In just the last month I’ve really started using Twitter’s favorite feature. I’ve used it 3,571 times so far in just the past month. What is it? Well, I read thousands of tweets every day and I pick my favorite ones and click “favorite” on them. What does that do? It shares them with everyone on Twitter. You can see a page of all my favorites here. Unfortunately you probably will only be able to see the last few hundred, but a new service called favstar.fm is tracking them all and is showing some details.
For instance, you can see who my favorite Twitter users are here.
But what I’m learning goes well beyond that. It tells me that Twitter isn’t lame anymore. Remember those days when Twitter was for telling all your friends you were having a tuna sandwich at Subway in Half Moon Bay?
Those days are mere memories anymore.
Today Twitter is used for professional networking. Well, OK, and a few of us still use it to tell you where we’re eating for lunch, but those tweets are easy to skip over.
So, what have I learned by reading hundreds of thousands of tweets in the past month and favoriting 3,571?
1. If it moves in the tech industry it moves on Twitter first. I’m very active on Facebook, Google Reader, FriendFeed, and quite a few other services, and, sorry to those services, but stuff moves on Twitter first. If TechCrunch breaks a story I always see it on Twitter first.
2. More executives and influentials are on Twitter and far more are ACCESSIBLE on Twitter. There are lots on Facebook, almost everyone in the industry is, but very few people on Facebook will give you access to what they are writing and sharing.
3. Facebook is increasingly being seen as “for ‘real friends’ and family” or a rolodex of contacts, while Twitter is for telling us what they are working on. In many cases people just import their tweets into their Facebook accounts. (A practice that really bugs me but I’m not going to be able to stop it).
4. Twitter is a better news reader than Google Reader. And a worse one too. Google Reader is awesome if you really limit the number of feeds you follow (and the number of friends). Unfortunately I don’t follow that advice. Google Reader has become useless to me and VERY SLOW. I sure wish the team would use my account and figure out how to make it rocking fast for friend management. It’s gotten so bad I hate even going in there and use Feedly, except for the fact that the world is moving to mobile and Feedly only plays well on desktops with Firefox loaded.
5. Mobile is why Twitter is winning. I have moved probably 80% of my reading over to iPhone. On Facebook, FriendFeed, and Twitter. And I can tell that my favorite Twitterers have done the same. My favorite app? SimplyTweet. I’ve tried them all. Twitterrific. TweetDeck. Tweetie. And many others and SimplyTweet is the best — by far. It never crashes and hasn’t pissed me off once. All the others have. Reading behavior shifting to mobile has DEEP implications for all sorts of startups. If you don’t have a mobile strategy you will fail in this new world. It will be a lot harder to get adoption than if you have an iPhone app (and a Palm Pre one, an Android one, a Blackberry one, etc).
6. A large percentage of great tweets have a link. It’s very hard to say anything useful in 140 characters. Believe me, I’ve tried to spend most of 2009 saying stuff in 140 character bites. It isn’t satisfying most of the time. Long blogging has its place and those who get lots of retweets use long blogs a lot.
7. You only need to follow about 2,000 people to hit about 85% of the tech conversations out there. Why is that? Because of retweeting. Let’s say I didn’t follow Jeremiah Owyang. Let’s say he got an exclusive interview with Steve Jobs. How many minutes would it be before I heard about it? I’ve found usually about 30 seconds. In fact, within 30 minutes you will be sick and tired of hearing about it. Just tonight we had an example when Seesmic released a cool new desktop client. I wanted out I heard about it so much!
8. If you don’t read tweets for eight hours, don’t worry, all the big stuff you missed will be on TechMeme. When I was the first to talk about Yelp’s augmented reality feature on Twitter and on FriendFeed it was quickly blogged by EVERYONE and was on TechMeme within a few minutes and stayed there for about a day. The same is true of ALL news. I have not found an example yet where something important is discussed on Twitter about a tech company or tech news and doesn’t show up on TechMeme within a few hours. What doesn’t show up? Small stuff like birthdays or launches of obscure technology that only a very small audience will use.
9. Pushing Favorites over to FriendFeed via RSS makes them more searchable. I can find all sorts of stuff over on FriendFeed that I can’t find on Twitter. Why? Twitter’s search sucks and only shows you the last few days of results. Looking for something twittered about months ago? I can find it on my account, but you won’t be able to on just Twitter search. It’s not perfect, though. I wish search engines were better and I wish FriendFeed were better at letting me search just Twitter Favorites.
10. There is an 80/20 rule. The best Twitterers are a LOT better at Tweeting than even those just a few notches down. This is why some people get lots of followers on FriendFeed/Facebook/Twitter while others don’t, even after discounting the power of the suggested user lists on those services.
11. There is a LOT of noise on Twitter. It’s true. But that’s why human curation is going to be more and more important and why services like TweetMeme and others (I need to do a post on those) will be more and more important over time. Also, why when I unfollowed everyone that got a lot of discussion going. People are looking for ways to reduce noise in their lives and people and companies that help do that will get attention.
Anyway, I’ve gotta get back to reading tweets. Anything else you’re learning from reading all these tweets?
Oh, and I love that the Wall Street Journal made a case today that Twitter is worth 2.6 billion. I made the case a couple weeks back after reading so many Tweets that Twitter is worth $5 billion. Yesterday it was announced that Twitter raised another round of funding where investors poured in cash at a billion dollar valuation, which means that the investors can see a case for it being worth 10x that. Now you know why Ron Conway, investor in Twitter, was nice to me the other day at TechCrunch50. 🙂