Twitter is perhaps the most “open” of all social networks. Most people have their feeds open to the public and they don’t mind if you post several times a day. This is in comparison to say Facebook, where most people have strong privacy settings and they only post once or twice a day. A lot of people on Twitter don’t use their real names when they post either, which is both a positive and a negative. It leads to more honest conversation, but it also often results in more insults and immature posting.
However, even with the downsides, you’ll likely find that the openness of Twitter makes it a great place to start or join a conversation. In most cases, you don’t even need to follow someone in order to converse with the publicly. This is great because it lets everyone speak to everyone. An average user can speak with a member of the media, for example, and discuss a current news story or two bloggers can discuss two opposing sides of an issue. “Trusted” sources such as media members are influential bloggers can ask their followers (and Twitter as a whole) how they feel about certain topics and gain knowledge in this way. It’s also a great way for companies to conduct “market research” as you can find out exactly what your customers think just by asking them.
The open nature of Twitter accomplishes many things. First of all, you might learn something from a Twitter discussion. People have a lot of information and differing points of view and by joining or following a conversation on Twitter, you may learn details about your industry that you did not previously know.
In addition, Twitter gives you an opportunity to position yourself as an influencer and a trusted source. By Tweeting interesting, intelligent and informative content and by responding and asking questions, you can show others that you are knowledgeable and probably gain a few followers along the way. This will build your reputation online and in real life.
You’ll also gain valuable contacts in your field. The people you have conversations with will begin to feel comfortable with you and trust your expertise, which will make them more willing to work with you in the future. This is the true “networking” portion of the term “social networking.”
There is a great deal of value to participating in discussions on Twitter. While doing so can seem overwhelming, complicated and time-consuming at first, you will eventually feel more comfortable with doing so and you’ll gain a lot of value from your participation.