If you think Twitter is just for people who want to tweet, you’re wrong. Watching a Twitter stream is a great way to get news and information.
- Get the fastest updates on breaking news. Very recent events may show up in a Twitter search even if they’re too new to show results in Google. You’ll find eyewitness reports, discussion, and links to articles.
- Get the unofficial, unpublished version of news stories. Twitter can show you discussion, rumors, and reactions about current events that go beyond long-format journalism articles. Although some of the information may be unconfirmed, wrong or biased, it can still be of use if evaluated carefully.
- Follow the backchannel discussion at events. At conferences or events you attend – or even at those you don’t attend! – you can follow the conference hashtag to see news, comments, reactions, and gossip from the conference organizers, presenters, exhibitors, and attendees. Often there will be lively discussion about the best conference sessions and presentations, with links to related materials.
- See announcements about recently published articles. News outlets and blogs will often tweet an announcement when they publish a new article. Monitoring the Twitter stream can subsitute for using an RSS reader to find articles you’re interested in. For popular articles, the announcement may go viral through retweets, enabling you to find valuable articles from sources that you don’t usually monitor.
- Monitor your target audience, your competition, or your industry. Use Twitter search to find out what people are saying that relates to your organization or business. You can use this information for strategic planning or to improve your customer service.
- Learn before you Tweet. If you’re interested in becoming an active user of Twitter, studying the Twitter stream of the community you’re planning to join can help you pick up a feel for the etiquette and behavior norms.
- Find the Twitter leaders in your area of interest. Once you follow a few people or make a few searches in your area of interest, retweets and links will quickly show you other prominent Twitter users so that you can consider adding them to the list of people you follow. Following the live tweets at a conference works especially well for this.
The next articles in this series will describe search strategies and tools to help you find the information you want and make it easy to follow.
The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter at Mashable.com
5 Ways to Use Twitter That Don’t Involve Tweeting from Mediabistro.com