Image from Pixar's For the Birds

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you’ve given Twitter a whirl. Perhaps you’re a hardcore Tweetaholic, smartphone app never far from reach. Or maybe you’re just a casual Tweeter. But let me ask you this – why are you tweeting?

Stupid question, I know. You tweet to socialize! To communicate with others! And yes, that’s quite right. But let’s dig down a little deeper. What, specifically, are you getting up to while you’re on Twitter? I imagine a many of you take what we might call the “standard” route – you’re tweeting with friends while following a wide variety of accounts that reflect your interests – be it news, sports, celebrities, your profession, or any other of a thousand interests. You have one account and use it to do everything you want to do on Twitter.

But might I suggest that I see a trend developing, in which people will dedicate a specific account to one purpose or one niche. And when I say “I see a trend” I mean this is what I do (but I see lots of other people do it too!). Let me introduce you to the fabulous world of Niche Tweeting.

We tend to think of Twitter on the same lines as Facebook, and that leads to the idea of a profile that represents one’s identity. I am David East, and this is my Facebook profile. This is as it was intended by design, and reflects Facebook’s foundation as essentially a digital yearbook.

On Twitter, identity is a less transparent thing. Twitter is the spawn of web forums. Twitter, like web forums, asks you for a handle and an avatar. This simple distinction, that small gap between the account and the person behind the account, encourages niches in a way that Facebook doesn’t.

Meet @ZephyrHTTR. This is one of my Twitter accounts. Take a cursory glance at my feed and one thing will become readily apparent – I am a Washington Redskins fan. This is my Redskins Twitter account; (virtually) everything I do on it relates to the Redskins/NFL/football. It’s where I come to talk rumors, complain, find news, cheer/comment during games, hate on the Dallas Cowboys, and commiserate with other Redskins fans.

There are distinct advantages to secluding all my Redskins activity to one Twitter account. My account name  (HTTR stands for Hail To The Redskins) and pictures let me distinguish my account as Redskins-specific, and it is easier for others to identify my account as such. Perhaps most importantly, every account ZephyrHTTR follows is related to Redskins or football. When I look at my feed on this account, all I see is Redskins and football tweets. This makes it so much easier to keep up with everything versus having to try and pick out the Redskins news among the hundreds of non-football accounts I follow on my other Twitter accounts.

Twitter has become so big, so varied, and so fast that I find this makes keeping up with topics I care about much easier. Furthermore, it lets me connect with a niche community (in this case the Redskins Nation) in a way that I think would be more difficult if I were trying to keep up with everyone on one profile. Yet some use Twitter’s List functionality to achieve the same thing on one account. It’s all a matter of personal preference – do you think of your Twitter account to be a Facebook-like profile that reflects all your interests, or an account dedicated to a particular niche? The best thing about Twitter is truly that it gives you such freedom to define yourself.