I tend to be a late adopter in everything except science fiction TV franchises (see “Firefly.”) I’m very content to have the world do the beta-testing, and get back to me when the thing is finished.

So I was pretty late to the Twitterverse. But back in January I started reading about it in earnest, when more and more clients started asking me for my Twitter name. Eventually I integrated Twitter into a promotional campaign for a client’s online event, and a month after that, finally got serious about Twitter myself.

I expected to find a “micro blogging” service, whatever that is. But what I found is actually far more interesting than that. I found people I had lost track of, I found information I didn’t know I was looking for, and I found connections with people who probably wouldn’t take my phone calls in real life. I also discovered a new way to lead (attract a lot of like-minded followers) and a better way to stay informed. What I haven’t found (so far) is the “fast, easy way to Internet riches” that so many Twitter spammers and quasi-gurus promise. (I’ll let you know when I do…from my hacienda in the Bahamas.)

What can Twitter do for you?

Twitter is still kind of the “wild west” in terms of a communications platform. You can do anything you want with it, really, and “the marketplace” will tell you if they like what you’re doing by either following you or not. Depending on your goals, you can use it to…

  • Keep in touch with people you know in real life (people who take your phone calls)
  • Build personal or professional relationships with people you don’t know but want to know (people who would never take your phone calls, if you could find their number, which you can’t)
  • Provide customer service support/handle complaints (more large companies are using Twitter this way)
  • Keep website members updated about activity on your site (check out the @HypnoThoughts Twitter Feed for an example)
  • Send status updates about your event, promotion or campaign (“We’ve raised $600,000 so far!”)
  • Share content you’ve created elsewhere (this blog post will be sent to my Twitter account automagically)
  • Broadcast helpful info and news items about your field of expertise
  • Entertain people (lots of comedians and TV networks have Twitter feeds–the funniest is @BrentSpiner, the actor best known for playing Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation)
  • Advocate for your brand, cause, political viewpoint or candidate (see below)
  • Create an RSS feed reader (RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication,” which is a way of subscribing to a news feed about a topic or person who interests you).

I’ve had some good strategic and tactical successes with Twitter. The biggest success is also the most surprising.

I’m a libertarian and Ron Paul fan, so I launched the account @RonPaul_2012, set up Google News RSS feeds to the account to post news stories that mention Ron Paul, and started following the @RonPaul_2012 account from my “real” account, @KathleenHanover. Following @RonPaul_2012 shoots Ron Paul news stories right into my Twitter stream (no more Googling.)

I was surprised when the first few people started following @RonPaul_2012. I was astonished when the account attracted over 250 followers in the first couple of weeks. And I’m gobsmacked that @RonPaul_2012 now has over 900 liberty-loving, re-tweeting constitutionalist followers. Yes, that’s more followers than my “real” account. A couple of times a week, people mistake the account for the real Ron Paul (who’s not active on Twitter, as far as I know.) I gently correct them.

So what is Twitter good for? Just about anything any other medium is good for, it turns out. And then some.

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