Twitter has cemented itself in pop culture, from Ashton Kutcher gunning for one million followers, to gossip bloggers announcing Michael Jackson's death to millions of followers before any other media outlets had the story. The site was crucial in covering the recent protests in Iran, as other media outlets were blocked by the government.
A simple site used for making short updates of 140 characters or less, Twitter delivers users' updates to their followers via Internet or, more conveniently, by text message. Twitter applies the ultimate filter to the dizzying onslaught of information by omitting all the videos, photos, advertising and other extraneous material and getting right down to the who, what, when, where and why. Nielsen rates Twitter's growth at 1,382 percent a month. The free service is ideal for people on the go; an update on who is where, and what is happening is delivered right to your cell phone, short and sweet.
But what do regular people use the service for? Other than answering the eternal question "what's up," Twitter is used for networking, business, promotion, and to raise awareness and support for causes. A number of Valley businesses use the site to advertise special events and sales; for example, the newly opened Rust Belt Brewing Co. brewery in Youngstown , or the Mahoning Valley Scrappers baseball team.
Megan Reed, 28, a higher education account executive at Turning Technologies in Youngstown, uses Twitter often for business purposes. Her job puts her on the road for days at a time, traveling to college campuses and other places to demonstrate her company's product, an audience-surveying device called Turning Point. Reed said that "a coworker sent me an article (about Twitter), and said 'you need to think about using this.'" Reed said she shrugged it off, but then when her sales team created a blog, Twitter came to mind in terms of spreading the word.
"It made sense for us, as a higher-education team, to use it," Reed said. Reaching the college students and academic professionals was easy using Twitter, Reed said, and she would "add" universities she was going to visit on her Twitter feed.
"We've definitely had more customers," Reed said. "It's beneficial. There's more people; it's like overnight they all showed up." She said that most of the other divisions at Turning Technologies now use Twitter as part of their job.
Here are some local Twitter feeds:
Congressman Tim Ryan, D-Niles:?twitter.com/TimRyan
Gov. Ted Strickland: twitter.com/Ted_Strickland
Sen. Sherrod Brown: twitter.com/sensherrodbrown
YSU - The Jambar:?twitter.com/TheJambar
Call Before You Dig (OUPS):?twitter.com/OUPSdigsafe
Hope Baptist Church, Girard:?twitter.com/hopebaptist
Playboy model/CD 93.3 personality Lisa Neeld:?twitter.com/lisaneeld
Popular celebrity Twitters:
President Barack Obama: twitter.com/BarackObama
Elizabeth Taylor: twitter.com/DameElizabeth
Rainn Wilson: twitter.com/rainnwilson
P. Diddy: twitter.com/Iamdiddy
Britney Spears: twitter.com/BritneySpears
The widespread popularity of Twitter has helped Reed reach a wider customer base than local advertising alone. "The coolest thing - I had a guy contact me from the U.K. to ask about one of our products," Reed said. "Another person contacted me on the road to buy Turning Point for his K-12 school through Twitter direct messaging."
But when you're using something for work that is meant for fun, is it still work? Reed said that "at first, it was addictive, but now it's a challenge. You have to have discipline, you can't write about the same things, but instead useful things. You need to include (searchable) key terms. But it's not a chore; it's a challenge."
When not using Twitter for work, Reed also uses it for fun, too. She uses Twitter to promote her boyfriend's band, who recently "tweeted" their adventures while on tour in Europe. "I like to see what everyone is talking about," she said.
Twitter is also big on the nightlife scene. Local DJ Ed "Simply Ed" Marsco uses Twitter to promote his nightly karaoke shows. Whether it be at Up A Creek Tavern in Howland or High Pointe in Niles, Simply Ed takes to Twitter to let everyone know he is open for business.
"No doubt that Twitter is beneficial to my business," Marsco said, adding that Twitter is perfect for the bar business. "You spend time socializing via Twitter, and they come and see you because you're paying attention to them. That's the animal of the bar business, you're good to them, and they're good to you."
Patrons of Simply Ed Karaoke get to converse with Marsco on Twitter, both before, during and after his shows. "I get to socialize," he said. "Me and the customers go at it via Twitter sometimes, and you don't have to worry about yelling across the bar." He said that 40 or 50 of the people that follow him are regulars, and that "if I, for example, say that 'Up A Creek is jamming, come down,' then they tell their friends, and maybe five more people show up."
Another Twitter-er who uses the site for promotion is Michael Noll of Warren. He uses Twitter to advertise updates to his blog. "I began it when my girlfriend moved to California so I would have a creative outlet,"?Noll said. "I pretty much post whatever I think is funny. It's a mixture of Internet humor, viral videos, Photoshopped celebrities, and ranting about topical issues. And, occasionally, topical creams."
Noll said that he has definitely noticed an increase in his site traffic after promoting it on Twitter. "When I overhype something new that I've posted, I definitely see a jump. My Web traffic goes up about 30 percent. So, about two people total." All kidding aside, Noll said that "I've gained about 10,000 more views a month since I started over-promoting myself online."
Because of the pop culture subject matter of Noll's blog, Twitter is ideal for keeping up with the latest scandals and gossip. Besides doing "research," Noll said "I use it just to keep up with friends. But now I'm following some pro athletes. Shaquille O'Neal and Ron Artest have hilarious Twitter pages."
While Twitter has been important to increasing viewership for his blog, what does Noll think about its importance in the overall scheme of things? "It's probably the most important thing," he said. "At least for another few weeks, until someone comes up with something even dumber that I will love and spend all my time doing."