Ever since the social networking service Twitterlaunched it has been a magnet for speculation about what it is and what it means. Twitter has been called a form of micro blogging because, like haiku, it constrains the length of each entry (known as a tweet) to 140 characters or less. Twittering has also been referred to as live blogging, because the short length of tweets makes it feel more like instant messaging or online conversation.
Some of the speculation about Twitter has centered on it being a possible replacement for blogging. Twittering is simpler than blogging. The short messages are easy to digest and can be read comfortably on the small screens of mobile devices. I doubt that 140 character tweets will replace blog entries. They each have uses for which they are best suited. For example, consider the case of books.
Imagine reading a book and being able to share an interesting excerpt or impression of what you’re reading with friends or associates quickly and more or less continuously as you work your way throught the title. You can share something memorable while it’s fresh. It’s like a bit of social glue between in person meetings – say at a book club – when you want to get into more depth about a book you’ve just read. It’s ideal for connectors – those super communicators Malcolm Gladwell identified in the Tipping Point – who spread awareness of interesting new things.
Book twitters, however, wouldn’t replace a book review. A book review – closer to a blog entry in size – is a considered reflection made after the book has been read. The book twitter is more about sharing an impression. It is another way to build excitement and community around a book. Twittering about a title may inspire others to read it and share their impressions as well. As Amazon demonstrates, peer recommendations count for a lot among book purchasers, no matter how the recommendaiton is packaged. The practice could become something of a book club on the fly.
There are some intriguing experiments happening in TwitterVille. For example, an Amazon affiliate called TwitterLit is serving up one line literary teasers to entice readers to check out titles. The site shows the first line of a book and contains a link back to Amazon for users whose curiosity gets the better of them. The title of the book isn’t shown with the excerpt – you have to go to Amazon to see it.
Another example is a post on Bob Baker’s Author Blog entitled Smart Ways Authors can Use Twitter. It provides some ideas authors can use to publish their content in tweet size bites.
And finally, if you want to hone your Twitter craft, visit Slacker Manager and check out The Several Habits of Wildly Successful Twitter Users.