Will Twitter’s many uses keep journalists around?

When I signed up for Twitter, well, however long 1,150 tweets ago was, I had no idea it was going to be such a big deal. Now only are you not cool if you don’t have a Twitter, but you’re also not ready to face the impending doom of real-world journalism without it.

You don’t have to sell me on the Web site. I know my hash tags, my bit.lys and can RT with the best of them. But among the “trending topics” on Twitter at this very moment are #takemehome, Gossip Girl and #tmobilesucks.

Trending topics--in case you forget what day of the week it is, these TT will tell you.

trending topics | in case you forget what day of the week it is, these TT will tell you.

…Yeah, THAT is social media at its finest.

Furthermore, according to Mashable, Rutgers professors did a study aimed at analyzing the content of over 3,000 tweets by more than 350 users. Tweets were characterized into categories ranging from information sharing to opinions/complaints, but the results concluded that 80 percent of users are “meformers”–people just chattin’ it up about what’s going on in their lives with their feelings, friends and thoughts.

You know what, I’m sure T-mobile does suck. (Sprint sucks too, it’s OK.) And I’m not going to click on the Gossip Girl tags because I missed the new episode tonight. But didn’t Robert Gates just tell Christiane Amanpour that we’re not leaving Afghanistan? We don’t even have to go that big–didn’t Letterman cheat on his wife? I’m not sure what it says when enough people incorporate their phone company into a tweet as to create a trending topic.
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We’ve been shown the benefits of using Twitter and other social media to their fullest potential. But will the disparity between its different utilities make it a sustainable tool for journalists? What are your experiences with Twitter—can the useful aspects outweigh the trivial turnoffs that may arise?

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8 responses to “Will Twitter’s many uses keep journalists around?

  1. You could make similar observations about the web generally. Remember when porn was its leading use? Those trending topics are a distraction, seldom useful for journalists.

    I have blogged again and again and again about Twitter’s value in covering breaking news (links below) and put together tips for journalists using Twitter: http://bit.ly/nNhzo

    I’m not smart enough to know whether Twitter will have a long life or fade as quickly as it rose. But I know if something eclipses it, I will learn about it on Twitter before journalists who refuse to dig in and learn how to use Twitter.

    Examples of Twitter’s value for breaking news (just one of many ways Twitter is valuable for journalists):
    On an earthquake: http://bit.ly/Yehi2
    Twitter coverage of a breaking news story in Boston: http://bit.ly/bJYVy
    North Dakota floods: http://bit.ly/pXZO9
    A story breaking elsewhere with a Cedar Rapids angle: http://bit.ly/185NKK
    Two stories breaking the same day in different states: http://bit.ly/nFTI
    A plane crash: http://bit.ly/mvIK

    • I don’t remember when porn was the Web’s leading use, but I believe it happened. Luckily for those that came after, the Web is big enough that porn now serves as a mere distraction (for some) rather than a deterrent–like I sometimes find Twitter’s downfalls to be.

      I would agree with you, however, that Twitter is extremely useful when breaking news occurs. We saw it here in Iowa with gay marriage earlier this year, among other things.

      Thanks for your input and for the link to your blog.

  2. Actually, social networking just recently passed up porn as the leading use: http://bit.ly/1VxoWg

  3. It was only this year that I realized how useful Twitter could be for journalists. Because of this, I’m starting to accept it more and more. However, I think Twitter has been doomed from the start. I think it will eventually fade out when the next best thing comes along. I think people have learned the value of Twitter a little bit to late. I don’t think we will ever be rid of the “meformers,” (think of that phone ad with the son and the dad). It’s these people that give Twitter such a bad name. They’re the ones who turn people away. I don’t know if enough people are ever going to be able to accept that it could have a valuable purpose.

    • And I feel like I came down too hard on “meformers.” What the hell, I basically put a disclaimer up that I am tweeting about ‘personal minutiae’ on mine.
      But I use Twitter for both purposes. I can keep a lid on my personal babble. I just wonder when there will no longer be room for both, when one will push the other out.

  4. It may fade; everything has a life cycle. But I don’t think it’s doomed and I don’t think it’s stopped growing. I only follow “meformers” I care about or find interesting, so they’re not a problem. There are plenty of valuable people to follow.

    • No, I don’t think it has stopped growing either. I just hope it grows in the right places and that Twitter, as a company, is prepared to handle the growth to keep people like journalists around to use it to its full potential.

      I’ve been more than a little disappointed to find many “people” they told me I WOULDN’T see anymore, for example. (http://mashable.com/2009/09/13/twitter-spammers/)
      Shudder.

      But honestly, don’t tell me you’re going to crack down if your oversight abilities don’t extend that far.

  5. Mary Bess Bolling

    A new site will come in to take Twitter’s place as a networking tool soon enough. But, for now, the site can act as a balance between “meformers,” professional networkers and (pardon my Drake lingo) engaged citizens.

    My question is, how much personal tweeting does it take for you to stop following someone?

    I’ll put up with two to three personal posts before I bail. But, like Steve said above, I follow “meformers” who tweet about interesting things or do so in clever ways.

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