This is a guest post by Alana Taylor, a contributing writer for Mashable and a Journalism major at NYU. “Tech, Lifecasting, Blogging, Sushi, and Film are my life!”. You can subscribe to Alana’s blog here.
There are many different ways of using Twitter. You can use it to micro-blog, to get ideas for articles, promoting your personal brand, to meet up with friends, to stalk the internet famous, yadda yadda. I use it in all those ways and more. And I think it’s healthy to balance your approach between taking it very seriously and very lightly. Yes, you should try to expand your audience. But try to have fun while you do it.
Twitter has been written about in thousands of blog posts around the internet. So much so that I myself feel like an idiot for writing about it yet again. But there’s one way of using Twitter that I find extremely useful, and I would feel like more of an idiot if I didn’t address it.
I use Twitter as a search engine. More specifically, I turn to Twitter when I am too lazy to Google.
You might be thinking, "Too lazy to Google? It gets results to quickly!" Yes, you are right. However, the thing about search engines is that they search for content that features your keywords and don’t necessarily give you answers. You have to find the answers yourself. Luckily, search engines are getting smarter, but in the end you still end up doing a lot of the searching.
I jump over this hurdle by looking at Twitter as a personal, user-generated Google. Take, for example, the day I downloaded the movie Superbad. When I tried to play the movie it opened in Quicktime, but there was no sound. I was frustrated. I could have easily searched Google for "Quicktime sound help," "No sound on Quicktime," "Audio troubleshoot Quicktime," etc. And I may have found what I was looking for. But I was too lazy. I wanted faster results. Results that had already been tested by someone else and proven to work.
So I twittered: "Need geek help. I downloaded a movie and Quicktime is playing it but there is no sound. The Audio MIDI is fine. What do I do?" Within 2 minutes I was bombarded with @replies of different things I could do to solve my problem. Sure, not everyone gave me the same response, but I saw which was most popular (using VLC in this case) and I went ahead and listened to their suggestions. Five minutes after twittering my problem, it was fixed.
Google could never have done that for me. Not even Yahoo! Answers. I would have had to search myself for a way to fix the sound, based on forums and troubleshoot FAQ’s.
The only prerequisite for using Twitter this way is to have a large number of followers so that they can act as the levers and pulleys to your user-generated search engine. But once you have that down, just ask your question, sit back and wait. Chances are someone will know the answer. And if more than one person agrees with that answer… your problem is, more often than not, solved.
This is just one of the many ways I use Twitter. I have similar success stories for a number of different functions, from polling to marketing to partying and job searching. But I am interested in you. How do you use Twitter?