I’ve had a hard time convincing my wife and others like her why I Twitter. “Why do you use twitter? What’s the point? Isn’t Twitter just another in long line of mouthpieces for self-obsessed people with delusions of grandeur? Don’t people just post inane information about themselves in the vacant hope that someone will care?” These kinds of questions and taunts are routine and have recently been asked by my favorite sports talk show host, Jim Rome, who spent a good portion of his show last week mocking Twitter and those who tweet.
If you’re wondering whether or not some of the folks tweeting are self-obsessed and tweet only about their mundane lives, yes some are. I don’t follow those people! Those folks serve little purpose, and I’ve put the public on notice that those who tweet about what they’re having for lunch run the risk of being “unfollowed.” Still there are a great many people who use Twitter to great effectiveness for their mission, message and tribe. I think primarily of Michael Hyatt, Guy Kawasaki, Tim Sanders and others. And you can too.
Let me give you some reasons why I think Twitter is a powerful resource.
- Impact. Through tweeting you can get your message in front of a lot more people. Because your text is limited to 140 characters, you can’t blather on, but you can inform, encourage, and direct your audience. Plus, they don’t have to come to you like a blog post. You go to them. All you have to do is figure out a way for them to follow you. I used to blog in this space quite a bit. Quite frankly, it got to be a hassle. I was an early-comer to blogging, and the medium has changed significantly over the last five years. One thing that was always true though was that to have a high readership I had to post 4+ times per week. Many times I didn’t have that much to say! With Twitter now, I simply reference that a new post is up and hundreds of people can potentially see it within minutes. The same number of readers it took days to accumulate, now access the blog within the first hour it’s posted. This combined with retweets has exploded blog readership (though not comments to my discontent). My impact is now far wider, and because of it, I can post just once a week and my content is generally stronger. This is a win-win when your message is the Kingdom of God. I reach more people with my messages through the web (blog + podcast + Twitter + facebook) than I do on a Sunday morning. Maybe up to 4 times as many. That’s an impact for God’s Kingdom. Brought to you by twitter!
- Knowledge. Twitter, more than anything else, gets knowledge and information to me fast. I learned of Michael Jackson’s death, the uprising in Iran and countless other news items through Twitter. Most of the time, someone on Twitter “breaks” the story before traditional news agencies. An easy criticism is that the folks on Twitter can post anything and we should be slow to trust what we read there. That is a possibility, however, my experience has been that Twitter-ers, like me, are incredibly concerned with their own credibility and treating their followers as friends. We are generally slow to throw a disprovable “fact” against the wall. Interestingly, it has been those in the news media, politics and public life who most often tweet first and think later. More than that, I follow the tweets of people in the same industry I’m in or want to be in or those who have something to teach me. They direct me to great information that I’m blessed to know. I’ve learned about writing, leadership, marketing, technology, missional living and ministry by following people who know more about those things than I do. I draw from the wisdom of Andy Stanley, Greg Daniel, Donald Miller, Rick Warren and others without paying a dime to hear them at a conference. I know what they’re reading, what they’re thinking, and how they are working with and leading organizations. For free.
- Followers Become Friends. I have friends on Twitter that are not my friends in the conventional sense. I have spent little or no time with Dave Lemley, Greg Kendall-Ball, Travis Stanley, Darin Campbell and others, but we share both a common faith heritage and common perspective on U.S. and world events. I’m allowed to dialogue with them about those particular items and build relationships with them though I’ve never spent more than an hour with any one of them. In other cases I follow and am followed by people like David Christian whom I have never met, yet we’ve had many discussions. That’s just cool! It’s a glimpse of heaven where we will know and be fully known.
- Thinking. Like all writing, tweeting makes you think about what you think. Do you really want to advocate that position? Is this something I should post without being able to enter a conversation or give some background? How can I be coherent in 140 characters (in 119 characters if I want to be retweeted)?
I encourage tweeting and am trying to discern ways that I can incorporate it in meaningful ways during church services, and classes and with our staff.