What is Twitter?

Twitter is being being used mostly by early adopters right now but this idea’s time has come. I realized how powerful it was at SXSW, where @garyvee and a few friends decided to host a wine tasting party. They told people about it on Twitter, and minutes later 60 people were in the room tasting wine and having a great time. Instant party.

My friend @jimkukral was looking for PHP programmers. He asked for leads on Twitter and had 10 connections in as many minutes. Then there’s the guy who got out of an Egyptian jail with Twitter’s help.

So what is it? Twitter is something like a chatroom for the world, but where you only see messages from people you want to follow. It’s an ongoing dialog, where people post their thoughts, ideas, links, questions and others respond in kind.

Just like your telephone or email, Twitter is a platform, a blank slate. The only rule is you only get 140 characters for your message. Many posts are about the minutia of life, which can be interesting if it’s a close friend or it’s nearby geographically. Eg. “Thinking of trying the the new Greek deli on 4th street for lunch. Anyone been there?”

If you’ve connected Twitter to your cell phone you might receive that message by SMS and chime in with your opinion, or maybe find yourself eating Souvlaki 15 minutes later. Serendipity in 140 characters or less.

It’s useful too. Because it’s real-time and broadcast as opposed to 1:1,, you can ask your friends which movie to see while you’re standing in line.

Twitter is easy to misunderstand and dismiss, just as blogging was when it first appeared. Most people went through a phase of asking why anyone would publish (or read!) what happened at school or the office that day. The trick is not to mistake the average for the best. Just as with blogs, you only following/read what is interesting for you.

Getting Started:

1. Visit Twitter and choose a username that’s short and easy to remember. Personally I think a version of your real name is good since that’s easier for people to remember.

2. Connect with friends on Twitter by “following” them. You can also connect your phone to Twitter (beware text message charges) and get pinged when your close friends update.

3. Start playing around. After connecting with your friends on Twitter, you’ll discover new and interesting people through your friends’ conversations.

A few handy Twitter commands

d username blah blah  Send username a private message. Make sure you stay under 140 characters as the remainder may be posted publicly (a bug, whee)

on username  Start getting updates from this person.

off username  Stop getting updates from this person.

track foo  See when anyone says “foo” on Twitter. (Note that popular terms can be very high volume, and that tracked terms are only sent to your phone if you have one connected, they don’t appear in your normal feed.)

PS: Don’t be intimidated by a new medium. Have fun! I’m @dragushan if you want to say hello or have any questions.

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9 Responses to “What is Twitter?”

  1. @HawaiiSEO Says:

    Twitter in Plain English: http://youtube.com/watch?v=ddO9idmax0o

  2. Aaron Says:

    Thanks @HawaiiSEO, that’s a great video.

  3. Ask500 Blog » Blog Archive » Twitter + Ask500 Says:

    […] We’re big fans of Twitter over here, and have integrated it into Ask500People (What is Twitter?).  Now you can get live poll alerts in your Twitter feed (follow @ask500) and you can @ask500 people a question right from Twitter. […]

  4. Charlie Says:

    This is probably the best explanation of twitter I’ve read so far. Thanks for posting!!

  5. SXSWi ‘09 = #EPIC — Kicking Sand Says:

    […] party to join the flash mob for @Garyvee wine tweet up at 12:30am to keep the tradition alive from last year. After the wine ran out the crowd invaded Rain across the street for more talking and some […]

  6. Jospeh Vollbrecht Says:

    Thanks for the post! People are crazy for not using more Twitter.

    • Yousouf Says:

      I am looking forawrd to reading your blogs. I am an educator and have been working in education reform programmes for more than 5 years. I would like to know if it will be possible to comment in specific blogs or if this is the only comment option.

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