What the *&%^$ is Twitter and Why Go There?

tweeting and advising through internet connections

It's the NASA tweetup, do you know where your laptop is?

“Refudiate” is not a real word.  But Sarah Palin erroneously thought it was and used that word in a Twitter message (a “tweet”) back in July.  And now, it is the Word of the Year by the Oxford American Dictionary.

You don’t have to like Sarah Palin. You don’t have to like Twitter.  You do, however, need to know about both of them.

With an estimated 60 million users in the U.S. and more than 175 million participants overseas, Twitter has become way too relevant to our world and its digital culture to ignore. More than 100 million messages travel through the Twitter megaphone, each day. You are caught in a soundproof cubicle if you cannot appreciate how Twitter is changing the way we communicate.

You may be skeptical about Twitter, but get your head around this: the most typical Twitter user in this country is a single woman in the suburbs, between the ages of 25 and 34, who owns their own primary place of residence, with some college experience and average income, who has some serious dishing to do. These stats from Ad-ology Research should force you to rethink that “write-off” if you are focused on customers, influencers and connections.

And you should be, because the executive whom you wish to meet, is focused on them.

The length, my dear Watson, is 140 characters

The key thing that makes Twitter different from a late-breaking news headline is that it can only be 140 characters. The author must think hard how to be cute, clever and get their point across, well, in very few keystrokes. So Twitter is filled with (1) short, pointed questions that prompt quick answers when some poor soul is deer-in-the-headlights; (2) big time announcements by celebrities (like the birth of Alicia Keyes’ first child, by her significant other); and (3) lots and lots of arrows which say click here to see this list or that ad or our latest new star trek communicator.

One additional thing that makes Twitter so precious to some of us: it is pushed out in your face like a special delivery court summons, instead of being dropped into your mailbox.

Check Twitter before a meeting, and many other cases for its use

As a microblogging platform that can connect to your mobile, Twitter is uber-useful. Before setting out the door, you can consult your smart phone two minutes before signing a visitor log, upon entering a secure Manhattan office building. If you were to see the tweet of So-and-So from seven minutes ago, you get extra brownie points.

Another use: from time-to-time check some recent tweets of someone big in your industry. See what topics gets the most attention. Don’t be a luddite.

The bottom line is that for certain people – and this is most of us – if you are in business, sales, marketing, anything IT related or really anything that travels past the nineteenth century, Twitter will tell you:

  • who has the mojo to be tweeting
  • what exactly they think is timely and has impact
  • with one quick glance, what everyone in the aggregate is talking about
  • how others are finding local customers
  • who is attending certain events
  • how insight leads to innovation, which becomes new ways of doing business

This last point is so crucial that it needs elaboration. Twitter has been around since 2006. It’s growing popularity is mind boggling. Don’t you want to know how this platform has been a catalyst for change over the last five years, so you can better envision what may be next?

And these days, even my local falafel-seller is on Twitter. Why aren’t you?

Although most tweets are inconsequential, don’t shortchange yourself

I have read that almost 71% of tweets are ignored, and 96% never get re-tweeted, which is like saying they are not passed along to the next group. So it is true that only a minuscule number of comments produce some reaction from the world. But if you are going to present yourself as a subject authority, you need to know what the real influencers of your industry are saying whether or not you send your opinion out across cyberspace.

Explaining ‘followers’

A twitter bird that wants you to follow me

I am asking ya, please follow me!

To follow someone means to raise your hand to get their tweets, i.e. to subscribe to their 140-character snippets of news. Likewise, your followers are your devotees who say, in effect, “send me your news.”

Earn your Twitter badge, step-by-step

1. Go to Twitter.com
2. Click on the Sign Up>  button, fill in your name
3. Add the other required fields. For Username, pick a handle that wouldn’t embarrass you if a drinks-companion said it out loud at a schmooze fest, because it will be public.
4. When the site opens, pull down the menu below your handle name – that little triangle tells you something is tucked underneath – then your screen will look like like this:

screen shot of a computer screen with Twitter

Screen shot of a new account.

5. Using ‘Settings’ on the pull-down menu, customize all you want. Put your logo or picture up there and describe yourself in the profile. (Get rid of that tacky white egg, the default image, that everyone gets!) Add your location, if the feeling grabs you. Choose the mobile section to connect your phone to Twitter
6. Confirm your account at this point, by clicking on the link in the email that they send (you can do this in another window)
7. The Twitter Flip Book below goes over how to search for a few companies, publishers, or people whom you admire, and follow them. Control the flip book using the arrows at the bottom. The text below repeats the steps in the pictures, but YOU follow who YOU want.

Twitter Flip BookSlide 1. From the pull down menu, hit the selection ‘Who to follow’. Slide 2. This lets you toggle between View Suggestions, Browse Interests and Find Friends. In this flip book, we browse interests, and in Slides 3 and 4, see how you can click through selections.  Slide 5. Hover over the button with the green wheel, a follow button, and see what pops up. Slide 6. Symbol turns into a check mark on a green background meaning, “you did it!” Then the person or company you chose to follow appears upper right hand side. Nice and easy, collect a set of them!

Lastly, when you are ready, take a tour of the next post about Twitter, the cliff notes version of a how to guide.

Mojo Moves

  • On your honor, open that Twitter account, adding your photo or illustration and whatever settings appeal
  • Search for a few companies, publishers, or people whom you admire, and follow them
  • Spend at least 10 minutes looking at their past tweets, to get a feel for the action

Photo courtesy Creative Commons, NASA/Carla Cioffi

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  • Stephen Barry

    Thanks for a concise and painless introduction to Twitter.

  • http://funtomaster.com Thandie Newton

    Hello. impressive job. I did not anticipate this. This is a impressive story. Thanks!

  • Kathleen Moss

    This gives me the courage I need to finally crawl out of my twitter-less existence! Thanks for your clear and thorough explanation

    • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      Glad to be of help…. hope your Twitterstream is bringing in those good vibes!

  • Deb Smolover

    Great introduction for the twitter-illiterate. Truly appreciate the tutorial!

    • Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

      Glad to oblige!

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