The Twitter Phenomenon

TwitterEvery year it seems some new technology emerges from the depths of the Internet and spreads through our culture like some great bushfire. The late nineties saw the birth of services such as Geocities, Hotmail, Google and eBay, followed by the noughties and the web 2.0 social networking explosion. Suddenly everyone became a blogger, and switched-on, web-savvy youth became micro-celebrities on MySpace. MySpace has now taken a backseat to the mighty Facebook, where people are able to connect friends and family in a way that had never been done before. Long-awaited reunions are no longer left to chance, because sooner or later lost loves and old school friends can be found and added to your Facebook friends list.

Recently a new contender has emerged. Twitter, the now super-famous micro-blogging platform has grown rapidly in recent months and is no longer just a place where web geeks and tech savvy celebrities share inside jokes and discuss what they had for breakfast. In fact, it has become a place where everybody shares jokes and discusses what they had for breakfast. However, this free flow of information is turning out to be more than just a log of mundane everyday events; it is also proving to be highly effective at delivering raw news as it happens. In addition, it provides a great marketing tool and a way of sharing information such as website URLs with other likeminded people.

Twitter was first taken seriously as a source of real-time news when, on 26 November 2008, several Mumbai residents began frantically tweeting about a terrorist attack, thus breaking the news to the world that Mumbai was under attack by an unknown terrorist force. More recently, (at the time of writing) Twitter became the main conduit for information about the questionable election results in Iran as well as the protests, riots and police brutality that followed suit. The tag #Iranelection became a bastion of freedom for Irani people, telling their stories to the outside world. Twitter.com even postponed routine server maintenance at the request of the Obama administration so that the West did not lose vital contact with opposition protesters sharing news from the ground in Iran.

It is this spirit of free, real-time sharing of information that is making Twitter a force to be reckoned with in the world of social media. Breaking news aside, Twitter is also becoming recognised as a great business tool, a place to learn from others and a veritable Internet marketing Swiss army knife. For many businesses and individuals, Twitter provides a convenient way to attract attention and exchange useful information with likeminded individuals and companies, to great effect.

The rising popularity of Twitter has also created a demand for software applications that make the service more flexible and easy to use. These include everything from directories like wefollow.com and twellow.com to RSS syndication services like twitterfeed.com, which makes it easy for bloggers to tweet their latest articles, and hootsuite.com, which lets you manage several twitter accounts at once as well as schedule tweets for later.

If you haven’t tried Twitter yet, then give it a go. You can follow people and organisations that interest you and share your news and experiences with others.

The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs recently joined Twitter, and we have attracted some interesting followers in the legal profession and around the world. You can follow us at http://www.twitter.com/legal_secretary.