By now thousands of articles and blog posts have analyzed the reasons for the appeal of Twitter. They have sliced and diced it neatly into its various components – simplicity, brevity, openness, immediacy, transparency etc. But if you have ever tried to explain Twitter this way to someone who has never used Twitter, you most likely got blank stares.
In fact recently I tried to explain what Twitter is to a friend’s mother – who is in her eighties and is not computer literate. So I tried to come up with an analogy that could convey the essence of Twitter to her without using any technical jargon. And this is what I came up with :
“Twitter is like a giant cocktail party where everyone is talking (tweeeting) or listening. You can wander around and mingle with anyone and overhear all the conversations in the room as a steady stream of chatter. You can also pick anyone you find interesting and hear everything they say (or follow them). You can talk to any of them and you can grab anyone else’s attention by just tapping them on the shoulder with a gentle t@p – that is a tap with an @ (or a mention) ! And if you hear something interesting you can just turn around and RepeaT it to everyone who is listening to you – which would be a RT or a retweet. And if someone finds what you say interesting they can do the same. And of course, almost everybody who is anybody is there at this party – from Ashton Kutcher to Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh – leaders, politicians, CEOs, movie stars, journalists, atheletes, colleagues, maybe even your neighbor (and sometimes even their cat) – and you can talk to any and all of them. Plus it is a fun way to meet new people. Which is why it is one of those parties no one wants to miss, and once you are there no one wants to leave.”
So how would you explain Twitter to your grandmother ?