Twitter is growing on me

Ryan Sholin inspired this post with his Five Ways to Gather and Report News with Twitter.

Rogers’s famous adoption of innovations chart shows that any new technology, invention, etc., is first put to use (adopted) by a very small group of people. Rogers called them the innovators. The next group to adopt the new thing is slightly larger; Rogers called them the early adopters. Quite a lot of new things are picked up and played with by people who are innovators, and many of those things never catch on. So, seeing the new gadget your friend “the innovator” is playing with today does not necessarily mean you are seeing something that will catch on with a big audience.

When the early adopters start buying in — that’s the time to start watching more closely.

I think maybe Twitter is there.

When 10 to 20 percent of a given population have adopted a new technology, its user base reaches critical mass, according to Rogers. (This idea is also discussed in the recent book The Tipping Point.) Getting to that point might take a long time, but afterward, the rate of adoption shoots up and becomes very rapid. The majority of the population (the next 60 to 70 percent) will jump onto the bandwagon quickly. (This is illustrated in Rogers’s S-curve diagram.)

Keep in mind that “a given population” doesn’t mean everyone in the world, or everyone in North America — or even every person who uses the Internet. But within the population of, shall we say, English-speaking heavy users of online information, Twitter could be at 10 percent already.

I’m not an innovator, most of the time. I’m often an early adopter, especially with information technology. So, for example, I didn’t buy an iPhone a year ago, but I bought an iPhone 2.0 this summer. I signed onto Twitter some time ago, after a lot of people online were crowing about it, but I didn’t use it much. Didn’t see the point.

Then I put Twitterific on my new iPhone. Now I look at Twitter randomly, anywhere. I see New York Times headlines, NPR politics headlines, BBC headlines — with links to the full story. Click if it’s interesting. Ping — there it is, news in the palm of your hand.

Now, headlines in real time is an easy concept to grasp, but Ryan’s post goes beyond that and shows us how journalists can use Twitter as a tool. I wouldn’t be so jazzed about this, perhaps, if I hadn’t just spent 10 days traveling with no access to the Internet except via my iPhone. I checked Twitter a lot just because the app (Twitterific) makes it fast and easy, and I get to see all kinds of random chatter from journalists such as Ryan, Pat Thornton, Steve Yelvington, and Dave Cohn.

Are you using Twitter a lot? A little? Too much? Or not at all?

Related: Dave Winer wrote about alternatives to Twitter (Aug. 3).

15 Comments on “Twitter is growing on me

  1. I followed a similar track: I jumped on Twitter when it first came out, but was quickly discouraged by the flaky technology and the lack of interesting voices. But five months ago I gave it another try and I’ve quickly become addicted to the constant stream of interesting news and analysis. And the technology (fingers crossed) *seems* to be improving.

    Like all communications technology, the utility of Twitter is defined by the user base. Now that I’ve found many interesting voices, I find Twitter to be far more important in my day-to-day reading and aggregating.

  2. Good post, Mindy.

    I started tweeting a few months ago, and I’ve definitely found a lot more people seem to be using it. I search my area with Twitterlocal and new voices pop up (in a rural area) every few weeks.

    As for frequency of use, it depends what you mean by a little or a lot. I was not used to updating everything I do on Twitter. Now I just post when I feel like it, which is probably less than 10 times a day. For me, that’s about where I need to be.

  3. Ever since the unexpected but welcome reaction I received when I started reporting the stories I was covering on Twitter, I’ve been trying to find a balance between personal and professional posting. Do I use it just for work? For play?

    A friend of mine, who I met on Twitter, is pursuing a PhD in social networking. She encouraged me to use both. She said people want to know where their information comes from and as they get to know who I am, they will want to follow my professional work and trust me more. So now I’m trying to combine the too, as always being very careful with what I post on-line.

    Professionally, Twitter has become kind of my on-line notebook. A friend recently said they thought they compared my tweets of a murder trial with what appeared in the newspaper and decided they liked following it on Twitter better.

    An interesting observation I thought I’d pass along (and one I needed more than 140 characters to convey).

  4. Pingback: Meranda Writes » Blog Archive » My Twitter proof-of-concept moment

  5. @Kate and @Ron: I know what you mean about number of tweets per day and personal vs. professional tweets. Both are interesting to weigh and consider.

    I’m trying to do what I find I like in others’ tweets. If I think some people tweet too much, for example, I consider un-following them — so I don’t want MY tweets to be excessive. When people post stuff that seems way too random (or too personal), I make a mental note — okay, I think I shouldn’t tweet like that, because that was not something I liked getting from that person.

  6. Thanks for the link!

    At a Knight Foundation meeting of grantees of all shapes and sizes a couple weeks ago, I was taken aback when one presenter pretty much told the audience of news org thought leaders, J-School experimenters, and general innovators to not worry about the early adopters, as if there was no ROI to reaching them where they live.

    It was a little bizarre, but I just chalked it up to ignorance rather than curmudgeon-ance.

    News organizations (and advertisers) have traditionally been after *exactly* those early adopters, who would read a long investigative piece — or use a new product — and, of course, *tell their friends* about it.

    Everything we learned in media theory classes applies to informing the public — go figure.

  7. @Ryan – You’re quite welcome.

    I think some folks look at theory as some sort of impractical daydreaming or fantasy play, when in fact we can use theories to evaluate new things as they are happening.

    If a theory has been applied to tons of diverse cases (as Rogers’s theory has been), and has frequently been found valid, it sure does make sense to lay that theory onto the next new thing that might impact YOUR BOTTOM LINE and do some thinking about “what if.”

    I think most educated people would see the value in that.

  8. It’s not just news – it’s a new way to communicate and keep in touch with people. Proof: You know what I do on Sundays now 😉

    Dog bites man IS news to some people. But it will never merit a reporter to go out on the scene. And now, it won’t be needed. The event will be twittered.

  9. Twitter is better than RSS in my book, especially if you have Twhirl.

    Twitter best shined when everyone and their mom was blogging E3. And now even old white Republicans are picking up on it. They’re tweeting their protest at the House.

  10. I would agree that you’re not an innovator, most of the time.

    Innovators are the freaks of nature, like Nikola Tesla for example.

    Tesla was years ahead of his time. He was also suppressed by the establishment and marginalized by society.

    Many of his competitors, like Thomas Edison, would blatantly steal his ideas without crediting him.

    I know from personal experience that many of my ideas from years ago are just now starting to hit the mainstream, albeit without proper citation of course.

    Being a true innovator is not a pretty thing. You’ve gotta have spine, and you’ve gotta be willing to fail over and over again.

    Most people just don’t have the courage for that kind of activity.

  11. I use Twitter for a combination of personal and business purposes. I have met several people I communicate with on a daily basis from Twitter and have actually hired someone as met on Twitter.

    It is a great service!

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