twitter-logo-6When Twitter first came on the scene, I was really skeptical of this medium (I still have a few reservations).  According to the Twitter FAQ page, Twitter is “a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”

I began to tweet at the beginning of the summer (early June), and since then I have over 1,300 updates and 190 followers.  Since then, a number of friends, family, and fellow church members have joined as well.  Others that I have hardly known have developed into frequent correspondence.  Recently, I thought about writing down some of the reasons why I found Twitter to be a profitable medium, and here are six that I came up with.

1.  Networking

90% of the people I know in evangelical and Baptist circles, I know through the blogosphere.  Several them I have come to know better through Twitter, and others I am getting to know for the first time.  Twitter is allowing me an opportunity to connect with people whom I otherwise would have little to no interaction.

2.  Journaling (Instant Photo-Journalism)

twitter-logo-5I love photography, but one of the things I hate about shooting with a professional camera is all the post-production processing.  By the time I am through, the images feel outdated.  Twitter has afforded me the ability to instantly post pics via Twitpic in a photo-journalistic manner (albeit the images are not that great).  If you have a camera phone, this is really easy and fun to do.

When I originally started my blog, it was intended to be a journalistic update of my life and our family.  When it turned into an issues/topic driven blog, I minimalized the personal touch.  Twitter allows me to communicate with friends and family more about the ins and outs of my life, how they can pray, etc.  With the iPhone, I am able to Twitter in almost any location and any time of the day.

3.  Learning (A La Carte News)

Another cool thing about Twitter is the ability to get news and information about things from those in the Twitter network.  I guess you could say that it acts like a live RSS Reader of sorts.  I also post links and info to others I find important or worth reading.  In addition, I sometimes post quips or notes from my study that I hope are encouraging to those who “follow” me (much of which later finds its way on the blog).

4.  Plugging (Blog Redirection)

I use Twitter to plug new blog posts (from P&P & Sowing Grace) and Flickr pics when they are posted.  The ability to shorten URL’s through SnipURL, TinyURL, ln.cr, and is.dg, makes it easy to maximize the 140 characters and provide a brief annotation about the link.  I usually generate 10-15 visitors from the Twitter plugging (not much, but I’ll take it).

5.  Listening (Dialogue)

One of critiques about Twitter is how narcissistic it feels.  I think, in general, this is true.  But Twitter can also be a great listening medium.  For instance, while drafting this post, I asked those who Twitter why they chose to do so, and I immediately received over a dozen responses.  I find that I learn a lot by listening to the responses of others in a two-way conversation where I am the inquirer and they are the informers.

6.  Laughing

twitter-logo-1I’m for the most part a pretty intense and serious-minded person, but I really enjoy a good laugh.  The commentary of friends, the goofy pictures, the witticisms, and totally random statements often serve as a pick-me-up or timely decompression valve.  For instance, here’s one that I thought was hilarious (Kevin has the weirdest and funniest tweets of anyone I know).

A little over a month ago, I created a Twitter account for Grace Baptist (we currently have 27 members on Twitter) as well as a Facebook group.  I use Twitter to make announcements, remind them of upcoming activities/events, provide urgent prayer requests, review outline from previous Sunday’s message(s), plug blogposts from church blog(s), express thanksgiving and appreciation, and share message title and text for upcoming sermons.

There are several applications I use in conjuction with Twitter.  Here they are:

Twitter/Facebook Integration – Tweets automatically posted on Facebook status
Tweetdeck – Desktop Interface for Twittering (nice because I have multiple accounts)
Twitpic – Photo sharing on Twitter
Twittelator – iPhone third-party application for Twitter
Tweet Scan – Twitter Search tool
TweetStats – Analyze statistics on Twitter

A new website called Twitip was created by Darren Rowse, author of Problogger, is a great resource for anyone wanting to get additional information about Twitter.

I am not a social media expert, nor do I pretend to know what the future holds for blogging and/or Twitter.  My guess is that those who used blogging as an internet journal will likely turn to Twitter, while those who use blogs as their main source for commentary and substantive dialogue will use Twitter to enhance their blog impact.  One thing that blogging has that Twitter does not is the SEO (search engine optimization).  Traffic to Twitter is basically inherent, while a well-established blog can generate accidental and intentional traffic from various sources, not the least of which is Googling. Nevertheless, it is accurate to say that blogging has taken a hit in 2008 while social media applications like Twitter and Facebook have seen exponential growth.

Some notable friends on Twitter include: Tom Ascol, Joe Thorn, Andy Crouch, Ed Stetzer, Thom Rainer, Steve McCoy, Jared Wilson, Daniel Montgomery, Mark Driscoll, Ligonier, Desiring God, and Tim Challies. There many other good Twitterers, but these are some you might recognize.

If you are looking to start, this post by Problogger might be helpful.  If you would like to connect with me on Twitter, here are the links:

* My Twitter (@timmybrister)
* GBC Twitter (@gracebaptist)

For those of you who do Twitter, why? What benefits are you receiving from this medium?  Has it replaced your blogging (if you have one)?  Any other reasons why you Twitter that I have not mentioned above?