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Welcome to the Twitter Dome
Or an Introduction to Twitter
“Twitter is my bar. I sit at the counter and listen to the conversations, starting others, feeling the atmosphere.” -- Paulo Coelho
What Is It?
Twitter -- for those that haven’t quite glommed onto the idea of an international texting service, or for those of you that have been living under the rock for so long you’ve actually become the rock -- is a social media network that, well, acts like a free international texting service. With more than half a billion users and over 50 million tweets a day, Twitter is one of the top 10 most visited sites on the Internet.
How Does It Work?
All social media networks are not created equal. Twitter’s stock in trade is brevity and speed. Registered users post messages of no more than 140 text-only characters (including spaces), which – depending on your perspective – makes it either the absolute best or the single most unfulfilling bathroom reading material ever created. Want to know what George Clooney had for breakfast? Well, you’re out of luck, because the “Gravity” actor isn’t on Twitter. But if he were, he’d be among more than 500 million registered users, a great number of which tweet about what goes in their bellies. So Egg McMuffin and cronut aficionados rejoice. Those looking to wax eloquently on the illegality of the NSA? Not so much.
Accounts can either be public, so the whole world can appreciate your wit and intellect, or private, to keep your Tweetocity visible to a precious chosen few. To read someone’s tweets, you “follow” them. Whenever someone you follow tweets, it shows up in your feed. The more people you follow, the more you have to read. The larger your own following on Twitter, the greater your reach. And if you’re following “The Following”? Or tweeting about the Edgar Allen Poe cultists of “The Following” to your following? That’s just meta.
People interact with one another through their tweets. You can respond directly to an individual tweet, re-tweet that tweet to your following, address another user directly in your tweet by including @TheirProfileName in the text, or participate in a larger conversation by using the infamous hashtag, or placing a # before a word. This last is a way of affixing your individual tweet to a topic that might be trending on the network. Want to hop on the breakfast bandwagon? Go #Cronuts!
Who Uses It?
Contrary to popular belief, Twitter’s not just for famous people. Or famous people tweeting about food. While sport stars and celebrities are certainly among the most high profile members of the Tweetdom, there are people from every walk of life, businesses from every industry, and organizations with a variety of missions who use their 140-character allotment to their advantage every day.
Airlines like @JetBlue use Twitter to alert passengers to large-scale delays. Retailers like @BestBuy or @TheHomeDepot use Twitter to introduce new products or hype sales. And big influential people like @BarackObama have their people use Twitter to inform your people about changing healthcare policies or to address the legitimacy of JediMindMelding. ß True story.
Twitter is also the platform that helped inform the world of events taking place during the Arab Spring, even after many other media outlets had been shut down or locked out. Twitter helps organizations like @RedCross raise money during times of crisis and helps local law enforcement agencies disseminate Amber Alerts when a child is thought kidnapped. The speed of communication that takes place through Twitter gives its users the agility to keep pace in an incredibly fast-paced world.
Or, you know, find the best brunch in town by simply tweeting the question to their networks.
Is Twitter the Right Network for You?
Maybe. Like all social media networks, Twitter has its own functionality and its own personality. So do you or your business. Making it work for you is less about how Twitter works and more about how you use it. In our next article, we’ll get better acquainted with the platform and take a look at some of Twitter’s laws of the land. Maybe over breakfast? We’ll bring the #cronuts.