Twitter is a great source of information. But there’s also a very high large amount of clutter and noise.
This week’s column is about a tool that can help clear some of that clutter and present the information in a clearer and more digestible interface than a standard Twitter or Tweetdeck-style stream.
Paper.li is a service that takes the content shared via Twitter and presents it in a newspaper-like format. This makes it a useful tool for getting a quick scan of the information being shared on Twitter. I would also like to note that this tool qualifies as one of my "super-early-beta-be-careful" tools.
So yes, use this tool. But don’t base an entire business model on it just yet.
For example, if you’re too busy to really participate with Twitter but know there’s useful information flowing through there somewhere, you could use Paper.li to find useful links.
Getting started with Paper.li
To get started with Paper.li, you sign in via your Twitter or Facebook account. From there you have two options to set up "newspapers."
One way is to enter a Twitter user name and then Paper.li will create a page based on the content shared by that Twitter user and all the people that Twitter user follows.
The other option is to use a hashtag. By using a hashtag, you’ll be making a page that has all of the links shared with that hashtag.
The pages created by Paper.li are superior to just following the stream in a column-view tool like Tweetdeck if you’re looking for more depth from Twitter.
By pulling in the links, along with headlines and opening paragraphs, the Twitter handle of the person who mentioned the article and the source of the article, you can get a solid view of the more long-format thinking and writing necessary for good information gathering.
It also means that you won’t be getting all of those "I just ate a sandwich" kinds of posts either (for better or for worse).
Some sample uses:
Hashtag research: Wondering if a particular hashtag is active and whether people use it to share links? Set up a Paper.li page for that hashtag to find out if there’s much long-format stuff being shared via Twitter.
Location following: If your town has a useful hashtag, use that hashtag to create a page of the links being shared (if your town doesn’t have a general hashtag, start one). An example of what this would look like can be seen here in the Paper.li page for the Burlington, Vt., hashtag.
Listening to people you respect: If there’s someone using Twitter who you think is a genius, make a newspaper based on their feed. This works better if the person isn’t following back thousands of people.
Oddly enough, increased sources of information on Twitter don’t relate directly to increased value of information. For an example of this, here’s Tim O’Reilly plus the 600 or so people he chooses to follow.
And just to keep the number of examples from being too round, here’s a bonus advanced tip.
Follow a specific group of people: Paper.li doesn’t let you create a page based on a list … yet. But you can work around this by making a new Twitter account and following only the people you’d like to put on a Paper.li page.
Then, make a Paper.li page for that new account. This is, admittedly, a bit of a workaround. But if you want a paper made up of a specific group of people, this is the best option.
Here’s an example, made up from a Twitter account that follows the speakers listed for the Real Estate Connect conference as of the time I wrote this column: http://paper.li/REConnectSpeaks.
Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt. He’s a frequent speaker on applying analytics and data to creative marketing endeavors.
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