I have a lot of friends and colleagues who are rightly skeptical of the value that Twitter brings to the world, but who are also aware that there are things "happening" there that might be of interest. Often the perception is that they either have to break down and sign up for a Twitter account to use it full force, or that they have to miss out on those happenings altogether. Here I offer those folks (and perhaps you) a list of five ways you can use Twitter without actually being a Twitter user:
- Visit public Twitter feeds in a web browser. This may seem fairly obvious, but you can view anything that anyone posts to Twitter just by visiting their Twitter profile page (as long as they haven't marked their updates as "private"). So, to view all of my Tweets, just visit http://twitter.com/ChrisHardie - no account required.
- Subscribe to Twitter feed updates via RSS. Even if you don't have a Twitter account, you can subscribe to receive new status updates from any Twitter user (again, assuming their updates are public) via RSS. By putting the feed in a feed reader like Google Reader, you can be aware of new status updates without even visiting the site in a web browser. So, on my twitter.com/ChrisHardie page, just look for the link that says "RSS Feed of ChrisHardie's tweets"
- Use Twitter's real-time search. You can visit http://search.twitter.com/ and enter a few keywords to see recent Tweets that relate to those words. This can be useful to find mentions of you, your product/service/company, or just news and events in the world. It's also a fun way to see what conversations are happening right now. (If you like that, you might enjoy TweetGrid or Twistori.) You might also consider using the Greasemonkey plug-in that will show you relevant tweets as a part of a Google search on any topic.
- Find people in your community using Twitter. Using Google, you can look for people in your geographical area who are using Twitter, and see if there are any individuals or organizations you want to follow. For example, I can use the search terms 'site:twitter.com location ("richmond, indiana" OR "richmond, in")' to find Twitter users in Richmond, IN (as long as they've identified themselves as such in their Twitter profiles). Services like NearbyTweets.com make this search even more fun and interesting, and if you want to expand beyond your local area, TwitterVision shows a neat visualization of Tweets coming in from all over the world.
- Monitor Twitter for mentions of topics of interest. If you'd like to be notified when someone on Twitter mentions you or your organization, you can set up a Google Alert. For example, I can decide to be e-mailed by Google Alerts every time they index a tweet mentioning Richmond, using this search: 'site:twitter.com Richmond, IN'. Services like TweetBeep.com also provide this kind of feature with additional options.
I hope that's helpful. If you have other ways to use Twitter without being a Twitter user, please post them in the comments. You can also follow along with my Twitter-related bookmarks on Delicious.com.