Monday, March 21, 2011 myBiz Blog
After 5 years, Twitter's valued at over $4 billion by Zack Zaban

If you think that the microblogging network Twitter has no value, think again.

Today, Twitter turns 5 years old. And since its inception, the social network has managed to make its way into the lives of business leaders, journalists, celebrities, educators and (just like you and I) students. For those who measure value based off of financial numbers, consider this: a recent article stated that Twitter's value as of January 2011 was over $4 billion dollars.

This morning, the company pushed out a promotional video, featuring prominent Tweeters and how they use Twitter. Also, the network rolled out a microsite about "discovering Twitter" at discover.twitter.com Click the image below to see the video:

I've encountered many students who simply don't understand what Twitter is and what purpose it holds. If anything, students should use Twitter to aggregate news. A recent article from the National Post summed up the power of Twitter very well, saying:
"...And if you do it right, you almost don't have to visit any other website, or even watch much TV. If you do it right, the best stuff, from the most brilliant minds, comes right to you. As the disaster in Japan has unfolded, Twitter has been far ahead of television networks on news, without having to deal with the way cable news tends to gets dumber the longer disaster coverage goes on. When the news broke that the Fukushima 50 had been withdrawn from the nuclear plant, it had been debunked by various reporters on Twitter an hour before the news networks figured it out.

Similarly, Twitter has been the finest source of news as chaos has engulfed the Middle East; The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof, among others, tweeted extraordinary scenes from Egypt as the protests turned violent after the Internet was cut off; news from Bahrain, Libya and Yemen has similarly escaped into the world even as the media was shut out. Twitter has also been used by various groups to communicate and organize protests, regardless of what Malcolm Gladwell thinks." (Bruce Author, Twitter at Five: In short, engaging)

So, how do you actually begin to understand Twitter and, more importantly, put it to good use?

First, you should watch Twitter Search in Plain English, a great video that explains the basics of Twitter. Click below to view the video.

Next, set up a Twitter account. Nervous? You have nothing to lose. Just go to the Twitter homepage and set up an account. The process could not be any easier. And, finally, the most important part: begin engaging in conversation. Follow thought leaders in fields/topics that interest you, whether that's finance, sports, technology, food, etc.

There are conversations occurring online with leaders in your community. Just take a look at how Chancellor Biddy Martin uses Twitter to engage with the UW-Madison community: [View the story "Biddy Martin's Tweets" on Storify]

Questions? Comments? Use the comment box below to share your ideas.

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