What Is Twitter?
Twitter is a service that's similar to blogging, only your posts are limited to 140 characters. These short posts, called "tweets," are broadcast to everyone that has added you to their friends list. While this 140-character format may sound prohibitive, it has given rise to an all-new type of social networking called "microblogging." In essence, since you're forced to say what you need to say in very little space, people get right to the point and don't mince words. Many readers like this format, and it's grown into a huge platform over the past year.
Twitter itself consists of a large network of people who subscribe to the service, often affectionately referred to as "The Twitterverse." Once you've joined, you can add other people to your "friends list." After you've added someone, you can read their tweets.
There are several ways you can interact with Twitter, the most popular being:
- Through the Twitter website
- Through a Twitter client (see below)
- By linking Twitter to your cellular phone
A note on using your cell phone to access Twitter: you will get a text message every time someone on your friends list makes a tweet. As you can imagine, those texts add up quickly. Be sure that you're on an unlimited text plan with your cellular provider, otherwise you may end up with a very expensive phone bill!
Twitter allows you to set up either a public or private account. With a public account, anyone can see your posts at any time. With a private account, only people you specifically allow can see your tweets. Twitter support has a tutorial on setting up the two different types of accounts. You can change your account from public to private, or vice-versa, at any time.
How Do I Navigate Twitter?
Twitter Support has created a great list of tutorials to help you get around the service. Here are some that are useful to beginners:
- How to find people on Twitter
- What exactly is "following?"
- Making a post, or a "tweet"
- How to remove friends or block unwanted followers
- Replying to people through @replies
- Sending private, direct messages
What Exactly Is the Point?
So you've tried Twitter, and you're wondering if it's just a silly timewaster. While that was probably true a year ago, these days Twitter has become a major marketing tool as well as a powerful way to disseminate information.
Twitter as a Marketing Tool
If you are responsible for a business, Twitter can be invaluable in your marketing efforts. Many companies are creating accounts so that their customers can easily keep in touch, and get news updates as soon as they are made available. Twitter is a great platform for those trying to establish themselves as a personality, too - many people keep Twitter accounts in order to connect with their fans or build themselves up as an expert in their field.Here are a few businesses and professional folk with a Twitter presence:
- The LA Times
- Little, Brown, and Co. Publishers
- Whole Foods Market
- Bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch
- The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan
- Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong
- Ex-Vice President Al Gore
- The band Coldplay
- And yes, even Darth Vader
Twitter and Current Events
There are countless applications available on the internet that can help you manage the chatter of your Twitter friends list. Here are a few of the most useful tools:
- Twitter clients allow you to check Twitter on your computer without having to go to the Twitter website.
- Twhirl is a great multi-featured client that will run on either Windows or Mac, as long as you have Adobe Air running.
- TweetDeck is another Air application that will run on Windows and Mac.
- TwitterApp is a FireFox plugin that will allow you to monitor Twitter from a tiny window in your web browser. It works on both Windows and Mac.
- Twitterific has both a Mac OS X client as well as a free iPhone app that lets you stay up to date on your Twitter friends list.
- Tweetie is a fully-featured Twitter app only for the iPhone.
- Third-party Twitter tools can automate all sorts of processes for you, including keeping track of who's talking about you and automatically posting tweets.
- Here is a long list of more Twitter apps to play with!
Love to Know Is on Twitter!
Did you know that you can follow Love to Know and YourDictionary on Twitter? Just follow these links:
More About Twitter
If you're still curious about this crazy Twitter thing, here are a few sites that will help you explore the service further.
- Mashable has posted a list of twenty tools that will help you automate Twitter through FireFox.
- Michelle Rafter says that there is no such thing as a dumb Twitter question.
- CopyBlogger Michael Stelzner talks about how you can use Twitter to grow your business.
- As always, there are rules of propriety that should be considered. Here are two great posts on Twitter etiquette: