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If the 60s Had Twitter

60s

LOL … if the 60s had Twitter, this is what it might look like.

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Apparently micro-blogging is getting more and more popular by the day and consequently its biggest platform on the web, Twitter, is rapidly growing as well. This means there’s a whole new emerging market of tech savvy, blogging experienced users that’s just waiting to be grasped. A great opportunity indeed!

But first, for those a bit unfamiliar with micro blogging and more importantly twitter, let me explain a bit how it works. Twitter is basically a service that allows you to update your status with short messages, of up to 140 characters, just like a SMS text message. What makes it so special is that it also has social elements, allowing users to befriend each other; in twitter this is called “following.” Whenever you’re following somebody on twitter you’ll be able to instantly receive their updates and keep up to date with someone’s status. Furthermore because mobility and fastness are of the utmost importance in micro blogging, twitter allows you to update your status via the web page, IM, mobile phone, blackberry or various other third party applications.

Why You Should Use Twitter

When I first started out using twitter, about 2 months ago, I was very skeptical regarding its actual utility and purpose, as I found the notion of knowing what people were up to kinda irrelevant. “Off eating dinner,” “My flight just arrived in San Francisco,” “Walking my dog.” Why should I care about anything like this? Well if you, like I have in the beginning, think that’s all there is to twitter, then you’re just making mis perceptions. Truth is there’s more to it then meets the eye my friends.

After I first register an account I felt a bit out of place and lonely, because I wasn’t following anyone and no one was following me. I soon started twitting a bit though, followed a bunch of people I knew and started socializing. After a while I soon realized how powerful twitter can really be and what kind of benefits it can bring. It’s been widely proven that twitter can be easily used as a self-promotion tool, to pitch your content, services and products with ease. This is done by broadcasting your message, although short, to your followers. Sounds familiar ? That’s because twittering resembles a lot blogging, except your messange is broadcasted in “real time” to your reader. It’s this mixture of blogging, RSS and social networking that makes twitter so appealing.

Still not convinced? Here’s a few more reasons why twitter rocks.

  1. Traffic. Although at fist glance it might seem like twitter isn’t capable of directing any respectable amount of traffic, truth is, if used properly, it can provide your blog with quite a “few” new visitors. The traffic from twitter isn’t too shabby either, in terms of quality, most of the visitors being pretty targeted, that stick around, read your posts and even subscribe. You can send traffic by entering your blog’s url in your twitter profile (this will be responsible for most of the regular traffic you’ll receive from twitter) or by twitting one of your post’s url. The amount of traffic you can receive from twitter is directly proportional to number of followers you posses.
  2. Awareness and branding. Just like any other social network, twitter can be used as a powerful tool to build your brand and raise awareness. If you browse a bit through twitter you’ll undoubtedly find twitter users for a lot of popular online and offline brands, that simply track their day to day progress and update with valuable breaking news. The thing about twitter branding is that it’s a lot more personal, probably thanks to it’s IM like environment, helping you to thin the line between you and your readers.
  3. Promote your content. This is more of a combination between the first two posts. A lot of bloggers nowadays, realizing the huge potential twitter possess of leveraging their content, have begun to publicize and promote their blog posts on twitter. This means either they post their blog post url, along with a short description (what can you expect in 140 characters or less?) or the url to various other social media websites like digg, reddit or stumbleupon for example, so that their followers can vote them. A nifty little twitter tool, available on the web right now, that’s been getting a lot of attention lately, is TwitterFeed, a great twitter application that will automatically post your latest blog posts titles, along with the respective url of course, without any interference from your behalf.
  4. Fast help and feedback. A few weeks ago I asked for some urgent help on twitter, when I updated my status saying “I need some critical help from a PHP guru, please add AIM Qotsa ftw.” Frankly I didn’t expect any results or help coming in any soon, but I was pretty desperate. In a matter of minutes about four talented programmers added me on AIM and offered to hear me out and help, free of charge! Where else can you find this kind of fast response? I soon found that twitter can be an extremely efficient environment for collecting honest and live feedback, ranging from anything like design, to writing, to the over all reader experience.
  5. Find a new audience. At the beginning of the article I stated that twitter is a emerging market, that’s beginning to explode on the web with hundred of thousands of users, meaning there’s a whole new vast audience, that’s just waiting to get exposed to your blog. Use twitter in conjunction with my 10 other ways of finding new readers and you’ll soon boost your stats and break the plateau.
  6. Latest news. Because twitter is so instant and spontaneous you can now find out about the latest industry and scene news in a particular field of activity you’re following, within minutes of the actual event. If you thought RSS feeds are a good way of keeping up with news and new content, wait till you try twitter.
  7. Inform people of your status. While telling people what you ate for dinner won’t appeal to many, a lot of people might be interested in what’s your business plans for the day or who’ll you’ll be meeting. Status live updates come especially in handy when you’re on conferences and witness first-hand world premiers.
  8. Networking. Twitter is a great way to get to know new and like minded individuals, that share your same passions and area of expertise. Following them truly is a pleasure. This way you can see what your fellow peers are up to, open up to mutual promotional work and build future business relationships.
  9. Marketing. As it’s the case with most social media services, you can use twitter to market and pitch your products. However twitter won’t directly help you market your content, but rather indirectly by helping build your brand name and authority. After you’ve established yourself as an authority to your audience, sales will follow as well.
  10. It’s fast and mobile. You can user twitter from anywhere in the world, even from a mobile phone. Also updating your status on twitter won’t take more then 1 minute, you’re not gonna write essays in 140 characters or less, right?
  11. Keep track of things. Just like a mini journal, I like to use twitter to record my progress through out the day. This helps me keep focus on my tasks and helps me get things done (even though ironically it can be a real productivity bugger). It’s a great way to write down ideas for further reference.
  12. Provides inspiration. As a blogger you always have to produce a steady flow of new and original content. This can tend to get a bit difficult after a while, so any source of blog post inspiration can be considered a blessing. How does twitter fit in the big picture? Well, all you have to do is keep your eyes open on the people your following and you’ll see material for new content building up in your head. Some people have sparks or moments of inspiration concerning a particular topic, which they then twitter to get it off their chest. You can borrow their ideas and then build a post of your own around them. All the right reasons to follow important and intelligent people. Also you can always ask a question about something and your followers will soon answer it (I showed you how great asking questions can be with twitter in a point above), developing the idea, thus providing you with possible new material to work with.
  13. It’s viral. Anything that spreads quickly and easily across a community makes a great social service anytime, in my eyes. Twitter works virally in a word of mouth kinda way. You as user may twit about something important, your followers will then take the story to their followers and so on.
  14. Make money! By using twitter you can increase your income indirectly through social media marketing, but you can also make money directly by selling twits. This is totally against the twitter TOS and most of all unethical, but since when’s that reason enough for people to stop doing it. If you want to know more about the concept read these posts by Darren Rowse and Jason Falls, who’ve written the articles more as an experiment and joke, but have defined some great ideas, that will undoubtedly materialize in the future, as twitter develops more and more. Won’t be surprised if something like this exists somewhere deep underground…
  15. It’s fun! There’s something special about twitter, that makes it real fun, but I just can’t put my finger on it yet. I always have a good laugh when I read a good joke on twitter or when someone shares a great link with me. It’s that kind of fun you find in a great social network like stumbleupon or digg and twitter has plenty of it.

Using Twitter Effectively

If you’re still reading this, then I’ve probably convinced you to try this micro blogging mambo jambo out, now it’s time to see how we can actually properly use the twitter service at its fullest and better leverage its potential. Bellow I’ll try to list a few pointers I’ve learned by actively participating on twitter during the past weeks, that will help you do just that. Experienced twitter users should pay close attention to the following points as well.

  • Follow other users. Like in any other social network, profile building is extremely important and such is the case with twitter as well. Here when building an authoritative twitter profile the most important aspect you should look after is your followers. The more you have, the more popular you are and consequently the larger the influence your twits will posses. I think most of you are familiar with the you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours philosophy. Well this applies on twitter as well. Whenever you choose to follow someone, the respective twitter user will receive an e-mail notifying him that a you’re following his updates, then based on weather your profile is interesting enough he’ll follow you back or not. Who to follow though? Well all of the people I’m following are either: the authors of a blog I’m faithfully reading, people that chose to follow me and post interesting stuff, interesting and humorous people, authorities in my niche, sources of breaking news and updates or people that are simply my friends be it on or offline. Don’t over-follow though, or else you might find yourself overwhelmed with twits. I’ve found that following around 200 is the most optimal number.Worth taking note is a controversial aspect of twitter concerning reciprocal following, namely whenever you choose to unfollow someone, the twitter user, from whom you unsubscribed, will not receive a notification that you’ve done so. So basically you can befriend a bunch of people, wait for them to follow you and then unsubscribe. This is a terrible glitch if you ask me, because it lets twitter spammers and well… lame ass people to abuse the system.
  • Interact with fellow twitters. You need to get people to notice you and the simplest way to do this is letting them know you exist. If following them didn’t get their attention try messaging them, using the “@” feature. Type @username message and the respective twitter username will receive the message under his replies tab. You won’t be sending private messages either, these twits will be visible to all your followers and profile guests, the only difference is your twits will be targeted towards something specific in mind. Notice whenever you contact someone via the @ feature a hiperlink that leads to his twitter account will be automatically created. Now image if you’d, hypothetically speaking, ask Scoble (lol @ first photo <3) a question via twitter and shortly after he’d decide to publicly answer it. In doing so he’ll link back to your profile thus exposing you to all of his followers and seeing as Scoble has the most twitter followers in the world, it’s easy to imagine what will happen next. Of course he’s a busy man and that won’t probably happen, but you can do this for any other user. The key here is to network and interact.
  • Be useful, original and contributive. Just like you’d do with your blog, you have to put yourself in your followers shoes, analyze and then ask yourself some questions. Why would people want to follow me? What can I provide them with? There’s thousands of twitter users, what sets me apart from them? And so on. You need to give twitter users enough reason to follow you and of course to keep on following. You can achieve this by either being useful, original, funny or preferably all together. Whenever you find something interesting on the web, that might captivate your followers, don’t hesitate and twitter it. If you’ve got an interesting idea or topic for conversation, share it with your followers and thus actually add some value to your twits. If you’ve got a more humorous and sociable personality, then don’t keep it all in, let it shine on twitter as well; people always like to be around funny people. And remember if you’ve got nothing to say, it’s probably for the best you keep it that way.
  • Don’t over-twit. Now if a prolific blogger may post one or more posts daily, then expect a prolific twitter users to update a lot more often. But is there any risk of over-twitting? There sure is alright. I’ve followed a few fellows recently that were silent for hours and then started spitting loads of twits (mostly ramblings) during short intervals of time. Of course I got extremely bugged and unfollowed them. So what you have to keep in mind here is not to exaggerate with your twits and keep your personal ramblings to a minimum, unless they’re interesting of course.
  • Don’t under-twit. Over-twitting is bad, but how about under-twitting? While it probably won’t lead to loss of followers, under-twitting will undoubtedly hurt your profile’s growth. Like in any other community, you have to be active to reap it’s rewards, this means twitting at least a few times a day. A lot of people’ve been telling me they can’t keep up with twitter because they simply forget to update. You can solve this little impediment fairly simple by setting your “notices” (can be found in the settings tab). There you’ll find a neat option that will cause twitter to send a “nudge” whenever you fail to update your status during 24 hours.
  • Don’t over-publicize. As a blogger your sole interest in twitter may be just to promote your own content and blog brand. While there’s nothing unusual with this, I’d advise you don’t over-pitch your twits with self-promotional updates, otherwise you might get labeled a spammer by the community. Between links to your own blog posts and social media stories, try updating with interesting links from other blogs and various twits. Like I said: be useful, unique and contributive.
  • Brand your profile. Earlier in the article I mentioned how twitter can be used a powerful tool to enforce your’s blog brand or social media persona. You can achieve this easily by customizing your twitter profile; this means changing your account’s background, avatar and overall design. Be sure to particularly change your avatar, otherwise you’ll get stuck with the ugly default one; just put in an avatar that you know people recognize you by or even yet, your blog’s logo.
  • Reply to twits. If you’re active on twitter, people will often reach you via the “@” feature, so be sure to regularly check your replies tab on twitter to see what other people are saying about you. Here you’ll regularly find answers to the various questions you might ask, random comments about your activities or even questions addressed to you. I’d advise, for productivity purposes, to reserve a fraction of your time every day to respond to various comments, this way you’ll both network with your current followers, but also draw new ones as well. All that “@” user inter-twitting will get you noticed by your follower’s followers and so on, proving the viral nature of twitter.
  • Publicize and promote your twitter account. Whenever you get the chance to promote your twitter account, do it! Put a link leading towards your account on all of your other social media profiles, like digg, stumbleupon, mixx and so on. Also twitter allows the possibility of integrating some cool badges on various social networks (facebook, myspace etc.) and most importantly on your blog.

Some Nifty Twitter Tools

Whether you use twitter for personal use, business, clients or just for fun, a set of tools that can help you in your endeavors is always useful. Bellow you can find my favorite twitter tools currently available on the web.

  1. twhirl. This is the most popular desktop client for twitter on the web. I personally prefer to use the default web client for twittering, but this is a great tool for catching up with what other people are twittering. Found it particularly useful when replying to twits and when I’m in a hurry too.
  2. TwitterFeed. Already talked a bit about this great tool above, but it’s worth mentioning it once more. Again what it does is it pulls your latest post urls from your blog’s feed and posts them on your twitter account. alongside their title.
  3. LoudTwitter. Now this is a real useful one. Basically it’s the bridge that posts to your blog your daily tweets in one single digest. A clear example can be found at Jeremy Wright’s blog.
  4. Twitter Tools. This is a wordpress plugin, developed by the infamous Alex King, that creates an integration between your WordPress blog and your Twitter account. The plugin can pull twits from your twitter account to your blog (much like LoudTwitter does) and also allows you to twitter from within wordpress.
  5. Twitt-Twoo. A nifty little plugin for WP, that allows you to update your twitter status from inside your blog’s sidebar. Personally I won’t use it, because it would cluster the sidebar, but I’ve seen it on tons of blogs and I’m sure a lot of people will find it useful.
  6. TwitThis. The following tool will add a nifty little button at the end of every post, much in the same way the various social media buttons, you see at the end of every blog post, work. Only, instead of submitting a post to digg or stumbleupon, when hitting the button, the url of the respective blogpost will be copied to your twitter dashboard. You can then share the post with your friends.
  7. Twitter Badge. The official javascript codes and widgets that display badges showing what you are posting on Twitter.
  8. Tweetscan. A great search engine for twitter, that you can use to see what people are twitting about you, your blog, brand, company, product etc.
  9. TwitterNotes. I told how twitter can be used as a great environment for taking and keeping track of notes. Well this tool will do just that helping you better keep notes on twitter, by tagging them.
  10. RSS to Twitter. A excellent PHP script that feeds RSS to twitter.
  11. TwitterFox. This is a great Firefox plugin that allows you to send and receive updates, right from the browser’s status bar.
  12. TweetBeep. A great service for twitter, similar to Google Alert. It even checks links masked by tinyurl.
  13. TweetMarks. This will help your bookmark your twits, keeping all of the links you share organized.

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Tweeting for Companies 101

Why Twitter?

Twitter can be an amazingly powerful platform for connecting to your community as well as driving traffic to the various properties you want people to go. Having an event? Tweet it out! Launched a new bag? Tweet it out!

The key to Twitter is the level of listening you do as well as talking. It is definitely supposed to be an interactive program. And, in fact, this is where you build the majority of your Whuffie (aka social capital). The more you interact on Twitter, the more people will interact with you, which attracts others to you as well.

One of my favorite quotes about the benefits of Twitter is from Tony Hsieh at Zappos:

You send an SMS text message to Twitter with your note, and your message will be automatically broadcast (like CB radio) to whoever is choosing to follow you (your friends). If people don’t care what you’re doing, they won’t follow you, so don’t worry about sending out trivial messages.

At first, it will seem really weird and unnatural for you to do this, but just trust me on this one. You will find that it’s actually a really good way to stay in touch with all your friends and know what’s going on in their lives.

…I was flying in to the Vegas airport, and I twittered “Just landed in Vegas airport.” I would have never texted anyone that message, but in the Twitter culture, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. It just so happened that someone on my Twitter network was about to fly out of Vegas, so we met up at the airport bar and had a drink. I would have never known otherwise that this person was at the airport, nor would I have ever sent him a text message or called him that I had just landed. Source

I love that story because it is exactly what Twitter does for us all of the time: it accelerates serendipity.

What are Some Good Examples of Corporate Tweeters?

What kinds of interactions are beneficial? Well, take two very popular Tweeters: Zappos and JetBlue. Here are a few examples:

@ZAPPOS:

Some photos of our company picnic are up now at: http://blogs.zappos.com - I think we had 1000 people show up!

I want to meet more customers. On Monday, I will select a random @zappos follower for free trip for 2 to Vegas for office tour & lunch w/ me

At Vegas airport now, waiting a couple of hours until my flight to San Jose, CA.

@wisekaren I’m wearing Donald Pliner shoes to the wedding.

Finished photo shoot w/ Forbes. 4 hours & they choose 1 photo. Behind the scenes: http://www.facebook.com/pag…

@bryanbartlett now says he can’t make it. Anyone else want 1 ticket to van halen at 830 tonight at mandalay in Vegas?

Just landed in Vegas. Got lots of twitters about our new beta site http://zeta.zappos.com Thx for all the feedback, keep it coming!

—–

@JETBLUE:

@laughingsquid Thanks! Just wait until our new terminal at JFK opens! http://t508.com/ (Hope you had a great time in NYC)

@BookingBuddy We’re happy to support Runner’s World, but don’t worry, you can still channel surf and eat blue chips if you want!

Two days left to win two trips on JetBlue to “The Simpsons Movie” premiere in LA. Enter now! http://tinyurl.com/2×6ql3

The term ‘Interwebular Chronicle’ makes me laugh.

View this month’s selection of first-run movies from Fox InFlight Premium Entertainment: http://tinyurl.com/2o8q46

To all of our Twitter friends: enjoy your weekend!

As you can see from these selections, both companies are really great at balancing promotional tweets (”View this month’s selection of first-run movies from Fox InFlight Premium Entertainment” and “Got lots of twitters about our new beta site http://zeta.zappos.com”) with personal tweets (”The term ‘Interwebular Chronicle makes me laugh.” and “At Vegas airport now, waiting a couple of hourse until my flight to San Jose, CA.”) with conversational tweets (”@laughingsquid Thanks! Just wait until our new terminal at JFK opens!” and “@wisekaren I’m wearing Donald Pliner shoes to the wedding”). They also have fun contests (”I want to meet more customers. On Monday, I will select a random @zappos follower for free trip for 2 to Vegas” and “Two days left to win two trip on JetBlue to “The Simpsons Movie” premiere in LA.”) to help increase their follower numbers and keep people reading.

Stuff to Tweet About

There are no rules about what you should tweet out, here are a few suggestions for you. It is important that you balance the ‘outbound’ with the ‘inbound’. In otherwords, the announcements with the conversations:

  1. Personal thoughts and reflections that suit your brand - this helps people feel more trust towards you and your brand and strikes up conversations
  2. Events (both your own and other events your audience may find interesting) - this makes things interesting and, perhaps, gives you a way to meet your followers
  3. Contests (”The first three people who answer this trivia question get….”) - they drive more followers and interest in what you tweet
  4. Replies (@twittername) - this comes from listening to your followers (you have to follow back to see their tweets). The more personal the reply, the higher the impact.
  5. Direct replies (d twittername) - this isn’t in the public timeline, but it helps build deeper bonds to talk directly to someone like this. This is helpful to answer people when it is a private matter or when you want to show concern (i.e. someone reports an accident, etc.)
  6. New blog posts - you should keep these to one per day at the very most and you should also promote other people’s blog posts that are of interest
  7. Announcements - if it is interesting, tweet it
  8. OH’s (overheard) - someone say something in the office or when you are out and about that cracks you up? Type OH: “well, if you don’t mind, im trying to work on my love life” or something else funny (sometimes used to offset potentially racy comments…if you didn’t say it, but are just REPEATING IT, then it’s okay)
  9. Rickrolls or other fun internet games - this shows you are a bunch of fun and has people trying to do the same for you. Spreading as many internet memes as possible is good.
  10. Lyrics and quotes - especially fun are the lyrics: ?Never give the game away | Try to keep me entertained, baby | Don’t make it too easy | Leave something for me and my imagination? as the musical notes make for lots of questions
  11. Links to media you create - video is fun, podcasts, perhaps interviews that are posted online about you, etc.
  12. Shout outs - @twittername rocks! Thanks for the great link: http://insertlink.com These make people feel great, too.

Tweets that make people laugh are awesome, but tweets that make people think are even better.

How to Tweet Without Losing Your Soul

So, before you even ask. Yes. Twitter takes time. It takes a bunch of attention and love and care. There ARE ways to minimize the work and keep up to date, though:

  1. Run a twitter client on your desktop and connect it to Growl. For desktop clients see: http://twitter.pbwiki.com/Apps My favorites are: Twhirl, Snitter and Twitterific
  2. Take twitter on the road! If you have an iPhone there are great sites like Pockettweets or the twitter mobile site. You can also just send your text messages to 40404. That’s pretty simple. Check out the apps page again for more options on other phones like Blackberries.
  3. Keep a good track of who is talking about you, so you can reply back! With Tweetscan you can track all sorts of keywords there as well as watch who is replying to you (there is also a tab on the main website for your replies). You can always plug the results into your RSS feeds…
  4. Put a twitter widget on your blog!
  5. Hook it up to your Facebook page! Only update your status in one place at a time and have it show in multiple places! Details here: http://explore.twitter.com/

There is also a great listing of fun apps to use with Twitter here. Watch out, though. It’s totally addictive!

How to Talk Twitter

There is a glossary of terms over here where you will find that MOST terms used on Twitter start, not surprisingly, with ‘Tw’. Like tweet, meaning one post on twitter, and TweetUp, which is a Twitter Meetup. But the basic terms you need to know are the commands to put in front of what you are saying. Like:

D twittername - direct message (not public, goes right to the Tweeter in question)
@twittername - public reply
Follow twittername - start following someone
Leave twittername - stop following someone
on - turns your notifications on (on your phone or however you are receiving tweets)
off - turns notifications off
help - accesses the other commands as you may need them

there is more here: http://twitter.com/help/lingo

There are also some things that have come out of the community like:

hashtags or # - put a hashtag in front of a ‘tag’ for easier tracking (i.e. This speaker is really nailing it. I think her slides are brilliant! #web2expo). This is really useful for conferences, events and specific topics of interest. You can read a little more about the history here You can track hashtags at Twemes.

A Couple of Extra Things

Before I wrap this up, there are a few other ‘Tweet like a pro’ ideas:

  1. Shorten your URLs at Tweetburner where you can also track stats on these links!
  2. The mother of all places to find everything awesome Twitter is: http://twitter.pbwiki.com/
  3. Want to set up a ‘group’ tweet? This is way cool: Grouptweet (have multiple employees send messages to d companyname with a message that you can aggregate at @companyname)
  4. Give people beer for good deeds with Foamee

Now you are ready to tweet like a pro!

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Making the most of Twitter

An American student is arrested in Egypt, and manages to send a brief text with a single word - “ARRESTED” - which is picked up around the world, and leads quickly to his release, helped by a lawyer hired by his university back in the US. In Britain, the prime minister’’s office decides people should be able to find out what their premier is doing; as of today, more than 2,000 people do. During an interview at the SXSW festival in March, audience dissatisfaction with Sarah Lacy’’s interviewing style with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spills over into silent but powerful discourse among the audience: one calls it a “train wreck”. People fleeing from fires in California say where they are; that proves more useful and timely than official goverment information.

The common factor? Twitter, the free (at present) service which lets you send a 140-character message, or “tweet”, to a site where anyone can read it, though it will only be sent directly to those who have chosen to “follow” you (though if you want, you can pick and choose who you allow to follow you). Twitter’’s first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly that August. It has only been a company since May 2007, but its growth has been explosive - so much so that it constantly struggles to keep running as a growing number of people sign on, sending more and more tweets.

One of the first questions people ask is “what is Twitter for?” As with any social network, the answer is the same: whatever you make of it. Some think that its immediacy makes it ideal for spreading news. Others find it useful to ask questions of their peers; still others, for following what people or topics they”re interested in. The BBC and the Guardian, for example, already offer Twitter services for breaking news (check out the Guardian Technology Twitter feed). It will be surprising if IBM does not offer a Twitter service with results from the All-England Tennis Club Championships in July.

Hitwise, the web measurement company, notes that traffic to Twitter has risen eightfold in the past year, more than doubled in the past three months and up 60% in the past month. By Hitwise’’s measure, it’’s only ranked 439th in social networks - outside the mainstream - but Heather Hopkins, senior Hitwise analyst, adds quickly that: “Twitter’’s size is notoriously difficult to measure as there are so many access points (mobile phones in particular).”

That is a key point. Measurement companies like Hitwise tend to rely on browser-based metrics to see where samples of people are going. But whereas Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and Habbo Hotel are only usable through a web browser, Twitter has broken free of the web; its text message-length “tweets” can be received on a mobile phone or other device. You don”t have to visit the web page to use Twitter; in fact, doing so may be one of the slowest ways of using the service. And many of the systems that are built around Twitter use web pages to interface directly to its database (via a published API). Twitter didn”t respond to a request asking how many active users and how many tweets are sent each day; but it’’s a safe guess that both are in the millions. TwitDir, a Twitter directory, suggests there are now 1.05 million Twitter users - up from 518,000 in October.

With Twitter thus poised to enter the mainstream, we offer here our list of the best tools presently available on, and built on, Twitter. As ever, this is a moving target: within months we expect there will be even better ones. And we will watch our Twitter feeds for your responses and suggestions.

First steps


Twitter.com
obviously. You don”t need to sign up; you can watch the flow of messages from a particular user at their username (eg Guardian Technology’’s, which is at twitter.com/guardiantech). However, Twitter only becomes useful once you can sift through the huge volume of posts. Signing up is free and you”re not obliged to follow anyone, or post anything, or let anyone follow you.

Next steps

You can follow Twitter at the website, but that’’s inefficient. Smartest moves: get a program for your PC, Mac or Linux box to watch the flow.

Windows
Madtwitter; Twitteroo; Twitterlicious

Mac OS X
Twitteriffic

Linux
Deskbar; Twitux

Mobile phones
Twittter for iPhone; Twitterberry (for BlackBerries); hahlo.com (iPhone and others)

Firefox
Tweetbar

Finding people

Whoshouldifollow.com answers that simple question. Given your username, it will look for other users with some overlap with the people you follow, and suggest them as people for you to follow. Add some of the names there and then repeat the process, and you”ll quickly build up a large network.

Twitdir.com, a directory. Find people, and quickly see the top 100 most-followed and busiest twitterers.

Twitterholic.com, the top users and accounts: choose, then repeat as above.

Searching and organising

Summize.com, search for a word or phrase across the entire Twitter feed. Interested in Scotland? Explosions? Burma? Plug the search in and view the results; or take an RSS feed, which will automatically update when new tweets match your search.

Quotably.com creates threads of discussions between people.

Terraminds.com
, another search engine, for users or phrases.

Tweetscan.com
, search by user and time.

Twitterlocal.net finds twitterers near you.

Sharing

Twitthis.com, lets people looking at your site or blog share the URL via Twitter.

Twitturly.com, what’’s being most linked-to and talked about?

Tweetmeme.com, what sort of topics are being discussed?

Visualise

Twittervision.com, real-time Google Maps mashup showing where the latest tweets are being posted.

Twitterverse, tag clouds based on the messages flowing through twitter.

Twistori.com, love, hate, think, believe, feel, wish: what people are saying where the tweets use those words.

Twittearth.com, processor-heavy, but fascinating, visualisation of tweets, put onto a spiralling globe.

Tweetwheel.com, which of your friends are already following each other?

Miscellaneous

Tweetspeech, Yahoo Pipes module that converts (incoming) tweets to speech, playable via RSS.

Tweeterboard, a “leaderboard” of who the busiest, most popular, most chatty users are.

Twitter fan wiki, lots more Twitter information and applications.

Twittersnooze.com, hit the “snooze button”, briefly, on verbose friends.

Twitter balloon, your tweets superimposed on an image of your choosing.

Latest Scores, latest football scores, as tweets.

twerpscan.com, avoid followers who befriend everyone: may be spammers.

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Ten Top Twitter Tips

I’ve been Tweeting (making posts on Twitter) for some time now, both for personal learning/enjoyment and to engage in community conversation on behalf of several clients.

Twitter is a micro-blogging service, allowing users to send little 140-character messages out to “Followers,” exchanging tidbits of conversation and potentially exposing that conversation to a larger grid.

Here are some hands-on tips to help you get started on Twitter, or add some insights if you’re already there. To really understand this, reg for Twitter and toggle between your profile page and this post…but you’ll get the general idea by just reading it.

1. Play with a friend. To get to know Twitter a bit, encourage a friend or two to sign on when you do. Then play. Post Tweets, poke around, get the feeling for how it works.

2. Meet your neighbors. There are a few ways to do this…

* Use the “Search” box (just right of big Twitter logo; top of page) and key in topics/tags that interest you. When names show up, check the profile, and if it feels like an appropriate connection, press “Follow” beneath the profile pic.

* If you find a profile you like on Twitter, and you “Follow” them, you have access to a mosaic of the people they follow (the pictures in the column toward the right of the Twitter page). Hover over those pics to see names; click on them to see profiles. Again, if there’s affinity, you can choose to follow.

* Increasingly, corporate and individual Tweet-ers are putting their Twitter references up on their blogs and Web pages. Keep an eye out for these “Follow me!” prompts and click through.

* Watch your Facebook (and other social network) friend statuses. If if reads “(Name) is twittering:“ then that person is using Twitter. Click through to their name, scan their profile for the Twitter application, and follow. Or just search for them on Twitter (but note: many people use a “handle” on Twitter that differs from their real name—I’m “ chep2m ”—so you don’t always get a direct hit).

Remember that as you “Follow” people the larger Twitter community will have access to you through the “Twit Grid,” so follow where you want to be found. And use discretion. Follow only when there is some sort of click; build slowly and you’ll find the right people.

3. Crack the code. Two simple Twitter tools to start with:

* The “at sign” (this guy: “ @ “). Use it when you want to send a public message (called a “reply”) to a specific person. For example, if you sent “@chep2m : testing Twitter” it would reach me (even if I don’t follow you) AND it would show up in my “Replies” tab (near the top of your profile page…see it? Be sure to check this whenever you sign in to Twitter; it’s where people send replies or public messages specifically to you. (Note: if you send a reply message, make sure that you don’t add punctuation right after the name. “ @cheptum “ will reach me. “ @cheptum: “ (note colon) will not.

* Direct messages. The letter “ d “ allows you to send a direct, private message to anyone you follow who also follows you. Access these direct messages through the narrow column to the right of your Twitter profile, following the phrase “Direct Messages.” Note that this will only work for mutual followers (when both parties follow each other). Practice this with one of your Twitter friends.

4. Read the Twitter blog. Just book an hour and do it. And check back now and again. It feels like the people at Twitter can’t keep up with all of the noise and growth (love that problem) but they bring some good info together here. It’s worth a wander; enjoy…subscribe if you like it.

5. Keep a list of Twitter enhancements, or bookmark mine (coming soon). The list is growing every day; some of them are quite useful. If you come up with a new one, add it to the list.

6. Make noise beyond the Twittosphere. Only way to build a following is for people to know you’re there. Add your Twitter address to your email sig, your online profiles, even your business cards. Add a Twitter RSS feed to your Web page or Blog (details in my Business Twitter Tips). Here’s how I added a Twitter “friend stream” to my WordPress blog.

7. Tweet early, Tweet often. Show up. Post Tweets. Ask questions. Join conversations about things that interest you. Comment (using the “ @ “, of course) on smart things your Twitter friends say. Say “thanks!” when others share good info. Just engage in the whole Twitter thing and you will figure each other out.

8. Go mobile. Tons of Twitter apps for the iPhone and Blackberry… and beyond. Set your preferences to dial up/down on what actually hits your phone (almost nothing hits mine) but send updates even when you’re remote. I use PocketTweets but Twitter mobile clients abound.

9. Don’t be a stranger. Say hi on the weekends. Tweet in the evening. Bring a bit of your self into your Tweeting, even if you’re using it primarily for business connections and learning. You check in with your colleagues about their outside lives and interests, right? Same applies to Twitter.

10. Enjoy. Twitter delivers a cool world of conversation, chat, social currency, and great information to one fun, active place. Work and play with it. Twitter is a cool landmark in the growing social ecosystem and I believe it has an ongoing part to play in the growing business conversation that all of are a part of. Have fun!

One more thing. Eleven is such a random number, but I had to share one more: use Tweetburner if you are posting URLs in Tweets. It shortens them (remember: 140 characters max) and makes them trackable, plus you can post to your Twitter account directly from the Tweetburner window. Be sure to add a bit of (con)text before you post the URL. Try it…easy.

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Since it’s launch in July of 2006, Twitter has quickly become one of the most popular microblogging platforms online. In fact, Twitter is one of my favorite social media tools and it’s finally being recognized as a powerful platform for communicating with your readers, building your brand, driving traffic to your blog, and communicating with industry leaders. At first glance, it’s easy to miss the power of Twitter. But start digging a little deeper and you’ll start to uncover the hidden gems.

Twitter is essentially a service that allows you to share bite-sized messages (or “tweets”) of up to 140 characters long. These short snapshots give insight into people’s lives - which is part of what makes it so popular.

Twitter allows you to send and receive updates directly on their website or via instant messaging, SMS, RSS, email, or through a wide-variety of third-party applications.

You get to be a “fly on the wall” and tune into interesting conversations from the likes of Robert Scoble, Seth Godin, Kevin Rose, CNN, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, Darren Rowse of ProBlogger, and Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Library TV.

You’ll find the environment on Twitter to be playful and engaging.

It’s a place to network, connect, and communicate. If you’re an Internet marketer, you get to hang out with other marketers. If you’re a golf player, you can connect with other golfers. If you’re a runner, you can meet other runners.

In fact, Twitter is attracting a wide variety of users, including political candidates, actors, students, bloggers, housewives, and more.

So, how do you become a Twit…

1. First, you must begin your Twitter journey by signing up at http://twitter.com. When asked to select a username, be sure to use either your name or your business name.

2. Upload an avatar that reinforces your brand. It needs to be striking yet simple. Logos and photos work well. To get some ideas, browse Twitter profiles for a while and see which avatars stick out to you.

Quick Note: You should use the same avatar on all of the social networks to increase your brands exposure. Many people are active on multiple networks. By using the same avatar, you can leverage your presence on one network to instantly access a group of familiar friends who are active on another.

3. When setting up your account, you will also be asked for your URL. This is a place to share your website, blog, Facebook page, or other social media profile. Another important field you will be asked to fill out is your one line bio. This is where you enter a short description of yourself. Although it must be short, it also needs to be interesting and informative. It’s one of the few indicators people read before deciding whether or not to add you as a friend.

4. And if you really want to stand out from the crowd, you can also customize the look of your Twitter Homepage. Twitter allows you to customize the colors of your profile page and add a background image.

To change your design settings click on the Design link in the Settings menu.

Twitter Uses

People use Twitter for a wide variety of reasons. Some people use Twitter to keep up with friends and family. Some use Twitter to stay on top of the latest news in their industry and keep up with their favorite blogs. Others use Twitter to record the highlights of their day. And some have joined Twitter in order to build their brand and interact with their customers.

There are hundreds of different ways to use Twitter. Here are some of the most popular ones…

Arrange a Meet-Up: Twitter has facilitated many real-life meetings. By announcing your location, you can quickly and easily organize a get together with people in your network. Many people are calling this a “tweet-up”.

Build Your Brand: “Anonymous” business people are being ignored. Personal brands and social equity are becoming more and more important. Twitter allows you to share a more personal side of yourself with your readers.

YOU are your brand and Twitter is a great place to establish your persona - whatever that may be. Quirky and Crazy, Starbucks Addict, or Late Night Insomniac - Be true to yourself and people will love you for it.

Get Valuable Feedback: You can use your followers as a form of “Collective Intelligence”. Get ideas for your next blog post. Ask for suggestions on the best laptop to buy. Get feedback on your latest blog design. The possibilities are endless and the amount of experience and knowledge on Twitter is an incredible resource to tap into. You’ll be surprised at the amount of valuable feedback you receive. Simply ask a question and you can get instant feedback.

Twitter Traffic: Are you wanting to increase the reach of your latest article? Send out a tweet and ask your friends to tweet about it as well. Sites like Twitter have a viral nature built in.

Connect With Others: Twitter is a great place to connect with other like-minded people, especially those in the same industry. Twitter allows you to connect with people you might not otherwise be able to meet. You never know when you might form a deeper relationship with someone.

As said by Jennifer Laycock of SearchEngineGuide.com, Twitter “gives you some insight into who companies and bloggers are as people; their likes, their dislikes, their personalities. This can be invaluable when it comes to putting together pitches and building relationships both inside and outside of your industry.”

Knowledge: Twitter is packed with a bunch of smart people. Hang around for a while and it’s bound to rub off on you.

Find Out Who’s Talking About You: Find out who’s twittering about you, your products, your company, and your website with a service called TweetBeep. Tweet Beep sends you alerts by email whenever someone mentions your name, website, etc.. This is an excellent way to monitor and measure the “buzz factor” of your blog.

Promote Your Social Bookmarking Submissions: If you’ve spent very much time on Twitter, then you’ve probably seen folks asking for help voting up a submission at Digg, Delicious, Sphinn, and StumbleUpon. Twitter can be a great way to promote your social bookmarking stories, just don’t go overboard. Moderation is key.

Stay informed. News breaks fast on Twitter. You can get the latest scoop long before it reaches the mainstream media outlets.

Provide live coverage of an event. Create some buzz by covering an event live on Twitter. BPP producer Ian Chillag twittered the 2008 Boston Marathon while running, updating his progress via his iPhone.

Find a Job: Many companies post job openings on Twitter. Here’s just one example…

@leeodden TopRank hiring PPC specialist and manager - posting job descriptions this aft. Initial inqueries to hr at toprankresults dot com.

Hire Talent: Twitter is an excellent place to look for highly talented people. Best of all, you can get a sense of their personality simply by looking at their previous tweets.

Make a Connection: I’ve been able to uncover lots of interesting tid bits about my fellow bloggers. I found out that Chris Brogan is doing some super cool Twebinars this summer on social media. Chris Pirillo likes Bacon-wrapped jalapeno peppers stuffed with goat cheese. And Jennifer Laycock spends two mornings a week working from Panera. Good idea Jen!

How to Get More Followers

When you join Twitter you will be given your own unique URL to promote anywhere you like. This should be promoted in just the same ways that you would promote your own website or blog. Email your list about your Twitter profile. Write a blog post. Include your Twitter profile on all of your outgoing emails and forum signatures. Plus, be sure to put a link to your Twitter profile on all of your other social media profiles, like Digg, StumbleUpon, Digg, Mixx and so on.

Most of the top Twitter users developed their large group of followers through their pre-established popularity. If you take a look at the top Twitter users (based on their number of followers), you will notice that many of them have popular blogs, websites, or personalities.

So if you have an existing presence online, start with your current readers first.

Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do to build up your following without having a pre-existing user base.

Follow Other People: One of the best ways to get people to follow you is to start following them first. The key is to follow people with similar interests who are more likely to be interested in your website.

There are a lot of Twitter users who will follow anyone who follows them. But you must remember why you are using Twitter, you don’t want to friend everyone under the sun. You want to form a community of people with similar interest to network and connect with. If you follow everyone, then Twitter can quickly lose it’s value.

You can find Twitter users with similar interests by using Twitter’s search feature. This will search through information people have given on their profile page and return any profiles featuring the words you have queried.

Twitter Packs - You can also find like-minded Twitter users by browsing Twitter Packs, a community-generated directory of Twitter users organized by topic of interest or geographic area. Here you can easily find hundreds of users with similar interests.

This is one of my favorite ways to get more followers. Best of all, you can add your own profile to the directory where it makes sense. They’ve also created a tool called Autopack that will allow you to follow or unfollow multiple users based on Twitter Packs.

Twellow - The first Twitter directory. Go here to find people on Twitter with similar interests. This is without a doubt one of my favorite tools for finding cool people on Twitter and getting more followers. Check it out.

Twubble - Here’s another cool Twitter application that will help you find new friends. This tool uses your current social graph to find additional users you might be interested in.

Simply visit the Twubble web site and click “find some friends.” You are given a list of potential friends ranked by how many of your friends are following them.

Promote Your Twitter RSS Feed: Did you know that your Twitter updates are also available as an RSS feed? You can find it by scrolling down to the very bottom of your profile page, where you will see the “RSS” button in the bottom left - directly below your updates.

You can now publicize this RSS feed. Submit your feed to all of the RSS directories.

You can also use this RSS feed to create your own widget for Wordpress, Blogger, iGoogle, Facebook, MySpace, Netvibes, PageFlakes, and others.

Simply enter the URL of your RSS feed at http://docs.widgetbox.com/developers/blidget/

Best Twitter Tools

HelloTxt - Post to Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Bebo, Plurk, Brightkite, and others with a single click.

TwitterFeed - Automatically grabs your latest blog post and sends out a tweet to promote your latest article.

Twhirl - The most popular desktop client for Twitter.

TwitterFox - A Firefox extension that notifies you of your friends’ Twitter updates. Also allows you to post tweets and replies directly from the Firefox browser.

MyTwitter - This is a Wordpress plugin that makes it easy to display your latest Twitter status updates on your blog.

TwitBin - Send and receive messages directly from your Firefox browser.

WhoShouldIFollow - A great little tool that suggests new people for you to follow based on the people you are currently following. One of the best ways to find cool new people to follow.

Summize - One of the best search engines for Twitter. Find out who’s talking about your area of interest.

Twellow.com - The first directory of Twitter users organized by categories and interests. Mashable has defined Twellow as “The People Search That Twitter Should’ve Built“. So far, Twellow has indexed more than 300,000 users.

TwitPic - Let’s you share photos on Twitter.

TwitterBar - A Firefox extension that lets you post to Twitter from your address bar.

TweetBeep - Like Google Alerts for Twitter! Be the first to find out whenever your name, product, company, or website is mentioned on Twitter.

Tin Foil Hat - A Greasemonkey script that reveals the destination URLs hidden by TinyURL.

If you want to get the most out of Twitter, start participating! Twitter is all about the conversation. Follow the “thought leaders” in your industry and get involved in the conversation. Twitter gives you the opportunity to meet lots of amazing people that you probably wouldn’t normally have the chance to meet. So Jump In!

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twitterlogo21Social networks come and go, but Twitter has staying power. Even though it has frequent technical problems, Twitter is a vibrant community which has become an important network for business intelligence, news, and camaraderie for me and the tweeters I follow and who follow me.

Some people consistently write Twitter posts that inform, break news, engage, or raise thoughtful questions.

Others tell us what they’re having for lunch or when they’re going to work out. Or what cute thing their cat is doing now. Yawn.

Here are some winning practices of top tweeters:

1. Don’t be pedantic. We don’t care what you’re eating for lunch, or that you just woke up.
2. Don’t use Twitter just to pimp your blog posts.
3. Don’t rant (unless you are Vaspers.)
4. Don’t pimp your clients all day
5. Don’t over-tweet. If you need half a dozen tweets to make your point, do one that points to a blog post.
6. Don”t share breaking news that you can”t confirm.
7. Do link to interesting articles, sites, blog posts.
8. Do continue your conversation with another tweetie offline after a couple of @someone tweets
9. Do include links in as many of your posts as possible.
10. Don’t be dull.
11. Do pick up the phone and call tweeties with whom you interact often.
12. Answer and ask questions.
13. Be polite
14. Don’t be boring.
15. Don’t be overly critical of other people’s points of view.
16. Don”t be promiscuous with the “Follow” button. There are only so many hours in a day.
17. Don”t feel bad about blocking people. You don”t have to let everyone and his dog follow you. Twitter is a network, the benefit should be two-way.

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Newbies guide to Twitter

newbie

If youre not using Twitter yet, you may feel as if youve missed out. Twitter has not only tipped the tuna, but by some estimations, it has already jumped the shark. Dont be put off by its excessive popularity with SXSW geeks or by the whining of Twitter haters who missed the fun. Twitter is an interesting and practical real-time messaging system for groups and friends. Its just not completely obvious how to get into the “club.” So, heres a newbies guide to this new platform. We dont cover every feature of Twitter, but this should help get you started.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online service that enables you to broadcast short messages to your friends or “followers.” It also lets you specify which Twitter users you want to follow so you can read their messages in one place.

A popular Twitterer

Twitter is designed to work on a mobile phone as well as on a computer. All Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters, so each message can be sent as a single SMS alert. You cant say much in 140 characters. Thats part of Twitters charm.

Twitter is useful for close-knit groups (although there also are some fairly large mobs on Twitter). If you follow your friends, and they follow each other, you can quickly communicate group-related items, such as “Im going to the pub on Fourth Street, come on along.” Twitter is conceptually similar to Dodgeball but is simpler to use.

If you enter items into Twitter, they can be private, so only friends youve authorized can see them. Items can also be made public, which means anyone who knows your Twitter ID can read and subscribe to them.

Twitter is free.

Continue reading to learn how to get started, hook up your mobile, send your first “Tweet,” follow friends, and direct Twitter. We also show you some advanced features and Twitterers worth following.

How to get started

Go to Twitter.com and click “Join for free.” For best results, use your real name when signing up; otherwise your friends wont be able to find you easily. Its also helpful to upload a picture. If you select the “Protect my updates” box, people wont be able to read your Twitters unless you authorize them. Youll have more fun if you leave this box unchecked. Just be sure not to Twitter, “Leaving house open and unlocked for the weekend: 1520 Main Street.”

Now that you have a Twitter account, tell your friends your username or send them the link to your Twitter page. Each users has his own page, in the form twitter.com/username. (Example: my Twitter page is twitter.com/rafe.)

Hook up your mobile phone and IM account

The Twitter network works for you even if youre not at your computer or browsing the Web. Once you are registered, you can connect your mobile phone and instant messenger account. Go to Settings > Phone and IM. Connecting your phone and IM programs to your Twitter account is a straightforward process. Note that messages you view on a phone or an IM program also are readable on your personal Twitter Web page.

You can make Twitter send you a message every time a user who you are following has posted a Twitter message. This can be fun, but it will drive you crazy if you are following a lot of people. If you dont want to be barraged by a stream of random messages but still want friends to be able to reach you, select “Direct Message.” Then when other users send a message to you and you alone, youll be alerted on your phone or IM account. Otherwise, you wont get an alert.

Sending Twitter messages, or “Tweets”

You can send a Twitter message, or “Tweet,” from any of your registered devices.

From the Web page, enter a message in the entry window at the top of the page.

From a mobile phone, send an SMS message to 40404. Your phones caller ID is attached to your Twitter account, so the system will know its from you.

From IM, message TwitterIM if youre on AOL, or twitter@twitter.com if youre on Jabber/GTalk.

In all these cases, all your “followers” will see your message on their own Twitter pages and possibly on their mobile devices as well.

Following and joining friends

If youve gotten this far, youre able to send messages into the Twitter system, and your friends can find your account and follow your updates. Heres how you can see their messages.

On the Web: to add a friend, first be sure you are logged into your account. Then go to his or her Twitter page and press the “Add” link in the “Actions” box. To find a user page, use the search box on your own Twitter page.

Once you click “Add,” youll start to see his or her Tweets on your page if his or her account is set for public access. If the account is private, the system will send a “friend” request that must be approved before you start to see updates.

You also can see who your friends are following by hovering your mouse pointer over the pictures in the sidebar on your friends pages. Those pictures are of their friends–the users they are following. If you click on one of those pictures, youll go to that users page, where you can add him or her, too.

You can see all the Tweets from any persons friends by clicking the “With Friends” tab above his or her message window. Or you can turn that off and see only his or her Tweets by clicking the obliquely named “Previous” tab.

On the phone or IM: send the command follow username to register your phone or IM account to receive public Tweets from a user. You also can invite people based on a phone number: SMS add phonenumber to 40404, and youll start following the user at that number; if the person at that number isnt a Twitter user, he or she will get an invitation to join.

Managing your friends is much easier by using a full Web browser, but you can do everything on a mobile phone if you wish. See this page of the Twitter Help file for full commands, including details on the all-important Leave (to stop following) and Drop (to remove from your friend list) commands.

Want to be a Twitter nag? Send nudge username and theyll get a request to send a current Tweet.

In case you were wondering what the numbers mean…

A bunch of numbers are on your Twitter page. The most important figures are these:

* The number of “followers” you have. These are the people who are paying attention to (following) your Tweets.

* The number of “friends” you have. This is the number of people you are following.

Public figures and Twitter celebrities will have more followers than friends. People who want to watch more than participate will have more friends than followers. People who just use Twitter to communicate just within their own social group will have roughly the same number of friends and followers.

Person-to-person Twittering

You can send a Twitter message directly to another Twitter user with the Direct command. Enter d username message, and users will get your ping if they have direct messages enabled on their phone or IM account.

If you enter a Tweet with @username at the beginning of it, your message is understood as being intended for that particular person, although others will be able to see it. (However, @ tweets wont show up on your home page unless you are the intended recipient.) Be sure the person who you want to see your message is following you, or they wont get it.

Turning off Twitter

Twitter messages may drive you insane. If you want to turn them off, heres how: send the command Off, Sleep, or Stop to Twitter. To turn it back on, send On, Wake, or Start.

If youre sick of Twitter on the PC, just avoid the Web site!

In a Web browser, in your settings page, you also can define a period of time during which Twitter will not bother you by phone or IM. This is useful if you ever want to sleep.

Advanced features

You can apply your own design to your Twitter home page: its fairly straightforward. Our advice is to avoid using the “tile” option for your background image unless you are aiming for the assaultive MySpace design aesthetic.

Twitter also can be used via third-party programs that run on your desktop or in your widget/gadget engine.

Source: CNet

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