Microblogging beyond Twitter

Whenever microblogging is mentioned, thoughts inevitably turn to Twitter. But while Twitter may have a monopoly on public attention, it is by no means the only microblogging platform out there. Following are some less popularized but useful options, as well as reasons you should consider adding them to your online presence.

My introduction to tweeting beyond the twittersphere was Identi.ca, an open-source microblogging platform that performs functions similar to Twitter, but makes it easier to find and follow conversations by letting you view things from another user’s perspective, including all replies that have been made to that user. Identi.ca also lets you use tag clouds, visual collections of keywords that allow users to easily pick out key pieces of information. The site is popular among a “geekier” fanbase than Twitter, appealing to those interested in open-source technology. Last, but not least, Identi.ca can be an important tool for free speech. Lawyer and human rights advocate Renata Avila recently tweeted about using Identi.ca to post to Twitter, as a way to get around countries that have banned Twitter. This might not be a big deal to American college students, but it could be a huge benefit to anyone interested in traveling or working in the Middle East.


The unknown is beyond Twitterville. Graphic by Steve Furtado.

Tumblr is a microblogging platform that has somewhat recently been accepted into the social media mainstream. While sites like Twitter and Identi.ca are largely text-based (though they do have multimedia capabilities), Tumblr users thrive on visual content – primarily, pictures and GIFs. This means Tumblr is a great medium through which to spread memes, artwork and fashion-related items. It’s also different from other microblogging platforms in that posts are not limited to 140 characters, putting Tumblr somewhere between microblogging and regular blogging.

Yammer is a microblogging platform designed for businesses. While the previously-mentioned sites are concerned with giving individuals the opportunity to connect and express themselves, Yammer is designed to facilitate work projects and help information flow through the workplace more quickly and efficiently.

All of these services provide a chance for different types of expression than users will typically experience when using Twitter. Even Twitter, as ubiquitous as it’s becoming, is not often used to its full potential. Many students see tweeting as one more way to connect with friends, rather than as a tool to generate valuable content and a source of information that can have a powerful effect on their professional and civic lives.

With that in mind, it’s easy to wonder why one should invest time in even more obscure options, and its certainly true these sites aren’t for everyone. If all one desires from social media is to relax and keep up with friends, sites like Identi.ca and Yammer will fall by the wayside unused (Tumblr may be still be of use in finding cool artwork and cute kitty pictures). But for those prepared to leverage the networking and professional powers hidden under the deceptively lightweight term “tweeting,” these sites can be valuable new tools that provide a unique kind of interaction and expression.