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4 things Twitter is really useful for

Some folks might still believe that Twitter is vapid, narcissistic, and just generally not worth bothering with. However, the social network’s casual and instant nature can lend itself to a number of good uses – which is exactly what we’re covering here. Twitter can be an indispensable tool, and here are four ways in which that can be so.

Follow the news

In general, the web at large is still the best, and of course most complete, place to get your news. However, Twitter can be very useful for keeping track of niche news coverage that’s really important to you – and staying informed on a news-heavy day, or getting live updates on breaking news. Of course, you should take the latter with a pinch of salt, unless you’re reading tweets from trusted sources. So follow your favourite news sites on Twitter – speaking of which, you can check out ITProPortal’s tweets right here.

Ask for help

As with blogs and forums, Twitter is a great place to ask questions you're too lazy to find the answers for yourself. And the service is absolutely perfect for asking favours ("Can anyone help me move on Friday?"), gathering opinions ("Do organic bananas taste better?"), or getting advice ("How much RAM should I get for my new MacBook?").

Twitter takes a problem you can solve by spending 5 minutes at a computer and makes it solvable in 10 seconds from the produce aisle in the supermarket. The flipside is that Twitter communication is meant to be two-way. Build your network of followers and your Twitter karma by jumping in with answers and help of your own.

Promote your business

The immediacy of Twitter makes it a good option when it comes to promoting your company or work. If you don't abuse it, you can use an occasional link to promote a product, or an app you've built, an article you've written, or a longer plea for someone to please, please help you move on Friday. Just keep it to a few links a week – any more and you run the risk of alienating followers who already know about your work or couldn't care less. For more on tweeting to up the profile of your company, see our guide to using Twitter effectively to promote your business.

Keep up with friends

Okay, this is a basic one, but it’s my favourite use of Twitter. One message at a time, knowing who has a cold or who got in a fender bender is dull. But in aggregate, skimming your Twitter feed gives you a sixth sense about what your social circle is up to, what moods they're in, whether they're free for a drink that night and whether you'd better offer to pay.

If you haven't yet joined the tweeting masses, it's well worth doing so!

For a comprehensive list of links to all our Twitter guides check out our guide on how to use Twitter effectively.