Twitter isn’t so scary

Twitter bird illustrationTwitter isn’t exactly new. People have been using, abusing and even making a living off of Twitter since it’s inception in 2006. In an instantaneous world, four years might as well be a million. It’s like an art form that I all-of-a-sudden need to know and I’m not even sure why. There are Twitter experts and then…there are people like me.

The first step to using Twitter, I think, is to understand what it is. Twitter is like a Facebook status update. It’s like blogging in 140 characters. It’s like swimming in a pool of millions of people or stepping into a chat room with everyone in the world invited. It is like all those things, but not exactly any one of them. Twitter is Twitter.

So why is it useful?

It’s real time, instant action. You can follow the news not only by following a news station, but you can search for a topic and get real time information. Remember the attempted Iranian Revolution? As a fledgling twitterer, I watched with morbid fascination as people tweeted and re-tweeted which embassies were open, what streets were not safe and quotes of remembrance about why they were doing what they were doing.

People use Twitter like a community. It’s faster than a forum, and doesn’t require everyone to be present at once to hold a conversation like a chat or instant message. It’s a happy in-betweener. Like leaving a note for someone or sending a text message.

Businesses use Twitter to prove that they’re not robots. When you get a response from a large corporation, a non generic direct response, you’ll definitely start to feel important. @jetblue and @homedepot are actually pretty good at this.

So what can you do with it?

Make it easy to succeed. There are programs out there (like HootSuite, TweetDeck, or Twhirl) that make Twitter less overwhelming and more manageable. These applications will even let you load your Facebook on there (and other social sites) for cross posting…if you’re into that kind of thing. You can even use these applications to search twitter so that you can look for conversations that you might be interested in, or you might even find a conversation about you or your business.

Keep it short and sweet. You can post links/photos/videos you found useful or interesting in your community or even in the world. This is best done with the help of a URL shortening service like TinyURL or Bit.ly. It’ll help tidy up your tweets so that you can explain your link. People like to know what they are clicking into before hand, especially if they are at work.

Use your hashtags. As mind-boggling as they are, hashtags help tweeters follow a thread of conversation and discussion trends. It’s similar to tags on a blog. If you use them, it’ll help more people who are interested see what you have to say.

Yeah, I know. I’m late to the party. And I still feel like a fledgling Tweeter, but somehow Twitter is a little bit more understandable. Like any social media, the most important part is making connections. So get out there and make some friends.

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