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October 16, 2007

How Twitter Made My Website Better

twitter.jpeg

A few weeks ago Chris Brogan published a list of the 100 blog topics that he wished people would cover. One of them was, “How Twitter Improved My Blog,” and I accepted the challenge to write something along these lines. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with Twitter, you can read “The Tao of Twitter,” “Newbies Guide to Twitter,” or “Ode to Twitter.”) Here is my answer to Chris’s request.

  1. Twitter made my website faster. One day someone on Twitter complained that Truemors took a long time to load. Out of the twittersphere popped Jason Grigsby, and he analyzed how we could make Truemors faster. Without Twitter, Jason and I would have never connected. It must have taken him hours of research and years of accumulated experience to do this for me. How cool is that?

  2. Twitter made my website more interesting. One day Laura Fitton (she is 50% of the reason I joined Twitter) sent me an email because she read a tweet from David Armano just after he witnessed teenagers pulling out an old woman from her stalled car. Unfortunately, the car had stalled on a railroad track in Glenview, Illinois, and they got her out just in time to save her life. Without Twitter I would have not gotten to know Laura, and Laura would have not gotten to know David, and Truemors not have beaten the news wires by several hours with this story.

  3. Twitter continues to make my website more interesting. I get several stories each day from the forty people that I follow on Twitter. Also, I follow the New York Times, BBC, and International Herald Tribune Twitter feeds for more story ideas. I know I can get RSS feeds from these publications in my feedreader (NetNewsWire) but watching their tweets is more exciting and efficient. For example, the lag in RSS feeds is about thirty minutes, and at any given time, I have 1,000 unread stories to scan in NetNewsWire.

  4. Twitter increased traffic. Jim Long is a cameraman for NBC. He flys around the world on Air Force One covering whatever the president does. One day he tweeted that he saw Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens of High School Musical 2 eating and smooching in Cafe Sydney in Australia while George W. was at APEC/OPEC. Someone picked up this tweet and truemored it, and this brought Truemors tens of thousands of page views. By the way, if you think insipid celebrity sightings doesn’t create traffic, you’re very wrong.

  5. Twitter continues to increase traffic. Now I use Twitterfeed to automatically post the “Science” and “Odd” truemors to Twitter every six hours. Michelle Wolverton, who I met via Laura Fitton, has helped me as a virtual assistant on the project. On any given day, Twitter is the third best source of click throughs—trailing only Google and Popurls. Admittedly, some people have complained that I use Twitter to pimp Truemors too much, but my mother always told me that if you’re not irritating some people, you’re not doing anything interesting.

  6. Twitter made my web site more true and less rumor. Jim Long helped debunk the truemor of the “mystery airplane” that was flying around Washington D. C. on 9/11. Here’s the commment that he posted:

    OK everybody, move along…nothing to see here. LOL. There’s really nothing mysterious about this aircraft. It’s the Air Force E4-B. A cold war relic, it was essentially designed as a flying command post for the President and SECDEF in times of nuclear crisis. I’ve circled the globe in this aircraft a number of times.
  7. Twitter enabled me to make new friends. This is the greatest benefit of all. It connected me to people like Greg, Laura, Jim, Michelle, and Chris that I had not known. They have helped me in many ways, but more importantly, they have become friends, and friends are far more important than page views.

  8. Twitter enabled me to re-connect to old friends. This includes Dave Winer (who is the other 50% of why I joined Twitter) and not-so-old friends like Robert Scoble and Hugh Macleod. In particular, Hugh is an interesting case because I had been trying to get in email touch with him for months because my emails to him went straight to his spam folder. With Twitter’s direct messages, I was finally able to reconnect with him. There is something truly elegant about 140-character emails—if only all email were limited to 140 characters.

  9. Kawasaki.jpg
  10. Twitter enabled me to preserve my heritage. This is the best story of all. One day on Twitter Scott Yoshinaga asked me if “Duke Kawasaki” is my father. I tell him that he is. He tells me this story: He and his fiancee, Audra Furuichi, bought a book called Japan: Islands of the Rising Sun at a Friends of the Library of Hawaii used-book sale in Honolulu at McKinley High School. Inside the book was a copy of my father’s certificate of election to the state senate of Hawaii. Apparently this was my father’s book—he was a voracious reader and imparted a love of books to me. And my father graduated from McKinley to top it all off.

    Maybe this doesn’t make my site better, but it makes me happy. Scott is sending the certificate to me, and this piece of my family’s history would have been lost were it not for Twitter. Be sure to check out Scott’s and Audra’s cool manga web-comics at nemu*nemu (Japanese for “to sleep”). And they were kind enough to make a manga comic about me and Twitter!

  11. nemu-guycomic-hat[1].jpg

All in all, Twitter is very useful and a lot of fun. From the outside looking in, it may not appear to be either to many folks, but some things need to be believed to be seen.

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Comments

Hey Guy! All this talk about how Twitter did this and that and not even a link to your Twitter account?

I'm sorry Guy but, if you have to come up with reasons why a site/app should be taken more seriously, I would think that there is a problem there to begin with.

To me twitter just seems like a waste of time, I suppose I could just text my network with what I am doing at the present moment, if I felt so compelled.

I just don't really see the value, business wise with twitter and personally think it will flame out within 2 years.

I can see twitter could be useful -- but I suspect that the power of a social networking site depends in part on the power of your social network. Your own network is extremely impressive.

Again, it is not about the technology but the people behind it. In this day we are innundated with a lot of text and having a microblogging platform means we can connect with more people in the time we have.

It has improved my classroom by allowing me to channel live participants into my activities and to test new tools for academic use by bringing in the people needed to make a test possible (like for ustream, etc.)

Great story. I know at least four of the people you mentioned by meeting them on twitter. I've been a twitter doubter and have even accused my biz partner, Connie Reece of believing in it too much. She and you have opened my mind to the possibilities. Thanks.

Hi Guy,

As always, i learned something from ur blog. I have added a link to ur blog on my site. www.salimpatel.com

hope thts fine with u.

Thanks,

Salim Patel.

I also like shoutbox. Such gadgets make your site more friendly.

Is it me...or should they come up with another name besides twittering? It sounds like something I should be doing behind closed doors, if you catch my drift.

Interesting Guy... but with all these news feeds, twitters and probably more e-mail, phone messages and text messages then I care to imagine... how on Earth do you ever find time to actually LIVE your life?

Jon

Guy,

I am really enjoying your book - "Art of the Start."

This Twitter thing is fairly new to me also. But I agree with you that the 140 characters are a Godsend. It forces me to be concise and get to the point. I love this part about it. I really believe this is the single reason why Twitter has become so successful. - Joel

@guykawasaki - unfortunately, taking a few hours off of twitter meant I learned of you being in HNL too late and my tweet request for a connection fell on sleeping eyes.

I'm happy tho that @pistachio made it so high on your list - I too met her through Twitter care of our mutual friend @chrisbrogan. Lucky me, we met in real life at PNME and I've been using a "suck-proof" video quote from her in my recent talks.

aloha from hawai'i - @roxannedarling

The story about your father's certificate is very cool, and quite moving.

Just as in the early days of email, if your friends didn't use email, you found very little use for it. Same with twitter. If your friends, or colleagues, or a group of people you are interested in aren't on twitter, then you'll find it useless. But if you do have friends or colleagues on twitter, then it can be useful, fun, and help you make new friends and connections and tune into new ideas. I know some colleagues that are spread out over the country and attend many industry events. I've learned some great bits of info by following their tweets. I've also expanded people's networks by introducing them to other twitterers that I've met.

Hey Guy,

I'm sure you have a ton of ideas for posts but for the next one could you do one on marketing...

"31 Elements of a Marketing Campaign
32 Social Media Campaigns are NOT Traditional Campaigns"

Specifically..marketing on a budget...a small budget.

Hi Guy,

As always, I learned something new.

Thanks,
Margie

I think the real meat of your post is in point no.3: in that it somehow helped you grow your network and make friends. You yourself know the answer to this lackluster argument and in fact admit that "I know I could follow these people through their RSS". You got it, Guy. Just because you find it exciting for the moment does not make a technology any less useless than it is. Wants one-line updates from friends? Join Facebook. Otherwise, yes, RSS is significantly more efficient especially with all the options available (e.g., http://snipr.com/theshuffle ). The points after 3 are just trying to reach, but it's a decent attempt, sure.

Great write-up Guy. On the surface, Twitter seems like a waste of time. Many "experts" have stated it as such because they haven't looked into how it can be fully utilized. You have. It has been great to see you explore the benefits of Twitter over the last few months. Thanks for taking the step, and sharing your thoughts.
-Ed

" “Let a hundred flowers blossom.”

@guykawasaki - And you were 33.33% of why I decided to start Twittering - like you, I've enjoyed it a lot. Blog post coming soon (130 chars)

Dr.Mani
tweets as 'drmani'
www.twitter.com/drmani

P.S. - I realized (after reading your tweets on it) that I can send you direct messages (@guykawasaki) only if you're following me - so that's quite a few 'wasted' tweets (or as someone called it, 'Twitterbations'!)

You have some great articles here thanks for sharing !

hey guy, how come your truemor never took off? i guess you are only good at coaching. a good coach is not necessarilly a good player.

*************

It's doing okay. Every day we make progress. By the way, how come you can't spell your own name?

Gyu

Seems like I can get all of these things done with email, my blog and IM. All things which I already use. And if I really wanted to know what my friends did for breakfast each day, I'd ask them.

Gal

OK, we now know how to spell Vanessa Hudgens's last name. :) Thanks Guy... DGC

I recently started twittering myself. Wait, that didn't sound right.

Very cool post Guy. I've been reading about Twitter in other posts but hadn't really found the need or time to begin to use it. Think I'll dive in.

Enjoying your Art of the Start manifesto btw. Got a kick out of seeing a quote posted the same day at Wade Meyer's New Venture Labs site. Gonna get the book. Love the Make Mantra concept. Validated the approach I'd taken in our organization -- "a learning organization."

Be blessed, Ed

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