Social Networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, now have their own place in the communications mix as 'social media', and as a result are rapidly changing the way in which we consume news and information.
Over recent months Twitter, has been in the social media spotlight and at the forefront of news headlines on more than one occasion. Be it for assisting communities to organise mass clean-ups after the recent riots that took place in the UK, or unmasking celebrities who have taken out a super injunction.
On 21st March 2006, one of the founders of Twitter sent the first 'tweet' and thus a communications revolution was born. As of last week, Twitter now boasts 100 million active users, half of which are said to 'tweet' on a daily basis. The figure represents an increase of 82% in user numbers since the beginning of 2011.
Reading recent articles it is clear that there is no shortage of people who are ready and willing to label twitter as nothing more than 'tedious, offensive and distracting'. The dictionary definition of Twitter is 'a short burst of inconsequential information'. Personally, I believe that, (in this case,) it is not all 'in the name'. Yes there is a lot of 'noise' on the site, but this can be easily filtered out by carefully selecting the users that one chooses to follow. I firmly believe that Twitter is what you make it and the social network is only as good as the people you follow.
Twitter recently acknowledged the fact that many of its users don't actively contribute to the site by 'tweeting' from their own accounts. Instead they use the site to 'listen' to what is happening in an industry or area which interests them. "For many, getting the most out of Twitter isn't only about tweeting: 40 percent of our active users simply sign in to listen to what's happening in their world," the official twitter web site quoted in a related blog post.
One example of Twitter's benefits is the global reach it gives to people around the world and even as far away as the International Space Station. One tweeter, (whose name may be familiar to you) is that of astronaut Nicole Stott. Nicole who is known on Twitter as @Astro_Nicole, is married to Manx businessman Chris Stott, and has been an ambassador for the Isle of Man in space, particularly whilst as a crew member of space shuttle Discovery's final mission. Nicole took twitter to space and provided her followers with the opportunity to see some truly fantastic and genuine images of the earth as seen from space.
Police forces across the United Kingdom are also using twitter to communicate with the populations they serve. West Midlands Police, Supt. Mark Payne (@suptpaynewmp) kept his followers up to date whilst out on the beat during the riots in Wolverhampton and Birmingham, reassuring residents of the police presence in their areas.
In October last year Greater Manchester Police (@gmpolice) used Twitter to publish every incident that was reported to them over a 24 hour period in a quest to raise awareness, and to allow members of the public to gain an understanding of the number and broad range of incidents they deal with, ranging from non police matters such as 'there is a rat in my house' to serious offences including injuries to a child.
The Isle of Man police have also started tweeting and can be found @iompolice. Working and living in Douglas, I found the updates from the police particularly useful during the TT period when roads were closed, diversions were in place and the number of general incidents increased. As a smartphone user (Over 55 % of active twitter users contribute tweets from a Smartphone or other mobile device) I was able to use my mobile phone to regularly stay updated and informed of any incidents, or areas to avoid whilst out and about.
The Isle of Man has a large community of Twitter users with a mix of both business and individual accounts. The Isle of Man branch of the Social Media Club meets for lunch on every third Thursday of the month at Paparazzi in Douglas, where there is an opportunity to meet fellow tweeters and users of other social media platforms in person rather than in a virtual setting. Those in attendance share stories, network and discuss the latest technology developments.
After launching in Hindi, Filipino, Malay and Simplified and Traditional Chinese in the coming weeks, Twitter will soon support 17 different languages, and is therefore set to grow at an even faster pace. Harvard law Professor Jonathan Zittrain was quoted saying 'The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what makes it so powerful' and I couldn't agree more. If you are yet to give Twitter a go perhaps head over to the site and have a browse. Setting up an account is straightforward and to help you find some of your favourite celebrities, news channels and brands, check out www.twitaholic.com.