What is Twitter?

What is Twitter? What is a Tweet? I get asked this all the time as Twitter (like Pinterest) is in a class of its own among social media sites. It’s wildly popular and second only to Facebook in terms of user base. In a nut shell, Twitter is a micro-blogging site – that means that you post tweets (status updates that are less than 140 characters in length) about whatever you want to share.

Overview:

The way you communicate on Twitter is what sets it apart from other social media services. Facebook and LinkedIn require someone to initiate a friend request and the other party to accept it in order to interact (yes, there are ways around that, but it’s not common use). Twitter on the other hand allows you to follow someone so you can see their tweets. You can even reply to them, retweet them (Twitterese for sharing them with your followers) and favorite them (similar to liking an update on Facebook). If the other person decides to follow you back, you can then send each other direct messages – private messages that only you and the other person can see.

Basic Usage:

Twitter is mainly used to share small bits of information such as thoughts, quotes, links and observations. Twitter also added the ability to share photos and videos. There’s a broad spectrum of how people use Twitter that ranges from sharing every detail of their lives (some people announce that they’re going to bed each night) to strictly professional usage (product support, for example).

Some of the more entertaining users are those that use it as a public chat room, where everyone can view their conversations. Some users never post anything, but simply lurk to see what their favorite brands, companies or celebrities have to say or offer. There are even couples that have met on Twitter and people who have become lifelong friends.

Whatever you choose to use it for, it can be a fun and rewarding experience. The internet allows us to connect in ways and to people that were unimaginable just 20 years ago. I’ve posted questions and received answers and advice from people all over the world. That is probably the coolest part about it.

Business Usage:

A number of businesses (from one man shops to global powerhouses) have found it rewarding to use Twitter for business purposes. Some common business uses include:

  • Customer service: Responding to complaints, resolving problems and answering questions.
  • Promotions: Providing new information, special offers & discounts and making announcements.
  • Prospecting: Twitter’s method of connecting allows for nearly limitless leads and prospects.
  • Research: With thousands of tweets happening every second, there’s a lot of data out there to mine.

What are Hash tags?

Hash tags use the pound or number sign (#) to denote a keyword or phrase. Hash tags make it easy to search for particular terms. Twitter aggregates hash tags and will display the ones with the most buzz as “Trending Topics.” A great way to jump into a conversation is to comment on these topics using hash tags. Some examples of popular hash tags are #USElection, #London2012, #NewYears2013 and #SuperBowl.

Is Twitter for me?

Twitter can be useful for anyone, but like anything else, it’s all about what you’re looking to get out of it. If you’re looking for a place to simply post links to your latest blog posts, you might find yourself disappointed in the results. But if you’re trying to engage people with a similar interest, you’ll be more likely to find it rewarding.

Twitter isn’t without its problems. It’s a haven for spammers and people who pretend to be someone they’re not. It can also get frustrating if you don’t have realistic expectations. But if you use it with the attitude that you’re there to make new connections and use it as a two way street, you might realize why so many others are addicted to it.

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