Twitter For The Rest Of Us

Posted by in Technology

twitter2I’ve had many friends and colleagues join Twitter only to throw up their hands in frustration. It’s understandable; Twitter can seem pointless to the uninitiated. What?s more, trying to explain Twitter to someone who has never experienced it can be equally frustrating. The point of this post is to give some pointers on getting started and getting the most out of Twitter.

Twitter is a blog:

The first thing you need to know is that Twitter is not Facebook. While technically a social network, Twitter is stripped down to its most basic form. Twitter is a blog in miniature. If you?ve ever wanted your own blog but don?t have the time to craft full-length posts then Twitter is for you. Twitter can be updated from multiple sources, including your phone, simply by texting your updates to 40404, this makes it perfect for people on the go (learn how to set up your Twitter account for texting here). Unlike Facebook or MySpace you don?t need access to the web to update your status. The posts must be kept under 140 characters. This was initially due to the limitations of SMS text messaging, but the happy side effect is that posts are concise and to the point.

Twitter is social:

Once you?ve set up your account you can follow whoever you want. Unlike other social networks, Twitter pages are generally public property. If you want to follow Shaquille O?Neal (@THE_REAL_SHAQ) then you can; you don?t have to wait for him to approve your friend request. Also, you can message him by using the @ symbol in front of his user name. Shaq is a great example of the community nature of Twitter. During the NBA season he will often tweet his location and give free game tickets to the first Twitter user that finds him.

Twitter is real time:

You can follow news organizations on Twitter; @cnnbreak posts breaking news from CNN so you can stay up to date on what?s going on in the world. If the story interests you then click the link and read more. Also, you can follow what people are talking about by viewing the trends located in the right hand column of your Twitter page. Often real people will tweet about news before it?s even picked up by one of the big news services. A great example of this was when the U.S. Airways flight crashed into the Hudson. The first news came from actual people on the plane and in the rescue boats posting updates as the event unfolded.

Twitter is mass information:

I admit, when I first joined Twitter I was overwhelmed.? I immediately started following a dozen or so people and couldn?t keep up with the shear volume of information. Without some kind of aggregation tool Twitter is almost impossible to navigate. Trying to keep up with all the posts you receive is kind of like trying to drink out of a fire hose. This is where a good desktop application can make all the difference. Right now I?m using a client called Nambu, a Mac application, but I also like TweetDeck which is available for all operating systems. What?s great about both of these applications is that they allow you to place your contacts into groups. For example I have a group for friends, one for news, one for tech, etc. In the end, I can?t over-emphasize the value of a good desktop application. I doubt anyone can get the most out of Twitter without something to filter out all the noise.


That?s it?that?s all there is to it. Well, that?s not true. I?ve really only scratched the surface when it comes to how Twitter can be used. But hopefully I?ve given you a good head start on understanding what Twitter is and some of the basic ground rules for how best to utilize it. When it comes right down to it, the success of any social networking platform is dependent on it’s users. If you don?t know anyone on Twitter it?s going to be hard to find it helpful, even with all these tips.? Tell your friends to sign up and start using it. If you do,? you will start to see all of the advantages beyond simple social networking. Let?s get started. So?What are you doing?