"What is Twitter?" is the most popular question I get about Twitter, and "Why Twitter?" is definitely the most popular follow-up question. There are many great uses for Twitter, but even once you understand that Twitter has grown beyond a micro-blogging service to become a social messaging platform, it can still leave you wondering why you might want to use it.
We have cell phones and text messaging and social networking and blogging. So why Twitter?
There are many great business uses for Twitter, like sending out news briefs or advertising the latest job opening, but believe it or not, there are even more personal uses for Twitter.
Here are a few popular ways to use Twitter:
This one is obvious, but in the rush to put Twitter to other uses, many people forget its first use as a micro-blogging platform. And it is still one of the best uses. It's easy to make a quick tweet telling the world what you are doing, how good your morning coffee tastes or how bad your lunch went.
And it is a great way for friends and family -- even those halfway across the world -- to keep connected to your daily life.
2. Quick answers
The idea of crowdsourcing has never been so quick! You can ask all sorts of questions to the Twitter universe, from what is the capital of Alaska to what people think of a particular brand of baby food. And the more friends you have, the more detailed answers you will receive.
There are even web services set up to take advantage of this feature, so if you don't have many followers, don't worry. Mahalo will help get your question answered quickly. Simply send your question to @answers.
3. Finding a job
Whether you just got laid off or you are sick of your current job, Twitter can help you get a new job. Not only can you announce to the world that you are looking for employment, but many companies post their job openings on Twitter.
4. Keeping up with the news
From newspapers to magazines to TV stations and cable news, it seems everyone is adopting Twitter as the coolest thing since sliced bread. The coolest part is that it makes Twitter a great way to keep track of news.
Want to keep up with the news, but don't wan to clutter up Twitter? You can use a Twitter client like TweetDeck. And the neat thing about TweetDeck is that it is available for the iPhone too.
5. Arrange a lunch with friends
Twitter can be very useful for arranging a time and place to get together. It's like a conference call with text messaging. So, if you have a regular lunch date with a group of people, or just want to arrange a get together, Twitter can be a great way to nail down a time and place that works for everyone.
Like following the news, it can be handy to have your friends in their own group if you have a lot of followers.
6. Helpful outbursts, or in other words, screaming your rage
We've all had one of those days, whether it was someone pulling in front of us in traffic, or getting served the wrong type of coffee, it is sometimes these little things that can put us in a bad mood for the rest of the day.
The sagely advice is to let it out, but to who? It's not like most places of employment have a handy punching bag, and it's probably not smart to vent to your boss. That's where Twitter can be really helpful because it lets you rage to millions of people. And you might just get some sympathy tweets out of it too.
Just remember to watch the language.
7. Keep up with your favorite team
Twitter's search feature can be a great way to track trends or keep up with a particular subject. And if you are a fan of sports, it can be a great way to really connect with the team. Not only are many sports players on Twitter, but you have the media and millions of fans to keep you updated on the latest and greatest.
Can't get to a TV when your favorite team is on? Just follow the tweets on Twitter. Not only will you get regular score updates, but you'll get some fun color commentary to go along with it.
8. Find out what people really think about the latest movie
Similar to keeping up with your favorite team, you can also use the search feature to check out what the buzz is on the latest release at the theaters. Sure, you could check what the critics have to say, but their opinion isn't always in line with what people actually think of the film.
Twitter can be a great way to find out if the movie is a bomb or a bust, so you don't have to waste your money on a real dud.
9. Becoming involved with politics
Barack Obama laid down the blueprint, and politicians are increasingly turning to social media sites like Twitter. Not only is this providing a great way for politicians to get the word out, but it is allowing them to stay connected to their constituents. What better way to tell your senator what you think about a key vote than to send him or her a tweet?
But politics on Twitter goes far beyond just following politicians. The Iran election crisisshowed what a political force Twitter could be as it not only allowed Iranian citizens to break through the walls Iran hoped to keep up around the events, but also let people from around the world show their support by turning their profile pictures green.
10. Fun and Games
One of the most recent activities that is becoming popular on Twitter is the use of third-party games to interact with Twitter accounts. For example, Spymaster allows you to create your own spy ring using your followers as spies. You generate money for your spy ring by completing tasks either solo or in real-time with other spymasters.