A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words… A Video is Worth 140 Characters

Twitter’s tweets have revolutionized the way I communicate through social media. One hundred and forty characters is just long enough to get the point across and have my followers read the whole thing. The concept is brilliant, but I’ve always wished Twitter could be more visual—pictures, videos, anything to liven it up.

San Francisco-based startup Tout was apparently having the same thought. This year, Tout debuted a short-form video blogging service, combining the convenience of tweeting with the fun of sharing videos. Users can post video status updates called “touts” limited to 15 seconds. The site operates a lot like Twitter. Users can follow each other, topics are grouped using hashtags, other users can be tagged and touts can be “re-touted.” Since it’s designed to be used with Facebook and Twitter, users can share touts instantly with friends and followers.

Watching a tout is like reading a tweet with full color, sound and action to back it up. Whether I’m spending free time at the beach or working a company event, I now have a way to let my friends and followers know exactly what I’m experiencing as it’s happening. This could be the next big thing for performers, special events companies or anyone else who could benefit from being seen and heard.

The movie “We Bought a Zoo” is making great use of the service, using it to post clips of moviegoers’ comments after seeing the film. Any company, brand or mission could use the service the same way to generate buzz. The Weather Channel has been touting coverage of tree damage after a storm in Pasadena, CA. Tout could have a hugely beneficial impact on disaster relief if used the same way in the wake of a hurricane or earthquake. Tout can also be used purely for entertainment. Shaq recently touted himself singing “I Believe I Can Fly” aboard a flight.

While the concept behind Tout is big, the community of users is still small. Many big names, such as Lady Gaga and the Boston Celtics, are not active users. A lot of people are using it in a more personal way. Aside from Shaq, The Weather Channel and the people behind “We Bought a Zoo,” some of the touts I’ve watched are people telling the camera that they just cooked dinner or that they’re about to watch the football game. One woman touted her dog in a Santa costume.

But whether I want to increase business or just share a memory with friends and family, I can get people closer to the real thing than I ever could with 140 characters. In the “About” section of their website, Tout asks, “What’s happening in your life?” Their answer: “Don’t type it- Tout it!”

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