4 reasons Twitter is still relevant

Earlier this week, I taught a class on "Twitter Basics: From @ to #" to a full house at the Washington Foundation Center. I taught the same class at the same location last summer, and it was interesting to see how much things had changed since then.

Unlike the last time I taught the class, when almost none of the students had tried Twitter yet, a quick, informal poll Tuesday showed that a third to a half of the students had already messed around with Twitter, at least a little. So clearly it's becoming more pervasive.

In a world where Facebook has become so dominant and new upstarts like Pinterest and Google+ are catering to more specialized audiences, is Twitter still relevant?

The more I consider it, the more I believe that yes, it is. Here are four reasons why:

  1. Open, global conversation: Twitter is the biggest, most open source of chatter available on the web. Think about it: Pinterest focuses on image curation. Hashtag use hasn't really become pervasive on Google+. On Facebook, conversations are decentralized and nearly impossible to access from a brand perspective. And since it's so image-focused and captions aren't always descriptive, Pinterest really isn't built for casual searching. So Twitter stands alone in being the simplest, most open and undefined network available. Searching for hashtags and key words will reveal masses of people talking about the same thing worldwide.
  2. Informality: People on Twitter are incredibly reachable. You can @ message anybody, whether they follow you or not, unless they've specifically blocked you. Will they always respond? No. But you at least have the option of reaching out. (I'll never forget the day when actress Jeri Ryan, who played Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager, told me my Seven of Nine costume looked great.)
  3. Ease of access: Since so much of its functionality can be accomplished via SMS (the majority of U.S. adults still don't own a smartphone, so this is fantastic), Twitter has the easiest entry points, as well. Sure, you can update your Facebook status by SMS, but SMS would be completely obnoxious as a way to deal with comments and other interactions on that platform.
  4. Filtering: If I only care about a particular topic or a certain set of people, Twitter makes it easy, through the use of saved searches and lists, to just focus on those particular things.

Did I miss anything? Do you disagree? Post your thoughts in the comments!