what Twitter does.

So what does Twitter actually do?

The thing is, Twitter isn’t about just one topic, or even one style of communication. It isn’t just people talking about what they had for lunch, although there is that. It isn’t just people having chatty conversations with each other in a public chat room, although there is that. And it certainly isn’t just people talking exclusively about themselves, their products, and their companies, although (shudder) there is that too.

In just 5 minutes of dipping into Twitter this morning, I was a part of at least six different types of conversations, each of them carrying its own value.

Here, in a condensed and translated form, is an example of what twitter looks like for me on a daily basis:

  1. Person I know online and admire: Check out this really interesting article on the New York Times! {link}
  2. Person I know from real life in my town: Holy cow! Traffic is really bad on Main Street! Take the back roads this morning!
  3. Person I don’t know all that well: Does anybody know where I can get some good shoes, fast?
  4. Another random person: That hurricane is getting stronger… watch out Bermuda!
  5. Person I know from The Big City: Don’t miss the professional networking event tonight!
  6. Person I know from online: Check out what so-and-so wrote on her blog — I don’t agree with her, but she makes a good point.

Each of these messages was interesting to me in some way. Here’s how I responded to each one, in turn:

  1. Click on the link and bookmark it to read later, after work. It’s on a topic that I teach workshops in, and it looks like it might have some good points I can incorporate into my next presentation.
  2. Avoid Main Street this morning, and save myself a headache and being late to my first meeting of the day, and possibly annoying or even losing a client.
  3. Respond to the shoe-inquirer about some of the shoe retailer companies that are on Twitter, that I know will be on Twitter at this very moment and will probably respond to her inquiry right away, maybe with some sale information, maybe with a discount code, or just a friendly hello.
  4. Make a note to buy candles, batteries, and tunafish, since hurricane often decide to visit Cape Cod after they’re done causing havoc on Bermuda.
  5. Remind myself that I wanted to meet up with someone at the networking event, and resolve to go tonight, despite how tired I might be.
  6. Maybe I don’t have time to read that interesting blog post, but I do make a note of how open and constructive the person tweeting that was, by linking encouragingly to a post that they largely disagreed with. That makes me think more highly of that person, for sure.

That was in just five minutes.

And I derived tangible benefits from every single one of those messages that I would not have been able to derive during any other merely five-minute portion of my day.

How would you decode what you say and do on Twitter every day?  What does Twitter do for you?

Trust me, there are people who want to know.

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