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Why Twitter Anyway?

by Ryan Frank

Twitter may be the next big thing in social networking. Since its creation in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, everyone seems to be on Twitter. President Barack Obama? Yep. Britney Spears? You bet, and on I could go. Although Twitter won’t disclose their number of active accounts, a few months ago it was ranked by Compete.com as the third most used social network.

Just recently, my wife and I took Luci to her great-grandparents for a visit. When I walked in the house I saw MC Hammer being interviewed on Fox News. I wasn’t in the door for ten seconds before being asked, “What’s it mean that he has over one million followers on Twitter?” It’s fun explaining Twitter to someone in their seventies.

I’ll take a few sentences to explain Twitter to some of you who may be scratching your heads. Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service (no, I didn’t use those terms with the grandparents). Here’s how I explained it to them. Instead of sending a dozen e-mails or text messages, you send one message to your Twitter account, and it goes to all your friends (or followers). You could also explain it as a service that functions like a giant bulletin board where anyone can stick a short note. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? The difficult part is keeping your updates to 140 characters or less.

I have been Twittering for around eight months. Jim Wideman called my cell phone one evening and started telling about the “young guns” (that’s what Jim calls them) that he was following on Twitter. He said, “Bud, you better sign up.” I decided to try it for a month and I was hooked.

Why should you Twitter? I read an article in Forbes titled “Yes, CEOs Should Facebook and Twitter”. What was their point? Social networking is not just for teenagers anymore. It can be an effective leadership tool. In this article, I am going to share ten reasons why I choose to Twitter.

1. Twitter allows you to meet new people. A little obvious, I know. The open “follow” is one of Twitter’s coolest features. Unlike Facebook, you don’t have to be accepted as a friend to start communicating. A simple “follow” is enough (unless you have protected your updates).

2. Twitter is simple. It does one small thing, and does it well. Twitter answers one question: What are you doing? In 140 characters you keep up with others and let them know what you’re doing. I’ve heard it all–from “Staff meeting in full swing” to “Eating soup with a fork. Need to make a supply run this week.”

3. Twitter doesn’t sell ad space on their site (at least for now). Twitter’s popularity is growing like mad, but they haven’t attempted to cash in on the popularity, yet. It’s anyone’s guess how the 3-year-old start-up intends to pay its bills after it exhausts its $55 million venture capital. For now, Twitter is very clean and pure.

4. Twitter gives you instant feedback. Got a question about Fellowship One? Ask. Need a PowerPoint game for Wednesday night? Ask. Looking for a place to eat the next time you swing through Sweetser, Indiana? I doubt you’ll ever ask that question, but if so, go for it. I’ve asked questions on Twitter and have heard back from children’s ministry friends within minutes. Amazing.

5. Twitter provides a connection with friends and others in ministry. I don’t have to tell you how busy and crazy our world is. Twitter makes keeping up with people easy and fun. I’ve never viewed Twitter as a contest to see how many I can follow or how many start following me. It’s about relationships!

6. Twitter is a creative way to learn from each other. What attracted me to Twitter was the opportunity to learn from others. I’ve heard Jim Wideman say a dozen times that colonels hang out with colonels. Twitter is a good way to do that.

7. Twitter creates subtle marketing opportunities. Don’t go into Twitter with the intent of marketing your company, your church, or even yourself in general. People will stop listening. However, if you are real and show a genuine side of yourself, people will give you permission to share what you have to offer with them. Keep Twitter personal.

8. Twitter drives traffic to your blog. I have noticed an increase in the number of visits to my blog (ryanfrank.com) since I have been Twittering. My blog is where I really have the opportunity to pour into other leaders online. Twittering should increase traffic to your blog or website, too.

9. Twitter is fun but doesn’t take a ton of time. It pulls people back day after day, hour after hour, because it’s just plain fun. How much time does it take? I spend less than 30 minutes a day on Twitter and I consider myself an active Twitterer. I normally post 3-5 updates a day and they only take me seconds to type. The other time is spent doing several “quick reads” of what the people I am following have to say. It’s good use of my time.

10. It makes you think about your life. This is one of the biggest things I like about Twitter. Asking myself the question, “what am I doing?” several times a day is a good exercise; it keeps me intentional about how I choose to spend my time.

Twitter is a new tool to communicate, connect and network. If you’re not a Twitter user, do what I did and check it out for yourself. Remember, it’s free. If you don’t like it, I’ll still be your friend and we won’t cancel your subscription to K! Magazine. In fact, you can always do something crazy like actually talk to someone in person.

Ryan Frank is the children’s pastor at Liberty Baptist Church in Sweetser, Indiana. He is the creator of KidzMatter Inc. and the publisher of K! Magazine. Ryan also serves on the board of directors for the International Network of Children’s Ministry. You can find Ryan on Twitter at twitter.com/r_frank and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ryfrank. Ryan also blogs at ryanfrank.com.

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