Since Twitter’s inception, it’s been looked down upon as a place for self-centered technophiles to share the mundane details of their lives. We at Lifehacker know better than that, though—here are our favourite ways to turn Twitter into a useful tool, without becoming one yourself.We’ve shared some of our non-breakfast related Twitter uses before, but over the past few years Twitter has evolved, grown more popular, and we’ve just discovered more clever and productive uses for it. Some of these you may recognise, but even the ones we’ve discussed before may have been updated, so be sure to check them all out if you’re looking to upgrade your Twitter usage.
10. Quickly Access Productivity Tools
We’ve mentioned before how easy it is to add tasks to Remember the Milk or send memos to Evernote using Twitter, which makes using our favourite productivity tools super quick and easy—almost like a productivity command line. Since then, we’ve discovered even faster ways to use this to our advantage, like performing those tasks straight from the address bar. Twitter allows you far more than just one more access channel to your favourite productivity webapps. Since Twitter is everywhere these days, it opens up a ton of different options for super-quick access, so you can add a task to your to-do list and get on with your day.[Imgclear]
9. Get Search Results For Timely News
As hard as news sites and blogs try to be up-to-the-second sources for news, the fact of the matter is that Twitter is just the best place to find out what just happened. Whether you want to keep up with this year’s Oscar winners without sitting through the show or find out who got voted off American Idol, all you need to do is hit up search.twitter.com. Within seconds you’ll have all the information you need, even if it isn’t up yet anywhere else on the internet.
8. Find A Job
We already know the internet is a great tool for the unemployed (or just unhappy at their current job), but you can actually find a good number of listings on Twitter. We’ve talked about how to do this with free service TweetMyJobs, which lets you pick the field your interested in and get real-time Twitter updates of job listings you might be interested in. Furthermore, reader AlphaGeek notes that you can just search Twitter for the hashtag #jobs, and perhaps a hashtag for your industry or city. You’d be surprised at what you can find. Again, it certainly won’t be your only resource, but its another good one to add to your arsenal. Photo remixed from an original by Janet McKnight[imgclear]
7. Get Up-To-The-Minute Updates On Your Favourite Software
One of my favourite Twitter uses is following my favourite software developers and finding out immediately when they update. Whether it’s big programs like Firefox and XBMC or smaller ventures like Adium for the Mac, I’ve never gotten a faster notification than on Twitter. Not only will you find out as soon as a new update is ready, but you’ll find out about the cool stuff coming up in future versions, nightly builds, and sometimes even handy tips you didn’t know about.[imgclear]
6. Use It As A Quick-Access Cloud Notebook
If you aren’t using something like Evernote, that doesn’t mean you can’t still use Twitter’s quick-post nature as a notebook—reader Epell says it’s a great place to jot down ideas as soon as you think of them. Just protect your tweets, disallow discovery of your account by email address, and use it as your own personal notebook. If you’re the more introspective type, you can use it as a short-post journal, too—whether public or private.[imgclear]
5. Discover News And Articles You Otherwise Wouldn’t Have
Using Twitter for news is hardly a new idea—following accounts like @cnnbrk are Twitter 101 (plus, if any news starts breaking, the other folks you follow will probably be quick to talk about it). What I find especially cool about Twitter is that I find news and articles I otherwise wouldn’t have discovered. Since you can follow anyone with just a click, you probably end up following more people (and a more diverse group of people) than you would on, say, Google Reader. As they tweet out interesting links (or retweet others you don’t follow), you might find articles or blog posts that weren’t hugely popular, but still useful or interesting. Sure, at a certain point this can get more “noisy” than helpful, but this is why you should routinely unfollow people to keep your feeds clutter-free.[imgclear]
4. Get Alerts And Inspiration On Pretty Much Anything
Aren’t sure what you want to make for dinner tonight? @cookbook can give you a bit of inspiration with her 140-character recipes. There are a ton of Twitter accounts out there that send out useful alerts or inspiration for things in your daily life. Your local businesses might also have some cool accounts, too—a few of the local bars where I’m from will tweet out special drafts that aren’t publicised anywhere else, so only their followers know to come in and ask for it specifically.[imgclear]
3. Control DIY Home Automation Projects
Whether you need to send a quick command or get alerts for something happening at home, Twitter has become a very popular tool for home automation projects. You can do something simple like control your PC from afar with TweetMyPC, or do a more complicated project like tell your coffee pot to start brewing. With the Twitter API and an Arduino, there are pretty much no limits to what you can control.
2. Get Instant Customer Support
Lots of companies have taken to providing support on Twitter, and it’s more than just a way to get in on the fad. Indeed, some people are getting faster responses via Twitter than they are the customer service phone line. With a bit of searching you’ll find a ton of options amongst the companies you use.
1. Get Specific Answers And Advice From A Knowledgeable Pool
Whether you’re looking for the best app for a particular job, the best coffee in town, or just advice on a good new band to listen to, the Twitterverse has opinions and they aren’t afraid to share them. The more followers you have, the more answers you’ll get, obviously—but if you can get a few more popular followers, you can often get your question retweeted and get a lot of good advice back.
These are some of our favourite clever uses we’ve discovered over the years, but there’s bound to be more out there. So if you have a clever way of using Twitter (productive or not), be sure to share it with us in the comments below.