start using twitter

Overview What is it?
It’s an easy-to-use application that provides a unique method of networking, news gathering, and friend updates – all in an environment void of censorship or maybe professional restrictions (although there are some general guidelines to follow). Start by setting up your free account, editing settings, personalizing your page, and then researching the use a bit. TubbyBundle has a blog post that is a good resource for beginners, and hopefully the below info can help as well. As of the end of March 2009 there were over 9 million site visitors, a number more than twice that of Feb 09. It will grow more as an acquisition is close to integrating it with everyday Google products…

Definitions & Meanings What do I need to know?

Tweet – A single post of 140 characters or less using Twitter
Followers – People who follow your updates (depending on your settings, you can be open to the public, or require approval before someone becomes a follower)
Following – People whose updates you follow (depending on their setting, you may need to be approved before you can follow)

Mentions – Formerly known as “@Replies”, you can use the “@” symbol before a username to mention another twitter user in your tweet. Instead of mentioning that person by name, mention them by username using the “@” symbol before their username.
Re-Tweets – You can re-tweet something someone else posted. This is useful to spread a post to your network in cases where it may bring good value (and it properly cites the original user who posted it)
Direct Messages – You can write directly to another user that you follow (so nobody else can see that tweet but that user).
Hashtags – Unique way to follow certain topics. Follow the user “hashtags” and they will immediately request to follow you. Then the system can automatically index tags you apply to your tweets and you can follow other topics of your choosing. 
StrategyWhy am I using it and how will I use it?
Is this for business use or for personal use? Will I post news articles I find interesting? What topics would I consider interesting? Is there a niche to fill in my area of interest? Who do I want to be my audience i.e. who will I seek to follow? (news, NGOs, celebs, friends, strangers, experts, academics, etc). Consistencies are nice, but not absolutely necessary (punctuation, humor, cursing, tone, frequency, etc). In my opinion, the best strategy involves being multi-dimensional with some structure to your posts. Maintaining some level of frequency is important while using similar language/structure also helps portray your personality through each tweet, which is important to your followers. I like to post on math, science, me, hot topics, numbers, technology, blog posts, humor, sports, food, education, history. Wide range of stuff, but all within the realm of who I am. I like to post a few in the morning, few in the afternoon, and maybe in the evening on some sports or food or something of that sorts to bring the day to a close – an interesting way to decompress the day is to summarize in 140 characters – weird, right?
Additionally, link your Twitter account up with other social networking or personal applications such as Facebook, LinkedIn, personal blog, etc. Keep in mind the different audiences and who may have access to what you’re posting. If you’re Tommy Lee on Facebook but Martha Stewart on Twitter, either don’t link them or go see a psychiatrist.

Applications – What’s out there for me to use?
There are plenty of web applications, desktop applications, and phone applications to choose from. Check out the Twitter PBwiki page for a comprehensive listing. Some I’d recommend:

  • Web – Use the Twitter homepage or use Twitpic to post images.
  • Desktop – Spaz is a simple app to start if you don’t follow many people. TweetDeck is nice because you can categorize who you follow. I’d go with TweetDeck.
  • Phone – I use Twitterific on the iPhone. I’d change a lot of things on it but it works for now.

Other Resources

Spend some time on the Twitter PBwiki page listing additional resources. Click around on some as they are quite fun. Some good ways to find similar users in your location, follow topic trends, and find out how valuable your page really is. I won’t go through them all but I’ll list a few:
  • TweetValue – get a monetary value of your twitter page
  • Twitterank – see how your user rank gets better over time
  • TinyURL – shorten URLs to put in your tweets
  • Twitter Search – search the public timeline of tweets
  • TweetWheel – see connections b/n you and your friends
  • Twitter-Stats – see stats about you with a visual or two
  • WeFollow – user-generated Twitter directory
Visualization of those I follow and our shared connectivity (from TweetWheel)…
Lastly, have some fun finding value in Twitter. Go to the pages of your close friends and see who they follow, and follow them. Search on some topics and find people who post regularly on topics of interest. Find the news organizations you watch on TV. Find similar users in your area. Don’t follow everyone, but you’ll have the ability to build a network of direct contacts and a feed of real-time info that should be engaging and interesting to you as a daily web user.