Why Twitter?

Why do I Twitter? I get asked that a lot. And I seem to stumble around for an answer because there isn’t just one simple answer, so I usually just say “to keep connected with remote friends.” Which is a big part of the reason, but I thought I’d try to expound a little on why it is I have posted over 1000 “tweets” to my Twitter page. Someone recently asked me what the ministry benefits were. I’d probably have to honestly say none, or not much. It’s not about ministry. It’s more about interpersonal relationships.

Here I will try to explain what Twitter is, how you Twitter and lastly WHY Twitter.

WHAT IS TWITTER?

It would help first of all, to try and explain what Twitter is. First of all, it is found here: www.twitter.com. And if you know a Twitter-er’s username, you can simple put it after the domain, such as mine is: www.twitter.com/kidologist. Users can customize their page with a background as well as the color scheme of the page. And their Twitter profile icon of course.

But what IS Twitter? It is a micro-blog whose posts are made up not only of your own, but of those you are “following.” It is similar to a blog except that your posts are limited to 140 characters or less. So you can’t get too wordy. And like a blog, your most recent post is at the top of the page. But what makes it unique is that the post of anyone you choose to follow also appear on your Twitter page. So your Twitter page becomes not only a mini-blog of what you are doing, but a news feed on what your friends (or whoever you are following, they don’t have to be friends, as I’ll get into below) are doing or thinking or posting.

As you can see in the image above, as of this morning, I am following 65 people. 109 are following me and I’ve posted 1208 “Tweets” so far. That means that whenever any of those 65 people post, it appears in my Twitter and anything I post, 109 people are blessed or bothered with what I posted. And I’ve sent 1208 such messages to whoever was following me at the time!

HOW DO YOU READ & POST TO TWITTER?

The key to the success of Twitter’s growth, is that there are MANY ways to post and read the posts that appear on your page. You can simply use the webpage interface, but that is the least used method for me. I have a desktop application called Twifferrific. It can be on top of all windows, minimized, and set to check at intervals I choose and actually “tweet” like a bird when someone posts. A screen shot of it is to the right.

You can also post via text message to your phone.

You can also have your facebook status post to your Twitter. (I do that in reverse, anything I post to Twitter becomes my Facebook Status.)

But I do most of my Twittering directly from my iPhone using a variety of applications, each has its advantages.

If you are an iPhone user try Twinkle, it allows you to also see people who are nearby and Twittering. I tend to use Twittelator the most and love how you can include pictures taken on your iPhone so I paid $4.99 for Twittelator Pro which bosted of extra features and the ability to have multiple accounts, and it flat out doesn’t work and I can’t get my $5 back. Every time I open it is says “Server load error, unable to load Tweets, try again later.” And its been over a month. OK, rant over. Don’t waste your $5 like I did.

With the iPhone application, (showing Twittelator here) you have many more options than the website, or at least, easier and faster to access such as:

But my favorite thing about Twittelor (and Twinkle can do it too, but crashes often) is attach pictures from my iPhone picture library OR simply take and attach a picture:

Then you simply type your message and post!

(note: iPhone changes your spelling a lot,
like: Twitteding, I didn’t type that!)

To most users, the image will look like a link from Twicpic.com and they can click on it to go view it. When Twittelator Pro works, it actually displays the picture IN the Tweet, which was why I wanted the $5 version, to just show the picture and skip the clicking and waiting to view just to see a picture wasn’t worth the wait to see.  (see link at the beginning of my first post)

You can see the picture of my laptop I just Twittered here. Curious if these pictures will remain hosted “forever” or if there is a time limit, no one seems to know.

BUT WHY TWITTER?

That, indeed, is the question. Yes, Twittering takes time to post and to read, and can become a bit of an addiction. So what is the value in it? Why bother? Why should YOU Twitter? Here are some of my reasons.

  • It’s fun. Hey, it’s O.K. to have fun, not everything has to have a profound ministry purpose!
  • It fills idle time. When you are stuck somewhere bored, communicating with friends is just a text message or iPhone away.
  • It’s fast. Calling a friend takes time. It’s important, but a Tweet to a friend is a fast easy way to let them know you are thinking about them, praying for them, that they matter to you.
  • Keep up with friends. I have a bunch of friends around the country that without Twitter I’d only see or talk to once or twice a year, perhaps at a conference. But because Tom Bump, Todd McKeever, Larry Shallenberger, Henry Zonio, Dave Truit and others Twitter, I get to be a small part of their daily life and know what they are dong. If I only see them once a year the conversation goes, “How’s it been?” They answer, “Great!” But with Twitter I know about the ins and outs of their daily lives and can ask more specific questions about the kids, the job, or whatever.
  • Monitor your staff. Know what your employees are really doing during the work day. Ha! Just put that in as a joke to see if my staff read this. They all have flexible hours and most are part time, so I’m just razzin’ them!
  • Get to know new friends. When I make new friends at a conference or somewhere, like Ken Wheeler, Twitter is a way that we can get to know each other and keep in touch. Otherwise, those infant friendships might not get the chance to grow.
  • Keep a pulse on the world, politics and even people unlike you. By following people unlike me, I get glimpses into how other people see the world. I’ve had some people comment that not all my followers (which I can’t control) or those I follow are Christians. Yes, I’ve even seen bad words appear in my Twitter! (oh, no!) If someone gets too offensive, you can block them. (It’s a little tedious as there is no system to how your followers are listed, that I can tell.) But I don’t just follow people who I agree with or who see the world like me. I want to be IN the world (not OF it!) and following people unlike me when it comes to religion or politics is good exposure. I’m trying to reach these people, and it starts with listening.
  • Argue Politics. As a passionate American, I am very engaged politically. Sometimes that annoys people – which baffles me – as to be a true American you ought to care and be engaged in politics. Not that our hope is in politics, but they do matter and impact our lives, freedom and economy. You can follow streams of political posts here: http://election.twitter.com and I’ve picked up some people I follow there. Warning, most Twitters are pro-Obama and the venom and nastiness can be shocking if you aren’t used to it. Sad but true. Go be a light. (regardless of your political leanings)
  • Save links and quotes. I use Twitter as a way to save links and quotes I like. Sometimes I come across something cool or funny or helpful or insighful on the Internet and I just Twitter it and then mark it as a favorite. Going back through your favorites later can be like an electronic scrap book
  • Follow / Broadcast Live Events. When friends get to be places you can’t be, they can Twitter and let you experience a taste of it, like a friend recently did at a McCain Palin rally and like I will at the Chicago Marathon this Sunday or at various CM conferences. When my wife went on a trip across the country with her parents, she Twittered their progress and pictures for me and the little back home. We got to feel a little less lonely and could picture where she was along the trip. It was great to get those glimpses into her days while she was away from us.
  • Entertain and brighten people’s day. If you are like me, you enjoy telling jokes or looking at life through a humorous lense. Twitter allows you to share those funny moments. Normally, it would be pretty lame when you see someone to say, “last week the toilet bowl handle broke and I had to reach in the water to flush.” But as a live Twitter its funny, as every one can picture you doing this, as it JUST happened. Or like one I saw this morning, “Unless someone actually invented a real flux capacitor, I’m pretty sure I need a new watch battery.”
  • Communicate with friends. Twitter also allows back and forth communication, either publicly or privately. If you start a post with @kidologist than I and everyone knows the comment is directed at me, though anyone can read and enjoy it. If you put a “d” before it: d @kidologist than only I will get the message. This can be fun. One time I Twittered, “Where should I go to lunch today?” and there were a bunch of @kidologist replies/suggestions. While they were all to me, others got to see the suggestions. A bunch of people separated by hundreds of miles and time zones all collaborated on my lunch destination. (Taco Bell won) That is a part of what makes Twitter unique.
  • See what’s new on Kidology.org That’s right! One of the best ways to see what is new on Kidology (or other sites that publish to a Twitter account) is to follow www.Twitter.com/kidology as you will get notified when new things post to Kidology. It’s now one of the main ways I click into discussions and see new posts!

There are other reasons I’m sure I’ll think of after I publish this, and please gives yours in comments. But Twittering is a fun way to interact and stay connected with a wide variety of people from literally all over the world, instantly.

Try it, you’ll like it.

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6 Comments:

  1. I was browsing through the post… just skimming it, not really taking in the actual words, since I already Twitter, and didn’t feel a ‘need’ to read up on it. But my eyes couldn’t help but catch this: “But why Twitter? – Monitor your staff.”
    That’s the only thing my brain honed in on…
    Ha ha Karl! :)

  2. Karl said: Someone recently asked me what the ministry benefits were. I’d probably have to honestly say none, or not much. It’s not about ministry. It’s more about interpersonal relationships.

    Shelly says: I disagree Karl. I’ve gotten to know three families this
    past week through twitter and facebook. These are families that I just nodded to before at church, now we stop and chat. It’s been a great tool also to keep in touch with my volunteers that love computers. It is a real community builder. I even have a running joke now with a mom whom I didn’t even know before. I am loving it. I had a running commentary with a youth that just left me last year about the rays/sox game (he was rooting for the sox..traiter).
    anytime you can make contact with a family to share a joke or just let them see that you are real and “safe”, it builds ministry. People need to understand that ministry is soooo much more than sharing the gospel message. it’s about sharing our dreams, our pain, our hugs. It’s about community. everyday. every hour. together. I totally think it’s a ministry builder.

  3. Shelly, that is FANTASTIC! I have not personally found many “normal” people using twitter at church, I think every Christian I have on my Twitter list are all leaders. I think it is fantatic you are using it to connect with people at church!

    Anyone else Twittering with people at church??

    Shelly, set up your facebook to make your Twitters be your facebook status… then you don’t have to try and keep both up to date. Just post with Twitter.

  4. Pingback: Kidologist.com » Brian Dollar at the Dollar Store

  5. UPDATE: on iPhone my favorite app with least problems is now Tweetie, worth the $3 price tag.

  6. WOW, just retweeted this, and see that I’m now over 1000 followers and nearing 5000 tweets – guess I’ve been busy!

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