Monday, October 8, 2007

Twitter Utility - yes, there is real value in this app

If you don't have any idea what Twitter is all about, Wikipedia's definition and this quick Twitter 101 video from Nick Danforth should get you up-to-speed.

Ok, I have to admit the first time I checked Twitter out I couldn't make heads or tails of it. What was all the buzz about? It looked random and a little self absorbing. Really, who cares what I'm doing in 140 characters or less????

Then an online savvy friend, Melinda, who is a usability guru told me her twitter hooked story - the twitter event that made Melinda a tweet lover.

She followed a close friend from the first pangs of labor through child birth. This friend was across the country, and Melinda received updates instantaneously on the labor and birth event. Melinda was overjoyed to virtually hold her friend's hand through labor. And her friend has the history of her labor, in her own words - one 140 character message at a time.

This hook made sense to me.

I could stay up-to-date with friends that I didn't keep in daily or weekly touch with by following them on twitter. So I thought I'd give it a shot.

I hit an immediate roadblock. None of my friends, even my online friends, n o n e of them were using twitter, except for Melinda, who is always 3 steps ahead of trend :). I felt bleeding edge and a little scared. It reminded me of when I bought Broadvision stock back in '95. What the hell was I doing?

So, as I had done with BVSN, I went looking for business friends. In this case instead of stock counsel, I was looking for business-related friends that might be twittering.

They were easy to facebook counterparts and socnet savvy thought leaders were out there twittering away such as Seth Godin, Chris Broganand Jeremiah Owyang. These master bloggers whom I gleam extremely valuable cutting edge information from daily - were of course all twittering.

With twitter, I immediately started getting 140 character golden nuggets - cliff notes of their blogs or random bouts of knowledge. These business-related tweets made twitter an instant utility for me and a multi-checkpoint daily ritual.

Then came my twitter hook. My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer a couple of weeks ago. This wasn't too much of a shock as she had survived stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer 6 years ago. My siblings, father, mother and I were headed to Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis to tackle this tumor (which ended up being a 3x4 mass) with the cancer team.

I knew once I got to Barnes, I wouldn't have time to check work, home email nor text all my extended family, friends, and co-workers regarding status. You would think we'd have plenty of time, but we had been through this before and the Barnes staff swarms. There is NO downtime and we knew that 24/7 resolution was what we were in for.

So I sent out a few mass emails (work, friends, fb friends) and notified people via a few blogs. I let everyone know to follow me on twitter/zenaweist or go to my fb profile to view my latest twitter update.

I was surprised at how many not online savvy folks just winged it, signing up to follow me without issue, and how a few online zealots didn't take me up on my twitter request.

Anyway, I started twittering Sunday night before we left for STL. I kept updating my tweets through the entire week of testing, testing, seeing 25 drs and residents in 48 hours, testing, surgery, ICU, recovery - YES,

The tweets helped keep me calm through the whole, stressful ordeal. Having to post in 140 characters or less, it helped me to focus, not be hysterical. Just knowing 20 or so people were following me and my family, giving Mom their support - it was powerful. Knowing those 20 were updating countless other people, it took the update burden off my family.

People sent us words of encouragement through twittering back, calling, posting on my fb wall, and emails. This circle of followers kept my family positive. Being positive helped me, my family, and especially my mom.

And I'll continue with updates as "Miracle Mom" heads into radiation next week.

And news on the followers that signed up to get updates from me, they aren't just lurking. They are creating their own hooks as well. This is a fantastic app with utility. My hook is just 1 of 1000s that happen everyday.

Share your twitter hook with me, I'd love to read about it.

UPDATE: Here's Jeremiah Owyang's insightful Twitter post.


Mary said...

I've heard about Twitter. I've read about Twitter. Just couldn't figure out why anyone would be interested in knowing MY day-to-day movements. But I LOVE your hook. It's relevant. It's true and it's a super idea. Now I'm motivated to go out and see what I can learn about Twitter!

Mary said...

I've heard about Twitter. I've read about Twitter. Just couldn't figure out why anyone would be interested in knowing MY day-to-day movements. But I LOVE your hook. It's relevant. It's true and it's a super idea. Now I'm motivated to go out and see what I can learn about Twitter!

Zena said...

Thanks, Mary. It has to be relevant to you or you can't embrace it - regardless of who's using it.

Warren Whitlock said...

Great story.

We should put it in TwitterHandbook.

I'm tweet at you later

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