The value of microblogging services (part one)

Twitter Jaiku

When Twitter came on the scene, no one knew quite what to make of it. “What’s the point?” was the most frequently asked question. When Jaiku got started about the same time, people again asked that same question. When Pownce got started recently, I was the one asking that question. As a matter of fact, I still am, and I’m not going to join Pownce until I can see what value it’ll bring me in addition to Twitter or Jaiku.

The thing is, that very pertinent question still hasn’t been answered. People are still trying to figure out what to do with them. Here are their current uses, from my observations:

  1. Publish simple activity updates
  2. Chat with friends asynchronously
  3. Self-promotion: point your contacts to something you’ve written or you’re working on
  4. Link sharing: point out interesting articles, videos or sites
  5. Marketing: fake/generic profiles are set up to talk up various products or events, and thousands of people get added as “friends” to that profile in the hope that some buzz gets created

I’ve been using both Twitter and Jaiku to do the first four activities listed above. After a while, #1 gets fairly old. Unless something highly unusual is happening, I’m simply not likely to visit the site and type in an update. I’ve got more important things to do. Plus, if I’ve got something interesting to say, I’d rather hold on to it and craft it into a nice blog post on my own blog than to share it on someone else’s website, where it brings me no added value.

Sure, others might say it’s fun to receive updates on your phone and participate through SMS. I say phooey to that. First, data plans for SMS are more expensive. Plus, I like my phone quiet. I don’t want it to buzz every minute with an update from a contact. And I’m not going to sit there thumbing on that keypad just so I too, can join the legions that say “I’m eating lunch” or “About to drop off my clothes at the cleaners.” Yes, this might be fun if I decided to get a fancy phone with a keypad, either a Windows Mobile device or an iPhone. But I think Windows Mobile devices are ugly, the iPhone is still a build or two away from the featureset I want, and both are too expensive. I don’t see the value in a fancier phone, even if I can surf the web on it, or do email. If I want to surf the web, I’ll grab my laptop and see it on a nice, big screen. So I have both Twitter and Jaiku set to web-only updates. I check both sites a few times a day, and that’s how I keep up with the various conversations.

Numbers 2, 3 and 4 is where the action is. If you are a content creator (refer to this post of mine for the details on that term) self-promotion can be valuable. If done in a non-sleazy way, it can make your contacts aware of something interesting that you’ve either just published or are about to publish, and can potentially extend the reach of your work. I publish links to my blog posts, my photos and my videos on both Twitter and Jaiku.

Link sharing is a very valuable feature of the microblogging services. I use it a lot to point others to various web resources or articles that I find interesting. For example, I read a lot of articles and blogs every day. I share all of the ones I find interesting on both Twitter and Jaiku. I’ll write in more detail tomorrow about just how I do that, and how I promote my own content.

As an aside, the only added benefit I see in using Pownce is for the file sharing feature. But where it could prove to be a value-added service for its founders, Kevin Rose being one of them, is in tight integration with Digg on link sharing. If a particular link is getting passed around between Powncers, that would be a pretty good indication that it could be Dugg as well, so having a section on Digg for popular Pownce links/articles would be a great way to capitalize on that, and to allow Digg users to do their thing with those articles, videos or whatever that link may be.

Last but not least, asynchronous chatting is an efficient way to conduct a conversation if you’re pressed for time or if your contacts are in different time zones. Instead of dedicating a slot of your schedule to a particular conversation, you simply tune in between your more important activities and share your thoughts. Your contacts do the same. Although it takes longer to get answers, I find it very useful for non-urgent matters. Jaiku is a lot better at this particular task than Twitter, because it has threaded conversations, while Twitter doesn’t.

The value of microblogging services lies in the fact that they’re another web presence for you. They’re another way to relate to your contacts and friends. Somehow, it’s easier for someone to Twitter or Jaiku me than to write a comment on my blog. Not sure why, because they get through both ways and I answer them just the same, but the immediacy of these services makes it easier to relate to me, and I assume, to others.

To sum up, these web presences can be used for asynchronous chats and for sharing your own content and other valuable articles, posts and resources with your contacts. I should point out that, just like a blog, if you’ll approach microblogging services with an entirely self-serving attitude, to engage in either shameless self-promotion or sleazy PR techniques, your little experiment’s going to fail. It’s important to maintain authenticity, and to have a good mix of interesting content, otherwise you push away people.

This is why I don’t add contacts left and right on either service, like some people do… I don’t see the point of adding complete strangers just for the sake of bloating my profile with fake friends, or just so I can shamelessly self-promote to a bigger audience. If I know someone, I’ll add them, or if someone adds me and I see from their update history that they have interesting things to say, I’ll add them.

Come back tomorrow because I’ll show you just how I use both Twitter and Jaiku for uses 3 and 4 from the list above.

One more thing. Here are the links to my profiles at Jaiku and Twitter:

[Updated 7/25/07: Part Two of this mini-series is now available. Read it here!]


4 thoughts on “The value of microblogging services (part one)

  1. Pingback: Google bought Jaiku

  2. Pingback: Making it to the first page of Google search results

  3. this was a great read from my iPhone 🙂 A great review of why to use these service… One thing i’d add is “networking”. Microblogging services provide a fast and easy way for others to be introduced to other like minded individuals. It would have takenme longer to cross paths with you if it hadnt been for Twitter. One other benefit i’ve found from Twitter is the speed of information exchange is much faster than any other medium at the moment. Theyre great services. I hope they thrive.


  4. Pingback: The value of microblogging services (part two)

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