Posted February 14, 2008 9:34 am by with 13 comments

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I’m not quite sure how a NYT piece on Twitter ended-up in the “Fashion & Style” section, but it’s an interesting read nonetheless.

Michelle Slatalla (or should that be @slatalla) explains her attempts to convince her teenage daughters to use Twitter as a broadcast system for family updates. Unfortunately, despite being “superconnected” her kids feel Twitter is spammy or some kind of surveillance–rather than a tool for knowing where mom is.

Towards the end of the piece we learn that perhaps Twitter’s destined to be the tool of marketers and PR folks–those of us that are obsessed with promoting ourselves. According to Walter J. Carl, an assistant professor of communications studies at Northeastern University:

“The people who I see using it are an older demographic, people in marketing or P.R. or advertising, who use it for work, to present themselves as particular types of people. They’ll twitter, ‘I’m traveling,’ or ‘I’m going to interesting restaurants.’ They’re using it to do identity work.”

Normally I’m skeptical of the “professor” types that are all theory and no real-experience–I only know one that’s practicing what she preaches–but maybe Professor Carl has a point.

Anyone have any data on how many of the 1+ million Twitter users are not concerned in promoting either themselves or their company? Or how many Twitter users are under 20?

  • I’m way out of touch, this is the first I’ve even heard about twitter. (I gotta get out more) 🙂

  • Hey Andy – Where have you seen the number that Twitter has more than one million users? Just curious …

  • @Adam – just an estimate based on the NYT’s “nearly 1.2 million users visited in December”

  • Ah, missed that. It says “according to comScore” so I assume they are assuming to traffic, not actual registered users. I have a hard time believing Twitter has 1.2 million registered.

  • From my research and what I have heard from others, kids just send direct text messages to each other. They are not inclined to build an online “what I’m doing network” that doesn’t include photos or video. Also kids are in love with myspace and facebook. Maybe twitter is to simple for them to use.

  • I agree with you Wayne..^^..I guess Twitter is less appealing to teens compared to Facebook and My Space because it lacks some features that you’ve mentioned..^^..For me, Twitter will only work best for bloggers and SEOs who want to get their stuff heard..^^

  • That NY Times piece really missed the ball in terms of what Twitter’s all about.

    Are there spammers and self-promoters? Sure. But no one follows them. Twitter is permission-based, and if you don’t tweet content of value, I don’t consume it.

    Twitter is an amazing community and feedback tool. Need to know road conditions during a freak Seattle snowstorm? Tweet, and 10 people at various points on the route can respond that it’s okay to proceed. Having trouble with something on your website? Tweet, and 17 people will give you feedback or tell you what’s wrong with your HTML code.

    A non-profit organization, The Frozen Pea Fund, even developed out of Twitter, raising well over $10,000 for breast cancer research in support of our fellow Twitterer Susan Reynolds, who has bravely and honestly been live-tweeting her experience with cancer from the day she discovered a lump in her breast.

    There’s nothing quite like Twitter out there as far as I’m concerned, and I was sad that it made such an awkward debut in the New York Times.

  • @Marina – I agree that Twitter is a powerful tool. The NYT piece wasn’t Twitter’s first mainstream media coverage, so I ‘m not worried about misconceptions of its value. 😉

  • Andy I can’t offer a feel for Twitter users outside of the people I follow and I tend to follow marketers. Every so often I look at the public timeline and I do see plenty of non marketing tweets passing by.

    I’m surprised that Twitter isn’t appealing to teens. I would think the 140 character limit and the ease of tweeting over mobile devices would make it popular for teens. Of course in order for it to be popular for teens you need to have a few teens tweeting already.

  • I don’t have too much experience with Twitter yet as I just recently registered but I do however hope to learn more about it. I know a lot of bloggers are using the service and a lot of mainstream bloggers to boot. Should be interesting to see what comes from it.

  • I use Twitter to keep up with colleagues and acquaintances who share what they are doing and links to what they are learning about. There are more ways and reasons to use Twitter all the time. This example is a good one. Depending on ones text messaging capacity – being able to Twitter ones whereabouts to a family group could be a useful tool especially if accessed via cell phone SMS. Seems like a smart and savvy Mom from my perspective – and a unique, creative and meaningful way to use the tech.

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  • Yes I believe so. Twitter seems very age friendly, I can tell as I’m a teen as well lol.

    Germz’s last blog post..Microsoft’s “Mojave Experiment”