For those of you still blissfully unaware of the "micro-blogging" site Twitter, think of it as an Internet-age telex service for the personal details of your life - or Facebook's status update without all that other stuff. (For all you need to know about Twitter, read their FAQ. Icon at right by AODDesign)
With a Twitter account, you can send out 140-letter messages that answer the question "What you are doing?" Other Twitter users who have chosen to "follow" you will get your messages on their Twitter page, or on their mobile phone.
Predictably, what started out a couple of years ago as popular site for 14-year-old girls has become a compulsory part of any company's or political party's (or newspaper's!) online marketing campaign.
Here's a sampling of yesterday's "tweets" from Canada's three largest political parties:
pmharper At the Halton campaign rally with our Halton candidate Lisa Raitt.
LiberalTour Stéphane Dion joined by all NS candidates, Bob Rae, and provincial leader, Stephen MacNeil, at lunchtime meeting. 250 Liberals to boot.
The Harper and Layton campaign are so far making the most effective use of Twitter, by including weblinks to coverage of events, campaign videos etc. Barack Obama's campaign does this in nearly every Twitter post, case in point:
There is a viral aspect of Twitter in that when you choose to follow someone on Twitter, they'll likely return the favour. Which leads to rather creepy notification emails like this in your inbox:
Stephen Harper is now following you on Twitter!
For the record: Jack Layton now has 718 Twitter "followers" (up from 439 last week); Stephen Harper has 633 (452 last week) and Stephane Dion 241 (in his first week as a tweeter). Compare that to 79,980 followers for Barack Obama.
AND: If you think that this is all just the meaningless fluff of a silly era, consider this post from the Twitter blog showing the volume peaks in tweets during Sarah Palin's address to the Republican National Convention, and a follow-up post comparing the volume of tweets mentioning the U.S. political candidates by name during their acceptance speeches. These analyses don't reveal how people feel about the candidates, but they sure illustrate what (or who) is drawing attention.