in Digital Web

Four innovative ways to use Twitter as a tool

As promised in my post about why Twitter is like high school is a follow-up post that describes the brilliance of what Twitter can provide as a useful tool.

Rather than sing its praises — there are plenty of places on the web to do that — I’ll just come up with a few out of the box ways that Twitter could be especially useful.

1. For teachers to share general classroom information about parents: When I first thought this, I thought “what about those parents who want to know when Jonny had a bad day in class? Wouldn’t this be a great thing if they could simply follow the protected Twitter feed of his class and find out when the teacher posts that he’s been sent to detention? Probably not, because of all of the privacy issues involved I’m sure.

But…as far as disseminating information that they want to get to a wide swath of parents without emailing, sending a note home that gets lost or talking to each individual one on the phone…(not that you wouldn’t have to do that for parents without web access) it’d be a great way to bring the information to them more quickly and efficiently.

2. To broadcast garage sales in a local community: Hilarious and random, to be sure. But I grew up going to garage sales with my grandparents, so I recall vividly how my grandmother would go through the newspaper to find them. Other times, we’d just drive around to find them — especially in areas where we knew they were plentiful — and see what we could find. I can only imagine the advances that have been made in garage sales online in the past 20 years since I was a regular, but they’re still very localized activities that having to search a huge database or even a newspaper web site that covers a geographic area could be very inefficient.

A Twitter feed could cover all of the sales in a particular town on a particular date and would be handy for driving around to find what’s happening or to alert folks of a change of time, rescheduling due to weather or something else that print time lag would make difficult.

3.  Commuter Feed: Now, I know about Commuter Feed, but in places where there’s no critical mass, it’d be a hard thing to make work. So perhaps it’s just not something that could work on a large scale. But everyone  wants traffic information. In New York City and Chicago, it’s to know how long it’ll take you to get to the center of town. Heck, in Wyoming I needed to know whether I-80 was covered in snow, closed or otherwise going to affect my 50-mile one way commute to work each day. There have to be better ways to organize or integrate the information in a useful way. Perhaps in a feed, that’s maintained by journalists or radio traffic folks. I realize that the ad angle would be lost, as would the whole “listening to the radio for the 5 minutes of traffic coverage” but it seems like a value-added is embedded in there somewhere.

4. A rapid feedback service: Have an idea? Need someone to give you feedback on a powerpoint proposal, a speech or just need to talk through your writers block? The possibilities are endless, but I think Twitter could be a huge value for someone here. I know that people with huge followings are already able to post something and get back lots of replies, but some folks are never going to be as “cool” (or insane) as you are with your thousands of followers and devoted fans who jump at your every Tweetmand.  ;)  Look out for @needastartup

The best thing Twitter has to offer is instant communication and feedback with folks. Now there is no wrong way to do this, but it has to be suited to the way you communicate or you won’t find much value in using it for anything other than “status updates.”

Any other ideas you’d add?

  1. That’s a good one. I used to do a web site for parents at camp of matches, but tweeting the results? That’s pretty darn smart…and I bet they do get snarky. Gotta love tennis parents. ;p

  2. I’ve got one for you – the wife of the tennis coach at Dartmouth uses Twitter to update parents of players on results after matches…parents actually get uppity when she doesn’t send updates fast enough.

  3. I don’t think we ought to ever heavily rely on technology or “overdo” it, but as a value-added, I think it’s something worth exploring.

  4. I like the idea of teachers being able to communicate with parents quickly. I think it would make them more involved in the classroom process. However, I think that the flaw is not the use of the technology but the availability of it. In less than affluent places, parents still do not have ready access to cell phones and internet.

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