If you’re like me, you probably hated Twitter when you first tried it. The first tweet I ever received was “It’s 4 a.m.” – confirming this was the stupidest idea ever!

In fact, it took me months to “get” it and unless you’re immersed in this platform, it’s pretty difficult to explain to another person.  If I told you Twitter helped keep you safe, would you believe it? What if I told you it was an agent of peace and global connection? A way to help students?  Solve tech problems? Networking on steroids?

Instead of SAYING these things, I wanted to SHOW you. Here is a snippet of my life over the past few weeks as seen through the lens of Twitter …

Two weeks ago, we had a line of dangerous storm cells and tornadoes marching through our area. As the fierce winds arrived, we lost power and all communication … except for Twitter. I was able to see reports from local friends on the status of flooding and damage in the area. A tweet from my friend Katie Granju suggested an NOAA emergency weather center iPhone app which broadcast radio news during the storm, which I downloaded immediately.

Through Twitter I have connected to hundreds of inspiring people from around the world but none perhaps as loyal and dedicated as a young man named Muhammad Saad Khan, who is using Twitter and the social web to learn about social media from his home in Karachi, Pakistan. This week he tweeted along to a U.S. Youth Forum broadcast from Korea. He could not obtain a copy of my book in Pakistan, so I sent him one. When he received the book, he made this Facebook post (along with six photos of the book):

Twitter was essential to cutting through the chaos at SXSW. This is how I learned of impromptu events, met up with friends, and found the best parties and free food.  One of the best things that happened was meeting up with a long-time Twitter friend Nicole Fletcher of San Diego. We toured the trade show together and we learned from each other as I assessed the marketing potential of each new idea we saw and she evaluated it from a technical perspective.

Among my first Twitter friends were Billy Mitchell of Atlanta and Amy Howell of Memphis, who have become close personal friends in real life. At least once a month it seems we turn up some business opportunity for each other. This week I did a webinar on social influence for Billy and Amy invited me to do a blogging workshop with her clients in Memphis. Without Twitter, how would I have ever met these dear friends and business associates?

I had been struggling with a problem with my blog RSS feed for a week. I asked for help over Twitter and quickly found a resource that had the problem solved in an hour.

I created a national social media conference called Social Slam entirely through Twitter. Every single speaker (including Mitch Joel, Gini Dietrich, Jay Baer and Tom Webster), as well as event volunteers came together from Twitter. We attracted 600 people from as far away as Texas, Colorado and California. How did they hear about the event? Tweets, of course! We spent zero on advertising.

I have been really busy and overlooked the time that my favorite college basketball team was playing in the NCAA tournament. Luckily I saw a tweet about the game to remind me to turn on the TV.

Through Twitter this week, I received several requests from students for interviews that would help them with their end of the semester projects. I was happy to connect and help them.

I met a new Twitter friend a few weeks ago named Tony Dowling. He learned of my Tao of Twitter book, became a convert, and wrote an amazing blog post about his experience. He is gathering a powerful tribe in Wales and I suggested that he create a Welsh social media conference. Well, he’s done it and I will be on my way to Wales in September as their  keynote speaker! I’m also speaking in London in two weeks and will be meeting with dozens of great friends who have connected with me over the years. A Twitter connection asked me to speak to her class at Oxford while I’m there, which will be an awesome experience.

I could go on, but by now I hope you’re starting to see the diversity, usefulness and fun of Twitter.  If you’re just starting out, hang in there. It will work! And if you’ve been around awhile, what is your favorite Twitter connection story?

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