By Rachel Claxton

Alice bucket list, these were the three words that overtook Twitter this week. This means nothing to the average person, but as an avid Twitter user, these words mean everything. It is in these three words that the power of social networking is at its most evident.

As the debate continues as to whether social networking sites have changed peoples lives for better or worse, Twitter emerges as a very positive communication tool worldwide.

Alice’s story

Alice Pyne and her pet Labrador

Alice is a 15-year-old girl living with terminal cancer. Learning that she unfortunately isn’t going to win this ongoing battle, she set up a Twitter account to help her achieve one of the things on her bucket list – to become a trending topic on the site.

Within hours people had rallied together to try and make this possible. Celebrities put the call out for all of their followers to retweet #alicebucketlist, allowing it to become a worldwide trending topic.

Learn more about trending topics.

As well as becoming a trending topic on Twitter, Alice’s message inspired many to donate money to her sister who is running in a charitable marathon.

Within two days, they had raised more than $15,000 for cancer research.

Alice took to her Twitter account after this achievement and announced that the overwhelming amount of support had brought her to tears.

Cases like this are why Twitter is proving to be one of the most influential social networking sites established.

With a lot of negative opinions on sites such as these, it is a welcomed change that serious issues gain deserved attention and publicity.

The power of Twitter

There are many reasons why Twitter stands out amongst its competitors. Their system of validating celebrities and public figures allows a sense of security in the information and messages that you are reading.

Barack Obama, Julia Gillard, Oprah Winfrey and most mainstream celebrities now host a Twitter account as a current way to interact with the public.

A screenshot of a personal tweet by Barack Obama

Many use it as a way to gain attention towards charitable projects, or serious world issues that they feel warrant special mentions.

Twitter was recently used in a charitable auction where followers could bid on a participating celebrity of their choice. They won a follow, mention or in some cases a Skype chat with that celebrity. The auction was titled Twitchange and raised money for young girls in third world countries who are unable to attend school.

More than 50 celebrities took place in this auction and over $20,000 was raised for this charitable organisation.

Twitchange Care

Election campaigns, online competitions, events, casting calls and even television show renewals are all sifted through twitter to test the publics reaction.

Social Networking

Statistics now show that social networking sites have taken over a large portion of peoples lives.

The ability to share information about your location, thoughts and up-to-date experiences have emerged as a normal daily activity.

Alarming rate of Social Network use

The introduction of these sites began with MySpace, a free, online community composed of personal profiles aimed mostly at a younger membership.

Facebook was the next, to this day still the most successful, social networking site to launch. It currently has more than 600 million active users.

University student Bianca Carlsson passionately describes her love of Facebook.

“I don’t know how I would live without my Facebook account, I check it daily and it’s the easiest way to keep up-to-date with everything happening with my friends,” she says.

The latest craze to hit the social networking world is Twitter. Although it launched in 2006, it was much slower to gain popularity then its competitors.

Twitter is different to other sites in its category as it takes a very different approach to what its users can do.

Unlike its competitors MySpace and Facebook, it uses the approach of Micro-blogging. A post is limited to 140 characters forcing only the necessary information to be made available.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding sites such as these due to their popularity. Their endless abilities are providing the perfect recipe for cybercriminals looking to attack businesses, customers, private users and their sensitive information.

The truth about Facebook.

Telstra businessman Oliver Flockton says the emergence of cybercriminals is a serious threat to people’s privacy.

“It is something that we are unfortunately seeing on a worrying level. Hackers and cybercriminals are becoming very familiar with all social networking sites and formats and are one step ahead of the game,” he said.

When asked about Twitter, Mr Flockton said he, nor his colleagues, see a current issue with the site and its users’ safety.

“Twitter is one that we don’t see an issue with, it has serious limitations in place to protect its users and does not give out anywhere near as much personal information as its social networking competitors”, he said.

The organisation and purposes of Twitter make it less of a threat to cybercriminals as there is a lot less private information on display.

Local business owner Dan Fox says Twitter is a driving force for his finance company.

“We work hard to gain many loyal followers that continue to keep our business thriving and successful,” he says.

“Twitter is a great way to reach a certain demographic without being too in your face.”

As users become more experienced, discerning and understanding of the benefits that can be derived from twitter, it will undoubtably continue to become a very successful and influential global communication tool.

Learn more about Alice’s story.