First there was email, then instant messaging, followed by blogging. Now there's Twitter -- regularly updated streams of little updates that let people tell the world what they're doing right now.
While Twitter is admittedly an excellent way to learn far more than you probably wanted to know about the lives, tastes, and eating habits of minor celebrities and total strangers alike, it can also be a great way to make you a better, more informed investor.
Organizations are increasingly using Twitter feeds as yet another way to keep their customers and constituents educated, engaged, and up to date. You don't have to sign up for Twitter itself to follow these feeds; anyone can visit their respective pages at Twitter.com.
The Securities and Exchange Commission runs an SEC Investor Info feed with its latest announcements and brief statements from Chairman Christopher Cox. For consumers, the Federal Citizen Information Center in Pueblo, Colo. -- that familiar address from countless TV public-service announcements -- issues recall notices and consumer advice on everything from back-to-school safety to vacation travel.
Want to keep up with the breakneck pace of business news? News organizations use Twitter to send out breaking headlines. Market-minded Fools can find Twitter updates from the business section of New York Times' (NYSE: NYT ) namesake newspaper and News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS ) The Wall Street Journal, among other sources.
Many well-known corporations are using Twitter to get feedback from and share information with their customers. Reading a company's feed won't tell you everything about its operations, but it may give you an idea of its current outlook and plans, not to mention how its customers currently regard it.
For example, Southwest Airlines' (NYSE: LUV ) feed answers customers' questions, provides travel tips, and even throws out the occasional fun fact. Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX ) is keeping jittery java junkies informed about the rollout of its hotly anticipated Clover brewing machines. DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV ) gives viewers suggestions on what to watch. Marvel (NYSE: MVL ) teases readers about upcoming comic-book plot twists. And as I write this, Home Depot's (NYSE: HD ) very orange feed is listing hurricane preparation tips.
Now that you mention it ...
There's one more way that Twitter can help you become a better, smarter investor: Follow The Motley Fool's feed at twitter.com/themotleyfool. Every weekday, we'll be posting fun, Foolish links to some of our liveliest and most intriguing stories.
As William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, "brevity is the soul of wit." At 140 characters per post, the Bard would surely approve.