Twitter is basically a text messaging service, but with several refinements that make it more powerful for social networking and as a tool for, pardon the expression, change. I'll explain what makes Twitter different from, and similar to, other online communication tools you've used. Then I'll cite some interesting applications that Hugh Hewitt and others are using right now to connect with others and strengthen the conservative movement.
First, with Twitter you can send messages in three different modes:
- Broadcast, to all Twitter users (the least useful for our purposes)
- Public chat (Reply), again visible to all subscribers, but also sent directly to a user identified by his or her user name in the format "@username"
- Direct, one-to-one, sent privately to the user in the format "D username;" just like instant messaging (IM) or SMS text messaging
Second, with Twitter you receive messages as you like them:
- Every Tweet sent by every user (again, the least useful for our purposes)
- Friends only, so you only see Tweets from users you are Following
- Search by hashtag (#tag); see examples below
- Browse on a user's homepage (http://www.twitter.com/username)
- Direct one-to-one, exchanging D messages (see above)
And last, you can use Twitter on any combination of mobile and PC platforms:
- The Twitter.com web site
- Internet browser plug-in
- Desktop app
- IM plug-in (AOL, Yahoo, MSN, etc.)
- Cell phone SMS (text message)
With this unique combination of features, imaginative Twitter users have cooked up some interesting applications:
Hugh Hewitt has defined a hashtag #hhrs for the Hugh Hewitt Radio Show. Tweets that include #hhrs will show up when users search for it at search.twitter.com. This enables listeners to get lists of show guests before each show, communicate with Hewitt and his producers, discuss the show's topics, and read all of the Tweets posted after the show is over.
This can be easily repeated by other talk radio shows, and has been by Hewitt's protégés on AM 1280 The Patriot: David Strom and Margaret Martin (#davidstrom), John Hinderaker, Chad the Elder, and Brian Ward (#narn), and King Banaian and Michael Brodkorb (#narn2). This practice broadens the participation and interaction in these shows way beyond those who get past the call screeners.
Conservative activists across the country are finding (and Following) each other on the new web site Top Conservatives on Twitter. This idea should spawn regional or local lists like True North Conservatives on Twitter (does not exist yet).
Activists on both sides are following the ballot recount in the U.S. Senate race by seaching on #mnrecount. Attendees and onlookers kept up with the recent Republican National Convention by searching on #rnc08.
News outlets (foxnewspolitics) and web sites (looktruenorth) are publishing their RSS feeds in Twitter.