Why and how I use Twitter

After using Twitter for almost two years on a daily basis I literally could not live without it anymore. It has changed the way I do things and it has enabled me to get to know (and meet in real life) many interesting people. It had a positive impact on my life and on my work. People who don’t use it don’t know what they are missing, and the problem is that it’s hard to explain. I have tried it many times, but you have to start using it intensively for a while to really understand it, and that’s what most people will not do. That’s fine with me, as long as they don’t bad mouth the service as being irrelevant and a time waster, as has happened often in Dutch media recently. Most journalists do not seem to understand the value of the service yet, that may even be a potential threat to their business.

Do you know what is the first thing I do in the morning when I turn on my computer? Not looking at my email, not looking at my RSS feeds, but looking at the latest trends on That’s where you see what’s happening at that very moment all over the world. That’s where you read the news before it appears on blogs and on Google News and (much later) in newspapers. Then I look at my Twitter replies and only after that I open my RSS feeds and my email.

During the day I check Twitter a couple of times. I don’t read everything, which is impossible if you follow a few hundred people, but just jump into it and read few pages back to see if there are any interesting conversations going on. If so I might jump in for a few minutes, and if not I continue with what I’m doing. I do read all my replies and always have the search screen open for my Twitter name, for Spil Games and for Tudou. So anything that gets written that’s relevant to me I will see.

The things I write on Twitter depend a bit on my mood and on what I’m doing. Normally they are just some random thoughts or things that I am doing, often while driving to a meeting or while waiting somewhere. Things that may be interesting for others, but also things that may seem useless at first. However, I have learned that even seemingly useless messages become interesting if you follow people for a longer time. You really get to know them, and I think I know more about many of my Twitter friends than about some of my real life friends.

Twitter is also a good tool to quickly get information. Last week for example I took a cab from SFO airport to downtown and a few minutes before we arrived at my hotel I realized that I did not know how much to tip a SF cab driver. I tweeted that and within minutes I had at least 10 people answering me. Today I realized that I spend about USD 500/year on fees for my main credit card because of a 1.5% fee on non-EUR transactions, and I asked my Twitter followers for advice. I got some interesting replies, both on Twitter and through DM, and I will check out some of these options. Sure, I could have done a Google search, but not only is this Twitter easier, it is also more personal. I know or can easily get to know the person who replies me. Social recommendations are more valuable than ads or (relatively) objective Wikipedia information.

Most important, however, are the people I get to meet through Twitter. Last week I twittered a lot about what I was doing at the GDC in San Francisco. Because of that I got to know at least 4 interesting people (entrepreneurs, investors and people from gaming companies) and found a lot of new followers who were also attending GDC. With two of the people that I met through Twitter last week I discussed about entrepreneurship in the Valley and I learned a lot from them. Without Twitter I would not have had these conversations.

Twitter is a new way of how to deal with real time information. I did not have a lot of time to go to the GDC presentations, but I was still able to read about the main things that were going on by doing a search on the hashtag #gdc or #gdc09 in Twitter. Real time information about what was being said. For me it’s not only useful, but it’s also fun. Twitter is a social tool to get to know or keep in touch with people and to keep track of information. As I mentioned in the first paragraph it has changed the way I work. Of course Twitter costs time. I estimate that I spend at least 30 minutes per day on Twitter. Combined with another 30 minutes on my blog and about 30 min-1 hour on my RSS newsfeeds, that means 2 hours per day spent on online and social media. Is that a lot? Depends on how you see it. In these 2 hours I get all the information I need, and it’s exactly the information I want to have. I hardly ever read newspapers: I scan through the Shanghai Daily in 5 minutes and download, but often not even read anymore, my daily Dutch newspaper on my ebook reader. And I hardly ever watch TV. I get my information online, not from talking heads on a TV screen. Not spending time on these two media saves me a lot more than 2 hours per day.

For me Twitter is here to stay. The way I use it may change now that more people are on it (in 2007 I used it very differently from now: I read everything my friends said, but at that time there were just a handful users) and when new Twitter services and appliances become available. But I think it will be increasingly useful and a real productivity tool instead of a time waster. If you’ve read until the end and are not a Twitter user yet I hope I have convinced you to give it a try. Just go to and sign up! And don’t forget to add me.

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  1. Twitter has replaced (for me, personally) I tweet my questions instead of posting them on the forum. And the most interesting thing is, the Shanghai tweeples are nice buddies. Sometimes one can see some rude guys on Shanghaiexpat (although I still find it useful in many ways)

  2. Question is not how much responses you receive. Question is how good these informations are. In Germany about 60 percent of all companies dont want to be part of web 2.0 in form of social networking, and for sure, microblogging. Any idea why?

    For personal use. OK! But I was tired to reed all that unproofen trash in Twitter and I do really see any profit for personal use as I can ask a taxi driver or hotel stuff about the tip, can ring MC myself to ask if they deliver the milkshake and so on.

  3. I have to agree. Marc, why did you feel the need to write such a long article to justify your use of Twitter ? And judging by the lack of comments overall, nobody is really bothering to try to counter your point (considering how long your post was!). But I’m gonna have to say that there are 2 slightly disturbing elements in your post: “I think I know more about many of my Twitter friends than about some of my real life friends. ” – Is that a good thing in your eyes ??

    And the second one is: “Social recommendations are more valuable than ads or (relatively) objective Wikipedia information.”. Yes and no. Everyone and their mom can be an “expert” on any subject on the internet. And for me to give any weight to an opinion, or a suggestion, i have to have some proof of the value of that information (other people have validated it, i’ve heard other good advice from the person on the subject, etc).

    So at that point, it has nothing to do with Twitter, or even social networks. It’s just plain old common sense, and getting your info from MULTIPLE, RELIABLE sources, which a bunch of people on Twitter could, or could not be.

    So really, it’s not about Twitter. It’s about social communication in a general sense. Twitter brings nothing new, except a limitation of characters.

    (and i’m not gonna get into a debate here, I’ve been in more than enough already! Time will tell !)

  4. @anonymous 1: Agree, it’s more important how good the information is than how many responses you receive. But if you get 10 responses out of which 7-8 say the same thing it’s likely that that answer is correct. Twitter is a useful tool for me, but there are surely other ways to get the info.

    Why 60% of all companies in Germany do not want to be part of web 2.0? Because they have no idea what it is and don’t see the advantages yet. They have to eventually, especially when the competition starts to use it, and they will use see their market share shrink.

    @anonymous 2: I wrote the post to show why I like Twitter and the impact it has on my life. Didn’t plan to make it that long actually, but that happens when you blog about something you’re passionate about:-)

    I’m not saying it’s good or bad that you get to know some Twitterers better than your friends, but it’s an observation I make. It happens automatically because you don’t know what your real life friends do and think the whole day.

    With regards to social recommendations, if Twitter brings nothing new to you: fine. For me it does, so we probably use it in a different way. Twitter is not for every one, but for me it’s an important tool.

  5. I thought to get such a answer. But how about this: 90 percent of the german IT companies won

  6. @anonymous: As you might or might not know, I lived and worked in Germany for about 4 years in the late 90’s. Your answer reminds me of the general attitude of German companies to the Internet at that time: we won’t be part of it, we don’t need it. Things have changed a lot.

    I believe web 2.0 will keep on changing the perspectives, also of the conservative, traditional German companies. Don’t believe me? Give Jeff Jarvis’ What Would Google Do a try, maybe he can enlighten you of the changes that I believe will come.

  7. Sometimes its better to be very conservative and to focus on the products and not a lot of bla bla in the Web 2.0 world 🙂

    Seems you dod not realize that Web 2.0 is shrinking since 2007. Well I have to look for that link to show you but not today. Time for dinner.

  8. LOL, my companies and many of the ones I invested in are related to web 2.0. I indeed did not realize that that has been shrinking since 2007: Most doubled or tripled their revenues and profits since then! Reminds me of the people who said that online video would never take off (“people do not want to watch video over the internet, that’s what the TV is for”) or who said I was stupid to go into flash games (“That’s an old technology, nobody will play it, the trend is 3D MMORPG’s”). They all had links and figures to prove they were right. I go my own way in life based on my own experiences.

    Sometimes it’s better to be conservative? Maybe if you work for the government or in a corporate role where politics are more important than what you achieve yourself. I am an entrepreneur and that bites with being conservative. That means you may fail sometimes (often), but I see that as a learning experience.

    I think focusing on your product means also integrating web 2.0 in it. Don’t ignore it, then you’ll end up like many newspapers. Their product turned out to be more than just ink on paper, but they realized it too late. This is the first industry to go down, many more will follow I am afraid.

  9. Unlike most of the commenters I enjoyed your piece about twitter. I agree – most people don’t understand what the service can do. I talk to a lot of my friends in real life and they think I am insane to twitter, a lot of computer scientists included.

    Unlike the Dutch media, and evidently German businesses, the US seems to be slowly embracing technology like this. I had CNN running in the background during the recent New York hostage event and the reporters brought up both twitter and google earth.

  10. No, I do not work for goverment or any german or dutch company. Only thing I really like in germany is the Autobahn. I lived 2 years in Berg en Dal, maybe you know that small town, but I am not dutch.

    We talk about Web 2.0, not Game 2.0. You talk about China and about the gaming industry and that is mostly what you call experience, I talk about Web 2.0. For Gaming, I agree with you, but not for Web 2.0

    Since 2007 the Web 2.0 traffic is shrinking.

    More trash, but less traffic and less companies. Should I search for more charts showing that? It is all about chatting, gaming and so on. While reading, latest now web 2.0 fans starting to think and talk about the only interesting web 2.0 part called advertisement. Bad to see that advertisment is also effected.

    I know web 2.0 heros selling their companies or parts of it and leaving for example Shanghai to setup new things in europe or the us, far away from the web 2.0 bubble.

    But please, where is the quality? Oh, I do love games! No time for that but I have a child. He is 5y. and so I have to think about his ps3 soon, haha! Web 3.0 sounds good, but Web 2.0 is soon history in my opinion!

    I think the gaming industry will in information to seperate from web 2.0. Who wants to travel on a sinking ship? Still time enough to do so, to change marketing and that is my message!!!!

    And about travel, investor or investment, now something to relax, a real dutch investor ad. I am not sure if you now that ad. If no, have fun latest after 66 seconds. Enjoy:

  11. I looked at your link and it does not say that web 2.0 traffic is shrinking, but that the Google searches for web 2.0 go down. That’s a whole different thing Mr. Anonymous! Maybe because people now know what it is (so they don’t search for it) or because people use different names (e.g. social media) these days? Do you actually understand what web 2.0 is? A sinking ship? Not in my dictionary.

  12. Sorry to say, but you really did not understand the logic behind. Read the Headline: “The Death of Web 2.0….!”

    The chart is familar to a Gartner Chart ( link at same articel ) but it seems you only read 140 words?

    “February, the Web prognosticator said YouTube et al would sell $1.4 billion in ads in the U.S. this year. Now its says it was overzealous: It has ratcheted its estimate back by 64%, to $505 million.” BUT:

    Yes, I am Mr. Anonymous! One of the big problems of Web 2.0. Anonymus or not proved. Please do not understand me wrong…hope you will be successfull for more than typical 3 to 5 years.

  13. I also just became a member of Twitter, but don’t really get it. Facebook is a bigger twitter with better functions…?

  14. @anonymous Of course I read the article, but the headline does not cover the contents. A journalist likes to attract attention with a headline, but the content does not support it. And neither does your other link about YouTube’s revenue, that says more about YouTube not being innovative anymore than about the whole Web 2.0 market. Why do you think Twitter and Facebook grow so much, they are currently the best examples of this.

    Anyway, let’s just conclude that I look at opportunities and you at risks. Because of that I am afraid we won’t find common ground, no big deal. Maybe I am too optimistic about some things, but you need that to be entrepreneurial, right?

  15. @shopgirl Facebook copied some of Twitter’s functions in its last redesign, but it’s only part of FB’s functionality. Twitter is much more focused and completely open. Follow some more people, then you’ll see the difference.

  16. a practical question if i may: i wonder if and how to get twitter SMS on my chinese mobile phone. Twitter responded “we do not support this number.” And neither did I find anyone by Google who would say “this is how I did it.” of course i can still use tw via internet in my mobile phone, but sms is much more practical…

  17. I don’t think Twitter supports SMS in China, at least I have never heard of anyone using it. I feel using a Twitter client like Tweetie or Twitdroid is much easier and a lot cheaper. Of course you can also use a browser and surf to, that also works reasonably well.