Twitter Pandemic!A question I’m often asked by clients, friends and people just passing by on the street is, ‘so what’s the big deal with Twitter anyway?’

This is of course a great question – that is, how is Twitter different than Facebook or any other social networking platform and why should one dedicate their precious time to learning and engaging with yet another web community?

There are a few reasons why Twitter is a big deal, but from my perspective, the primary one is that,

Twitter spreads ideas like air travel spreads the flu

Simply put, Twitter spreads ideas by liberating them from the ‘Facebook social graph’, enabling them to quickly and effectively leap across networks. This is due to the fact that when you post a message to Twitter, it is sent to the entire 19 Million strong network.

So effectively, the tweets of all 19 million Twitter users are thrown into one big heap and then sorted after the fact by followers, or, by hashtags. For example, this allows one to follow the tweets associated with a specific conference – here’s the tag for one I recently attended using: #ccisumit – or discover people interested in and providing information surrounding social media marketing.

While it’s true that most messages you send will be read by those following you (i.e. they get your message in their ‘inbox’) the fact remains that your ideas are open for anyone to discover through a vast range of third party tools made possible by Twitter’s API (and this is something you should be well aware of when using Twitter – unless you are using a ‘Direct message’ (D), you words can be discovered and read by anyone and everyone).

Once discovered, your message can be remixed through simple copy/paste/edit, and then ‘re-tweeted’ (RT) back out to the entire network, and of course to the network of those following the re-tweeter. To give an example, my modest network of 414 followers gives me a second-order reach (those who follow my followers) of 5,928,649. That’s a heck of a lot of people who will receive my ideas should my followers decide to re-tweet them.

So there it is, Twitter spreads ideas like air travel spreads the flu – which makes it a tool like no other when it comes to discovering ideas, news, information and importantly, the people behind them. The flip side of this of course is that you can leverage this tool to spread your own ideas, and if they are contagious, then you just might infect the world…