Twitter is the new web based messaging service that’s taking the world by storm. What exactly is it, how do you use it and why should you care? Here’s some FGAs (frequently given answers) to some FAQs (frequently asked questions).
According to Twitter.com they are “…a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”. Think of it as text messaging with lots of options. Text messaging is something you may do now or at least you’ve watched others thumbing short messages to friends on their cell phone. Their friend replies with another text message – and on and on it goes. A conversation one text message at a time. Twitter is basically like that but a lot richer in options and features. One thing texting and Twitter share is brevity – twitter messages are limited to 140 characters. After that things change. You can send a twitter message to one person or a group of people. You can send and receive messages via text enabled cell phones, computers (PC or Mac) game consoles or anything that connects to the internet that allows texting. Instead of just simple text you can include links to pictures, web pages and other things of interest on the internet. Since Twitter messages live on the web you can search through the messages for people, topics, trends or whatever you have an interest in.
There are many ways to use Twitter. You can use your cell phone to send and receive messages. From the web at Twitter.com, web tools like Tweetdeck and Tweetie have features allowing you to organize messages and even send/receive messages from your Facebook profile.
Like any other technology, Twitter has its jargon. A Twitter message is called a Tweet. When you subscribe to someone’s Twitter messages you are Following them. The people that subscribe to your Tweets are called Followers. Get a Tweet from someone and you want to share it? You ReTweet it. Following someone that you want to introduce to others? On FollowFridays, you Tweet their Twitter address as a way to introduce them to your Followers. Long website addresses are shortend by using services like TinyURL that substitute the original address with something that will fit within the 140 character limit of your Tweet. When you want to invite folks to meet up for an event or a night on the town you send out a Tweet encouraging a TweetUp.
Why use Twitter? It’s a great alternative to email. Quick, immediate and to the point, remember, only 140 characters. As a social communication tool you can let your followers know what you’re up to. Real Estate agents are using it to keep potential buyers and sellers updated. Politicians are using it to keep their constituents up to date on what’s happening in the community and even encouraging discussions and feedback via tweets. Lots of folks are using it to look for jobs or advertise their yard and garage sales. Non-profits send out tweets announcing events and meetings. Entertainers are connecting with fans through tweets. News media is using Twitter to send out breaking news headlines to followers.
Is there a down side? Yes there is. Twitter spam – unsolicited messages from folks who want to follow you only to sell you cheap medications or how to get rich quick schemes. There’s Phishing – website addresses hidden in those TinyURLs trying to get you to give up personal information. Then there’s the cost. Canadian cell carriers are now charging for text messages and each tweet sent to your phone will cost you depending on your plan.
Is Twitter for you? Try it. It doesn’t cost anything but time, except for the tweets to your cell phone. If you don’t like it stop using it by becoming a TwitterQuitter. Give it a chance and you may find that you like it better than email, Facebook status updates and telephone calls.