Twitter gets tons of hype, but at the same time it gets tons of bad press. Plenty of people — mostly, people who haven’t used it — still believe it to be a place made for shallow, fleeting moments. The place where you tweet “what you had for breakfast.” Certainly Twitter’s 2010 trends haven’t helped.
However, we’ve noticed plenty of times when Twitter makes an actual, positive difference in people’s lives. No, we’re not talking about overturning elections in Iran — maybe one day, but not yet. We’re talking about simple stuff.
We just saw a friend, who attends law school, say that a friend of his had just lost his internship. A founding partner at a great corporate law firm (who happens to be my mother) tweeted back within minutes that this friend should send over his resume. She needs a new intern now that the previous one has left — a previous intern whom she also hired through Twitter. (Yes, we think Twitter jobs will be big in the future.)
This stuff actually matters. Most jobs are filled through referrals, and most openings aren’t even posted on the web or anywhere else. But these jobs are posted on Twitter, in increasing amounts. Before the job description is ever written, an executive tweets about a position they want to fill. A trusted source refers someone else. This makes a tangible, positive difference in the world. A person gets a job. A position is filled more efficiently, which increases the economic welfare of the company, its shareholders, and society more generally.
That same friend who posted about the aspiring lawyer’s lost internship, has worked odd jobs throughout her higher education to pay for it. Via Twitter, we helped get her a baby-sitting gig for a family we know. A family we know from Twitter, and that at that point we’d never met. A day before she was supposed to go there for the first time, she direct-messaged us: wait a minute, do we actually know these people? Couldn’t they serial killers, or something? Uh… No, actually, we don’t know them, we replied, somewhat surprised that this could be relevant. She went anyway, and everybody was happy, and are now friends.
This is not just about jobs, although that’s big enough — and under-reported — of itself. Business deals of all kinds happen thanks to Twitter. Earlier this year we started a venture-backed company. We met the venture capitalist who invested through Twitter. Interesting tweets led to emails which led to coffee. Another friend of ours became a co-founder of a great startup after we retweeted one of her tweets.
Just yesterday we introduced two entrepreneurs to each other who could use each other’s help, thanks to Twitter app Hashable. And then we realised — we know both of them through Twitter. One of them we’ve met since, the other one we haven’t.
This is important stuff — important, tangible stuff. The 140 characters format of Twitter, its simplicity, its low barriers to entry and usage reduce tons of friction to doing things and interacting with other human beings. And this, in turn, brings increased efficiency to plenty of things we do. This is the main value of the internet: it doesn’t necessarily create things, but it makes things we already do much more efficient, and in doing so, creates new ways of doing these things.
By the way, this is why we think Twitter’s business future lies more in a sort of people-powered answers service than in advertising. Twitter’s strength is about making people interactions more efficient. It’s also great at marketing, but that’s secondary.
We already knew the internet had made things like commerce and looking for information more efficient. But for making interactions between people more efficient, we have seen very few things as great as Twitter.
And we think too many people lose sight of that.