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Twitter in Plain English

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When folks ask me how to explain Twitter to them, I invariably share some variation of this story:

Think of Twitter as a cocktail party with 100 people in the room, with 100 separate conversations.

You might be interested in what 10 folks have to say, so you listen to what those 10 people have to say.

If you think the people who you’re talking might be interested in what someone else is saying, you share what you heard, giving the person who said it credit.

You’ve learned what you can with the people you’re talking to, so you change conversations to someone else, then someone else, and eventually, you hear conversations from 30 people in the room. Those 30 people are listening to the other 70 people in the room, and occasionally they share what someone else says, so you listen to a new person.

Sometimes someone took a picture and they pass you their camera or cell phone so you can see the picture.

Before you go, you agree you’ll keep in touch. When you get home, you can listen in on their conversations. When they say something of interest, you can engage in the conversation, just like you were right there. Because you connected with them before, you can share interesting stories, pictures, and conversations with those people that found you interesting. You may also talk about something other people are interested in, so they might listen to you too.

If you want to whisper in someone’s ear, you can do so, and they can whisper back, or you can just listen.

Though the box at the top of the Twitter homepage says “What are you doing?” think of it instead as “What are you interested in talking about?” or “What am I paying attention to?”

That’s Twitter in plain English.

Any questions?

Is this helpful? How would you explain Twitter in plain English to someone who was interested in learning more?

Leave a Comment



  1. Julie Hoffmann says:

    Great article Phil – especially to rethink the “What are you doing?” box. Let’s leave that to Facebook. Another phrase could be “What’s happening?”. Excellent analogy overall.

  2. Excellent article, nice succinct and relate-able.

  3. Steve Wilhite says:

    Well, if I were as talented as these guys, I’d explain Twitter in plain English like this: Enjoy!

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