The Power of Twitter

140 characters can be pretty powerful

By: Megan Harris, Staff Writer

It’s not a great amount of words – but a Tweet this length can do a lot. It can connect you to people all over the world, help you network, bring you closer to your favourite celebrity, help you advertise your business, or even give you life-changing experiences.

Twitter, having been around since its launch in the summer of 2006, is one of the most popular social networking sites out there; and it’s growing fast, with over 200 million users today. As of March 2011, 460 000 new Twitter accounts were opened daily.

If you’ve spent any time online lately, you’ve likely encountered Twitter more than once. Read an interesting news story? Click that ‘Tweet’ button at the bottom of the page on the news site, and now all your Twitter followers can enjoy the post too. If enough people post about a topic, it appears in Twitter’s ‘Trending Topics’ sidebar, for people all over the world to see and react to. If you enjoy something a friend tweeted, you can re-tweet it for your own followers to see.

[pullquote]“There’s something about the immediacy of Twitter that really appeals to me,” says London. “My viewers can ask me questions and I can consult with them in a way that is just impossible to do with Facebook or anything else.”[/pullquote]

Of course, Twitter doesn’t always have to reach a worldwide audience. Many small businesses run Twitter pages to inform their followers of their latest activities or advertise new deals.

Unlike other social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter bases itself on max 140-character updates. Tweeters must get creative in order to get their thoughts across in a few words, and only say what’s most important.

Twitter is also a very mobile platform, and is easily accessible on iPhones, Blackberries, or other devices. It’s for people on the go, who can update their status instantly about what’s going on around them.

Twitter is also known for its ability to connect celebrities or well-known personalities with “regular” people. Many celebrities have their own Twitter page that they personally and regularly post on (their identities verified by a blue, Twitter certified checkmark on their profile). Celebrities’ posts appear alongside others on a homepage, and fans can see and reply to them. It allows fans to feel more connected to a celebrity they like – even receiving a response from them if they’re lucky. Celebrities can also gain publicity by tweeting about their latest projects or ventures.

Stacy London, American fashion consultant (known well for her role as co-host on the reality program What Not To Wear) posts regularly on her Twitter account, @StacyLondonSays, everything from updates on her current projects to giving fashion advice to fans. While London’s busy schedule doesn’t allow her time to reply to every tweet, she says she enjoys interacting with fans via social media. It also allows her to connect with fans all over the world, and make the philosophy of What Not To Wear available to more than just the lucky few participants on the show.

“There’s something about the immediacy of Twitter that really appeals to me,” says London. “My viewers can ask me questions and I can consult with them in a way that is just impossible to do with Facebook or anything else.”

London mentions that she also likes the succinct-ness of Twitter, and how you have to know the single thought you want to get across. “There’s only 140 characters and there’s only so much you can say,” said London. “You can always link to a longer article that you’ve written or that’s about you. You can point to another site or something else that you want to show in longer form.”

London says that people will often send her photos of their outfits for critique – and that she hears from a diverse group of people, ranging from 12-year-old girls to 60-year-old women, and even men.

Not everything is fashion related, though. “I’ve gotten a few marriage proposals, which I have to say is kind of an ego boost,”London says. “I also get guys who ask me to help them with gifts for their girlfriends – I’ve helped pick a couple of engagement rings for guys for their fiancés.”

London says that in the past she’s also gotten more serious messages, and for a while had to step back and change her approach to Twitter.

“I used to find myself getting involved with young women who I think were looking up to me,” says London. “I got very anxious, because I felt like they were looking up to me for the wrong reasons, and sort of beating themselves up, thinking that I’m so confident, or that I have the best job in the world. And [some of these girls] were hurting themselves, whether it was eating disorders, or cutting themselves, and I got very involved to make sure that they got professional help. It started to be kind of all-consuming.”

“Now, I try to have a more positive, supportive attitude but not too involved,”London said.

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