Going into Chirp, Twitter's first-ever developers conference, the natives were restless. A string of announcements--from the release of Twitter's own Blackberry app to the acquisition of development firm Atebits--had some developers wondering where Twitter was going and what it all meant to them. While Twitter's executive team didn't answer every question, they did outline a vision for future growth with a vigorous role for third-party developers. For me, the role Twitter sees for itself and for developers was most clearly outlined in its discussion of "place."
Twitter clearly recognizes that our location is extremely relevant data that can yield substantial value for others who use (either directly or indirectly) the Twitter information network. It's not just about where you are at every given moment, but what you're saying and doing while you're there.
Ryan Sarver offered a compelling example of the power of place in his discussion about the New York Times' coverage of the Fort Hood tragedy. A reporter turned to Twitter for real-time news and information but ran into a flood of retweets and expressions of sympathy and concern. Then he entered "near Killeen, TX" and was able to see relevant tweets from first responders, soldiers and citizen journalists in the immediate area. At Chirp, Twitter conveyed the importance of place and how geolocation will be a vital part of the Twitter experience.
Our little baby is all grown up. Just 30 months ago, Twitter was flying under the radar and people interested in microblogging might very well have joined Identica, Pounce, Plurk or other lookalike services. By early 2010, Twitter handled 50 million tweets per day and had become crucial to hundreds of brands and tens of millions of people, but it still had just one visible (and arguably modest) means of support—search engine deals with Microsoft and Yahoo. As of today, Twitter is getting a job and earning its keep with the rollout of an ad platform.
As it grew and became a more important communications channel, Twitter found its business model the focus of intense scrutiny; for example, when Ev Williams failed to announce an ad platform at SXSW, there was palpable disappointment among bloggers and other observers. This week, Twitter is addressing that disappointment with the rollout of its new Promoted Tweet program, which offers some benefits to brands. What are those benefits and what are the limitations for marketers?
People have many different approaches to determine who they will follow and not follow on Twitter. A whole lot of folks won't follow anyone they don't know. Others sign up for spammy, follower-generating tools that permit them to amass tens of thousands of followers and followees (who couldn't give a darn what each other have to say). I know a guy who won't follow more than 140 followers at any one time.
My preference has been to follow just about anyone who follows me--this approach struck me as fair, open and social. There are drawbacks to "reciprocal following," such as that it makes my Twitter stream a relatively useless flow of wide-ranging tweets. On the plus side, it exposes me to more folks, and when I see one I find interesting and pertinent, I can choose to follow him or her more closely by adding the individual to lists in my preferred Twitter client, Hootsuite. Also, this practice permits people to Direct Message (DM) me, which I welcome until and unless a given Twitterer abuses the privilege by littering my DM "in box" with spam.