Twitter World

On: October 11, 2008
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About Ali Balunywa
I have 20 years experience in the print media in Africa and Europe. I am in possession of a Bachelors degree in social sciences from Makerere University in Kampala and a post graduate diploma in Journalism and Media management. I am currently following a Masters of Media in New Media studies at the University of Amsterdam.


 twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.
Updates are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. The sender can restrict delivery to those in his or her circle of friends. Users can receive updates via the Twitter website, instant messaging, SMS, email or through an application such as Facebook. Several third parties offer posting and receiving updates via email.

As of July 2008, over 2,200,000 accounts were registered.

A quick and plain English intro to twitter …2 min 25 sec –


Twitter is integrated with mobile telephony  so you can read Tweets (Twitter posts) on your mobile phone or other mobile device. Best of all, when you view a tweet you’re not missing anything.

Twitter is interactive so the conversational format encourages participation. It is great for collaborative projects. It also gives followers and those being followed a chance to interact.

Conversations on Twitter tend to be casual and intimate. People routinely tweet both about what they are having for breakfast and what project they are working on.  Twitter’s real-time messaging means someone is almost always on Twitter, ready and willing to respond to any and all Tweets.

Twitter studies:

Since Twitter was founded in May 2007, several studies have been carried out by researchers. Because Twitter is relatively new most of the studies have been carried out in 2008.

Daniel Riveong, an Internet Marketer working at e-Storm International in San Francisco, California carried out a Twitter case study on Social media relations;  The study was published in April 2008.

According to Daniel Riveong, Twitter – the mobile-based microblogging service – has become the new darling among social media marketers and internet geeks since the SXSWi conference in 2007. His study showed that there were two reasons to twitter; firstly, just by utilizing twitter, brands through experimentation are learning and understanding more about social media and their customers. Learning how to do it on twitter is a skillset that can be applied to feature social media mediums.

Secondly, keeping track of the “Linkerati” (the highly vocal and connected influencers). Current Twitter members, due to their Linkerati demographic, may have a higher than average say on influencing your brand.
Dave Chaffey is another researcher into the use of Twitter.

Dave found that Twitter’s small team and budget is able to deliver adequate services that have been employed by reputable companies like the BBC, and CISCO. The Instant and multiple messaging or mobile to keep in touch enables the media to cover breaking news and other companies to provide service information via RSS feeds.

Kate Brodock on September 4, 2008  wrote that as Hurricane Gustav threatened the New Orleans area at the end of August 2008, Twitter users from the region mobilized themselves to offer a way of quickly disseminating the information via tweets.

CNN reporter Rick Sanchez even referred to Twitter during his airtime and mentioned that he had used it to gather information for his report.

Beyond the great benefits of using just Twitter to inform people of real-time events happening in New Orleans, the use of hashtags proved even more effective. A  Hashtags are a way to send your Twitter updates to a centralized location on the web so people can go online to get comprehensive and immediate updates during an event.

Hashtags were first used heavily on Twitter during the 2007 San Diego forest fires, and have subsequently been introduced into various industries as a way of grouping Twitter messages.  Uses include crisis information, event updates, and conference notes.

Rae’s case study is about a BlackBerry related website called BBGeeks . BBGeeks has had a Twitter account for around eight months now and has grown from zero to over 500 followers in that time. For a web site targeting a very niche market, this is pretty impressive.

By concentrating on solving problems and building trust within the Twitter BlackBerry community, the members would be more responsive to a Twitter sales message rather being hit by sales posts every day. So a small company BBGeeks successfully used Twitter to promote and grow their business.

Hend S. Al-Khalifa an assistant professor in the Information Technology Department, CCIS, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia researched on twitter the popular “micro-blogging” communications platform is used in Saudi Arabia mostly by the young to exchange news and follow peers’ activities. She tested the effectiveness of Twitter as a tool for keeping my students connected to the blog for her “Introduction to Operating Systems” course.

Even as infrastructure in Saudi Arabia presented some unique challenges to this trial, Twitter seemed to her a good alternative for situations where students cannot access the Internet but may want to receive timely updates to their mobile phones. To that end, the course blog was connected to a third-party service called Twitterfeed, which converted the blog RSS feeds into Twitter tweets. The service checks for updates on an hourly basis.

Though the Twitter experiment was rife with problems there were advantages including timeliness of announcements without need for reliable Internet service, better connection with students, all of whom have mobile phones and time saving. Feedback from the students was very positive as most of them preferred that to visiting their blogs for updates.

Unfortunately, as of August 2008, twitter stopped delivering international text messages, which means the service, can no longer be used in Saudi Arabia.

Micro blogging

Twitter launched in 2006 is the most popular Micro-blogging service. Micro blogging is a form of blogging that allows users to write brief text updates and publish them, either to be viewed by anyone or by a restricted group which can be chosen by the user. These messages can be submitted by a variety of means, including text messaging, instant messaging, email, MP3 or the web. Twitter won the Web Award in the blog category at the 2007 South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas.

Examples of  micro blogging include twitter, Spoink, Plurk and Rakawa. Spoink released a multimedia micro-blogging service that integrates blogging, podcasting, telephony and SMS texting and supports all major mobile audio, video and picture formats. Plurk utilizes a rich interface and horizontal time-line to add a spatial dimension to micro blogging. documents and informs about daily accomplishments of the users based on the question “What have you achieved today?”

The popular social networking websites Facebook, MySpace, Xing and LinkedIn also have a micro-blogging feature, called “status update”.

Recently, we have seen the impact of distributed content sharing (Wikipedia, Blogger), social networks like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter. With the integration of mobile telephony, there has been a bigger impact with this convergence of ideas. The inputs can be visualized in different dimensions, such as space and time. When plugged into the Internet, the collaborative inputs from phones may enable a high resolution view of the world. The Micro-Blog is a new kind of application-driven challenges identified and addressed in the context of this system. Micro-Blogs can be deployable tools for sharing, browsing, and querying global information.


The biggest disadvantage of micro blogging is the limitation of the text. It is usually very short (Twitter is 140 words). Thus outside breaking news, it cannot be used for news distribution. Complex ideas can therefore not be communicated.

Currently, there is no way to insert images such as photos or graphics directly into your tweets. This also means no video or audio either.

Micro blogging is also prone to getting off topic quite easily.

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