musings > technology

Why Twitter is my favourite platform

29 Apr, 2016 | 7 min read

Twitter usage is dwindling. With so many social media options around these days, it was always going to be difficult to maintain traction on any single one. Instagram continues to gain in popularity — despite being (or perhaps because it is) a largely one-sided platform. Facebook, obviously, doesn’t seem likely to die soon. I’ve still no idea what Pinterest is for, but they made the news recently with some new feature, so I guess they’re doing ok.

For me though, Twitter will always be my default platform. My go to place to interact with the world. I really do think it’s a shame that the site is losing favour. So, in solidarity with the little blue bird, here are a few of the reasons why I’ll continue to stick with it.

Twitter lists & Tweetdeck

A perfectly valid criticism of Twitter is that, as an ‘all things to all people’ space, if you follow different people for different reasons your feed can get incredibly messy. It’s actually the same reason why I dislike Tumblr — in theory it should be awesome, and it is by far and away the easiest platform to share any content. Yet for some reason it doesn’t work unless you a) use it to host your own blog and point people directly to it (rather than, say, Medium, where people can ‘stumble’ onto your content much more easily) or b) you’re looking to fangirl/boy over a specific TV show.

I digress. Twitter lists cut through all of that. I can follow any mix of people, sort them into lists (I used the visually challenging, but nevertheless robust Twitlistmanager) and then use Tweetdeck to follow those lists all from one screen. Tweetdeck also allows me to create columns for specific topics (eg. general themes such as #socent or topical threads such as #juniordoctorsstrike) and keep up to date with the latest information, regardless of who I follow.

How I set up my Tweetdeck
Some of the channels I follow using the Tweetdeck platform.

Integrations with other services

Of all the social media platforms, none seem to be as accommodating with their APIs as Twitter (I’m looking at you, LinkedIn…). As a result, there are countless services you can use to get the most out of the platform — whether you’re someone who wants to consume content, share it, or create it.

My personal favourite mix of platforms at the moment is a Feedly -> Pocket -> IFTTT -> Buffer -> Twitter coalition. It sounds horrifically complex, but is actually very simple.

  1. I use Feedly to catch up on the latest headlines, and save anything that catches my eye to Pocket.
  2. Once I’m done browsing, I’ll read the articles properly on Pocket, and add any relevant tags to it as I go (#tech, #mentalhealth, #innovation, etc).
  3. If I want to share something, I’ll favourite the Pocket.
  4. A preset IFTTT script will periodically pull favourited articles from my Pocket and add them to a Buffer queue, including any tags.
  5. Buffer (again, already preset) will tweet those links on my behalf. If I want I can log into my Buffer at any point, and edit the tweet before it’s posted — for example to add a comment of my own.

The good thing about that system is that I can cut in at any point — either Pocket something from another website (maybe a Medium blog post that I like), or even send something straight to Buffer. I’ve linked Buffer with my account, so I can track what people engage with, and adjust my tweeting style based on what my audience interacts with the most.

Beyond existing services, if you’re a coder, or know someone who is, you can have all sorts of fun playing around with APIs.

You can converse with anyone

Absolutely no other platform allows you to engage with anyone about any conversation the way Twitter does. Yes, in theory Tumblr should; in reality though I’ve always found you have to really try to get the content that you’re looking for. By my super-scientific method of plucking a number out of thin air, about a third of the funny images you see on the web originated on Tumblr — yet you only ever see them shared on other social platforms. Does that not seem weird to anyone else?

I digress again. Hashtags — since used by other platforms, but pioneered on Twitter — let you dive head first into any conversation. Not only that, you can talk to anyone; whether it’s a fellow Heroes Reborn fan from the other side of the world (despite Tim Kring’s seemingly best efforts, there are some of those still knocking about — I, lamentably, am not one of them. That ship sailed, Tim. That ship sailed…), the CEO of a multinational organisation, or the celebrity host of your current favourite podcast. Because, unlike platforms like Facebook, you don’t need to be followed to have your voice heard, Twitter is one of the best ways to interact with people about really specific issues.

Also on this point: because Twitter is such an open and transparent platform, it’s also the best way to get in front of brands and public figures for whatever means you see fit. Few things make big companies more nervous than bad social media, so if you have an issue with your broadband, your train service, or even your local MP, ping them a tweet and watch as they fall over themselves (sometimes) to make sure you’re happy.

(This doesn’t always work… One time I was a little too sarcastic to a certain Railway company that services my area — the Western region of this Great country — and had my sarcasm well and truly put in its place. I maintain it’s always worth a go though.)

You only have 140 characters to make your point

This, probably more than anything else, is the sticking point for many users. I myself fall in and out of love with this aspect of Twitter at least 8 times a day. Overall though, I think the pros of the character limit by far outweigh the cons.

Firstly, it means that I can consume a lot of content in a short amount of time. I’m super lazy, and the character limit puts the onus on the other party to make sure that, if they want me to engage with them, they are doing all the work. Yes, it has meant that ‘clickbait’ has made its way into our lives — both as a hideous piece of terminology, and as an actual thing we have to deal with. But I think that is a small price to pay to be able to scroll through dozens of tweets a minute and only engage with the things that I want to.

The other reason I like it is I genuinely think it makes me more creative as a sharer of content. Yes I fall into the trap of creating poor clickbait now and again, but other times I enjoy trying to condense my thoughts into such a restrictive format. If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you’ll know I can be a little superfluous in the illustrative language I use to instantiate my points; tweeting forces that out of me and makes sure I get to the heart of my message.

Bonus point: Tweeting during events

I’ve experimented with Liveblogging once or twice — and I like it as a method of keeping things for posterity. In the event though, I haven’t found a platform that is as easy, accessible, and — crucially — as social, as tweeting.

As a platform, its definitely not for everyone. For me though, Twitter ticks a lot of boxes. Interestingly, they have just recategorised themselves out of the ‘social networking’ bracket in the iOS App Store, in favour of being a news app. It makes sense — having a list set up with your favourite news sources would give it a very Feedly-like appeal. We shall see whether that is enough to boost their numbers.

tags: social media twitter tech

Share this via: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn

Related musings