I've never been a Twitter fan. I haven't blogged about it or even mentioned it much because quite honestly, I found it to be an incredibly silly concept. (As if blogging hasn't allowed us to share far more about ourselves than anyone ever cared to know already.) I knew there was probably some really great use for Twitter, but I'd yet to see an example of it. Until today.

I was talking to my mother this morning and found out my brother and his wife are in the process of driving from their home outside of San Diego to Rhode Island. My brother is in the Navy and is in the process of transferring assignments. His wife is going with him to help him get settled in and then plans to fly back to San Diego to stay until she gets their house sold.

Unfortunately, the current wave of California wildfires is rapidly burning it's way toward their home. In fact, they learned just this morning that their neighborhood had been evacuated last night and the fire was about four miles away. Since they are in their car somewhere in Oklahoma, news of the wildfire isn't exactly easy to come by. They've been calling my mom about once an hour for updates and she's done her best to keep track of things.

One of the local television stations has been using a Google Maps Mash-up to show the progression of the fire. Last time we looked, the fire was now about two miles from their neighborhood.

That's when I noticed the information alongside the map. (Check out the screen shot)

Over there on the left there's a little notation saying the TV station is offering Twitter updates. (I've outlined it in red.)

I hopped on over to check out the Twitter coverage of the fires and it's pretty darn useful. There are notes on which neighborhoods are now being evacuated, notes about how many homes have been destroyed in certain areas, information on where the evacuation centers are and quite a bit more. For my brother and his wife, subscribing to this Twitter feed will give them quick and easy access to instant updates as they make their drive across the country.

Now THAT is good use of Twitter.

I couldn't care less what someone ate for breakfast this morning or what they think of the guy who just cut in front of them at the BMV...but use a feature like Twitter to give people the critical updates they need when they can't get to anything but their phone and you've got my interest.

October 23, 2007

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


We recently had a mail server crash which of course not only affected our mail but many clients that we host. One client in particular who has dozens and dozens of employees in various locations, uses a lot of group email to communicate things.

I was thinking that Twitter would provide a good back up if email fails, providing the stuff that is being shared is meant for a group of people and is not private.

That being said, you got to love Danny's updates (http://twitter.com/dannysullivan) while he is at Disneyland. ;-)

Interesting use of Twitter, for sure!

Jen, what happened with your brother's house?

The fire that was burning its way toward them changed direction and headed west into the hills about 1.5 miles south of his street. Looks like some homes in surrounding neighborhoods were lost, but their street is ok save for some ash damage.

Thanks for asking Jill!

Hi Jennifer, I've run by you before but ran into you again just now by way of Sage Lewis.

I want to let you know that there's FAR more insightful ways of using Twitter than most people can even comprehend right now. Part of my specialty, well, it's more like a passion, is for finding unobvious ways of using things... apart from their intended purposes.

In fact, I specifically created the first "controversy blog meme" around that theme because it's really a lot of fun.

But anyways, here's 2 articles I just published giving a brief look into how Twitter can, and will be, used for some unorthodox, yet very revealing, data mining:

Further Exploitation via Data Mining on Twitter
A Quick Jaunt Into Data
Mining on Twitter

Hope you enjoy, let me know if you have any questions,


Hi Sam thanks for the heads up about twitter, I really enjoyed reading the article, I never thought that twitter has that much use..

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