I’m currently following 341 folks on Twitter. I contacted Twitter and asked them to enable ‘auto-follow’. That means that if you follow me, I automatically follow you. It’s not a documented feature nor is it in the user interface… but someone told me about it, so I requested it and Twitter graciously enabled it.
As new communication tools and technologies appear through the web there’s often a transformation in their use that, perhaps, wasn’t anticipated by its creators. Only today did I realize how much I utilize Twitter as a Search Engine, and how I’m used as a Search Engine by others. It seems to me that Twitter could eventually take quite a chunk out of some other technologies – perhaps the regional example is ChaCha, the brain-powered search engine.
ChaCha hasn’t always received the nicest press – and I have honestly never understood what the business case was for it. Humans backing search seems very inefficient. And perhaps it is… if you’re a company and not a community.
That said, the advantage of Twitter as a search engine is remarkable. I have surrounded myself with business experts, friends and colleagues that I enjoy sharing with and learning from. I respect them independently, they aren’t a stranger on the other end of the web. And as the number of people I’ve started following has become larger – so has the quality and quantity of the responses I’ve received when I post a question.
When I asked about an online photo editor, two folks immediately responded with Aviary. When I asked for a Slideshare alternative (they have been down a lot lately), I received no less than a dozen responses. AND, I was able to reply and ‘fine-tune’ my question to really find the right solution. With Twitter, I can refine my search, get opinions, and recommendations as quickly as I can click on a few results in Google.
If you’re concerned about following too many on Twitter, perhaps you can think of it with a different perspective. Twitter is my new Search Engine.