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Nadworny: Learning to Twitter

03/23/09 5:55PM By Rich Nadworny
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(HOST) Does anyone really care when David Gregory of Meet the Press eats a bagel? Apparently a lot of people on Twitter do. Commentator and Twitterer Rich Nadworny has some thoughts on the latest and hottest social network.

(NADWORNY) When the USAirways plane crashed into the Hudson River last month, the first picture of the crash wasn't broadcast on CNN or splashed on The Huffington Post. Nope, the first picture of the crash was shown on the social network Twitter.

When the Israelis launched their attack on Gaza, did they launch their media blitz with a large press conference or a TV talk show? Nope, they kicked it off with a press conference, of sorts, on Twitter.

By now, almost everyone has heard of Twitter. The New York Times writes about it daily, Doonesbury did a weeklong strip about it, and John Stewart has had some very funny skits about it. And I'm sure some of you are scratching your heads and saying, "I still don't get it."

Twitter is a social network. You get to send messages of 140 characters and links to sites and pictures. One smart Twitterer described the service as text messaging for adults. It's a social network because on Twitter you follow people, which means you can read all of their messages; or they follow you, which means they can read yours.

On Twitter, by the way, we call messages "Tweets."

When Twitter first arrived a few years ago I jumped on it. "Tell us what you're doing!" it told me. Kind of like Facebook; but since I didn't know anyone else on Twitter, it became this odd collection of random moments from people's lives. Interesting, maybe, but I'm a busy guy.

Still, it's been fascinating to watch Twitter evolve.

I jumped back in a while ago, and now I'm using it to follow leaders in my industry, people I admire and whose books and blogs I read. With Twitter I'm able to tap into an amazing array of shared knowledge, served up to me in bite size chunks, all through the day. In our fast-moving online world, it's impossible to keep up with everything. And, despite all the different tools out there, I've never seen one as helpful as Twitter.

What makes it great, though, are the personal connections. Despite the short messages, personalities come through and short discussions flourish. For me, working at home, it's become become my virtual water cooler, surrounded by all sorts of cool people.

Like online guru David Armano, who used Twitter and his 9,000 followers to raise 15 thousand dollars in two days to help a friend of his who'd just lost her home. Or angry Motrin moms who in three days forced Motrin to remove a commercial they found offensive.

Companies like JetBlue and Comcast are using it for instant and personal customer service, while others are using it to get quick feedback on ideas or policies, something they're now calling "Crowdsourcing."

The big question for Twitter is whether this is something lasting, fast connections in a personal way, or whether it's just another flash-in-the-pan Web fad. You know, maybe I should go Tweet about it.

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