Twitter has Email Equivalents

I’ve been thinking about a way to think of Twitter in a way that most people could relate:

Twitter is like an email with a no subject line and a short statement in the body.

As you probably know, you only get 140 characters to publish something on Twitter and that’s all you get.  It’s a statement where you share something.

2009-03-16_124817Twitter allows people to direct their updates to particular people as well as all people (Twitter is public), and tag their messages for certain subjects just like email:

  • twitter like emailIf your profile is set to public, it’s like each tweet is an email addressed TO: My Twitter Followers, CC: Everyone Else
  • If your profile is set to private, it’s like each tweet is an email addressed TO: My Twitter Followers, CC: Nobody Else
  • If you start a tweet with “@individual_person”, it’s like an email addressed TO: Individual Person, CC: My followers, Everyone Else
  • If you start a tweet with “d individual_person”, it’s like an email addressed TO: Individual Person, CC: Nobody Else
  • If you include “#tag”, it’s like an email address addressed TO: My Twitter Followers, CC: Everyone Else, Subject: Tag
  • If you add to the beginning of a tweet “RT: “, it’s like a forwarded email addressed TO: My Twitter Followers, CC: Everyone Else, Subject: FW:

Additionally, the people you follow is like your inbox – those you get messages from. Your followers is like your list of contacts.

It’s really more accurate to compare Twitter to text-messaging, Instant Messaging, and Chat Rooms, but I wanted to try and break it down into something most could probably relate.  And just like email, there are a lot of tools you can use to to compose, send, and recieve your twitter updates.

For more on setting up Twitter, using tools, and how to communicate on Twitter, please see my post Conversating on Twitter from 170spoons. You can follow me on Twitter @orangejack. And of course feel free to leave a question or comment below.

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  • Great analogy. I’ll take it one further… twitter is like an email to the world where you only type the subject.

  • rob

    @Kevin – I thought about it as a subject line, but then decided to go this route instead so that I could put the #tag and RT in the subject line. Either way makes sense. The point is that the concepts of Twitter, just like any other communication technologies, isn’t all that new. We already know ‘what’ to do, just each tech brings a new ‘how’.

  • rob, your points are right on.

    I know quite a few people who tell me their over it(twitter). Twitter is not a magic app. Your point that like any other communication technology, it isn’t all that new, It’s the “how,” we use it. People have to invest, and get into the action not just snipe.

    But on the other hand if sniping is what you want to do, well… snipe.

  • Rob,

    Good analogy. I find a lot of newbies get thrown by the @ and D functions, sort of like they get thrown by the wall versus the inbox (and which is private) in Facebook.


  • rob

    @Geno – it’s like when blogs came out people said “I don’t want to read about what you did today”. Now most realize a blog can be used for any communication. Twitter is no different. And you’re absolutely right – there is no “magic app”. They all do their own thing for particular purposes.

    @Jim – when I started my first blog, I put at the bottom of each post “comment publicly” and “comment privately”. The public one opened the comment box. The private one opened an email form. But once people learned the difference, I dropped it. The principles are all the same, it’s just each technology calls it something different.

  • @kevin Another great analogy. Although as the head of an email marketing department, any subject line over 40 characters makes me shudder 😉

  • Rob, I like the “Share something” approach.

    I wrote a post about use of social media and status updates, ““What are you doing?” Boycott”

    Often, people who are new to social media answer the question posed by Facebook and Twitter, which turns into a lot of social media noise, IMHO. Facebook’s change a few days ago to “What’s on your mind?” is a slight improvement.

    Bottom line is that social media will become valuable as more people share value, creating a higher signal-to-noise ratio.

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  • rob

    @Dana- your boycott post is right on. There is too much noise on every website (just do a search for anything and you’ll find noise). It is indeed up to us to add value.

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