Twitter trumps Facebook for utility of possibilities

Monica Reida/Staff Writer

OMG! Did you hear that Ashton Kutcher and Oprah are on Twitter now?

Actually, I did. The large LCD Billboard near First and Tremont Streets has a large sign proclaiming “Follow Ashton Kutcher on Twitter.”

And, of course, I would want to know all about the latest show he’s developing that will probably bomb.

In the meantime, most people are dismissing it as nothing more than a Facebook rip off, which is unfortunate because unlike Facebook, Twitter has numerous practical applications.

Without searching too hard, you can find that several news sources “tweet”—the proper term for the writing of something on Twitter. KCRG, KGAN, KWWL, the Waterloo Courier, Cedar Rapids Gazette and Des Moines Register all have accounts on Twitter. With this, a news story can have a link put up and maybe the title to entice people to read the article. It’s like a breaking news alert online. In addition, the three news stations I mentioned above all have Twitter accounts for their weather teams, which can be used to put tomorrow’s forecast up or a sudden weather alert.

Not only can news sources use Twitter to get information out there immediately and maybe find out readers’ opinions, but the government can use Twitter to inform people of news. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is using the website to keep people informed about swine flu developments.

One of the great advantages of the website is that people can have their accounts set up to send updates from certain users to their phones via text messaging. For example, every time the CDC updates its feed with developments about the swine flu outbreak, I receive a text message on my phone with the message.

With this capacity, think of the good school districts could do with it. During the winter, they could update their feed to have that school has been cancelled or delayed. If parents are “following” the school district’s Twitter account, they can have it set up to receive the delays and cancellations on their cell phones.

I’d like to see Facebook do that.

With the demise of Facebook, Twitter will probably flap its little wings to glory. People claim that Twitter is a ripoff of Facebook, when in fact the tawdry social networking website has been trying to imitate Twitter.

But I fail to see how Facebook could ever be like Twitter. There are news organizations on Facebook, but they don’t update their pages as much as they update their Twitter feeds. One journalist recently commented on his Twitter account that more people followed his feed than were “friends” of him on Facebook.

Facebook is a place to sit around and go “OMG! LOL! LOOK AT THIS TWILIGHT RELATED THING!” It is silly, slight and simply there for fun. I’m sure people could use Twitter for this, but the professional aspects of it seem to overshadow the lighthearted uses.

Try tweeting and maybe see how nice it is to have news updates and find out about real things.

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