I was discussing Twitter with Susan Cross in a forum thread over on Editor Unleashed. I'm going to expand on that discussion here.
I just tried to explain the value of Twitter to a firm Twitter-skeptic. I failed. For every example I gave of a source of information that might be of value, this person said, "I can get that information on my own, just as well and probably better, when I need it, without having to filter it out of bunch of useless crap."
This person was someone who is trying to start and build a business. I'm kind of kicking myself because I stressed Twitter's power as a means to gather and acquire useful information.
As I thought about it, I realized that more important that that was Twitter's power to provide and disseminate information.
However, as I thought about it some more, what really matters most is Twitter's power to do both through the networks and relationships it initiates and fosters.
If you're trying to build a brand, reach an audience, get hooked into "the scene" (in whatever field), social networking is not something you can simply dismiss as useless ADD-esque garbage.
Make it a one-way street inward and you become a silent lurker, drowning in the info-tsunami.
Make it a one-way street outward and you become a screaming billboard, alienating your audience with the marketroid b.s.
Make it a give and take, provide quality input and learn from the best of what you see, allow the network to develop at a reasonable pace, neither starving it nor force-feeding it, and I think Twitter can be quite useful and rewarding.
My friends and followers on Twitter are a mixed group. Some are personal friends, others are people with shared interests, others are people with whom I either have or would like to have a professional relationship. They're not all customers or clients, but I treat them with that same level respect and consideration. I think before I tweet, try not to overshare, and use correct grammar to the greatest extent that the form allows.
These hold true for anyone, not just for writers.
Don't hide your light under a bushel, but don't be a jerk, either.