Twitter

Anyone who knows me knows that I have become a huge fan of Twitter over the past six months. In fact, one of my friends recently referred to me as a “twitter evangelist”. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send and read other users’ updates (updates are known as tweets), that are text-based. Tweets are limited to 140 characters in length. Updates are displayed on the user's profile page and are automatically delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. It’s very mobile friendly and most people I know access it either on a computer or directly from their phone (there are applications for both the iPhone and the Blackberry).

So just exactly why do I like about Twitter? Well, everything! Aside from it being an informal way to share interesting articles, blog posts and amusing videos, it’s a fun and easy way to follow the work and day to day thoughts and activities of many friends and colleagues. The uses of Twitter are endless. Colleges uses it to relay information to their students, businesses use it to provide product or service information, news outlets use it to disseminate breaking news, activists used it to coordinate protests at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. Even members of Congress are using it to update their constituents on their day to day activities!

I also like that I can follow people that I know (like friends and co-workers) and those that I may not “know” but are interested in their musings - think highly esteemed professors like Clay Shirky or political figures like Barack Obama (he has over 105,000 followers).

At meeting last week I heard an explanation of Twitter that I thought summed it up pretty well. Deanna Zandt called Twitter the “modern day water cooler”. I think that’s a great way to think about the social media tool.

Slowly but surely the philanthropy world is catching on to Twitter too. I follow the Chronicle of Philanthropy and OnPhilanthropy, as well as some other Foundation folks. It’s also great to follow some of our grantees and their work. As of this month there are over 3.2 million Twitter accounts. So what are you waiting for? The real value of Twitter comes from having a broad network of people that you follow. After you sign up, be sure to follow the Foundation! I’m off to tweet.