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This is not a tutorial on how to use Twitter, or an argument “for” or “against” people who are using Twitter .. but rather this is just an article about how HART (aka ME) is using Twitter for my business and for fun and mindless fraternization with people out here on the internet

Twitter: What Is It?

http://Twitter.com – If you go to this site for the first time .. you see a phrase on the home page .. “Twitter is 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?“. Twitter is like text messaging because you only have 140 characters to send a message. People can not only text message other people on the internet, but you can also receive and send twitter messages from your cell phone. It is a free social networking application that anybody can use.

Why Do We Twitter?

I think as more and more of us are working out of our homes, and being isolated away from the work force .. being self-employed, consultants, WAHM’s and WAHD’s, bloggers and freelance writers … we are once removed from society. We live with our children, our pets, TV and Radio .. and secretly long to actually communicate with real, living people.

Unlike a more personal one-on-one chat program, like MSN Messenger or ICQ or my favorite Google Talk .. Twitter is something like .. well – remember when the Speaker Phone was invented for your business phones, and ultimately for cell phones? You can still talk to people on the phone, but sometimes you really don’t know who is listening anymore. Twitter is like that. You don’t really know if anybody is listening, but just like blogging – people have a voice and opinion, and like to meet other people with similar voices and opinions .. and Twitter can do this in Real Time.

My TwitterPage

As with most of my online persona’s .. I am “PetLvr” on twitter. If you currently do NOT have an account, first go to http://Twitter.com and create yourself a Twitter account and Twitter username. Once you have an account — there are two things you have to do

1) Follow people!
2) Get people to follow you!

Well, following people is easy! For instance .. if you know the username of a person using twitter (My username is “PetLvr”) .. you just add that username after the URL .. for instance, you can go to http://Twitter.com/PetLvr and you will see my caricature and a “FOLLOW” button. Once you are logged into your twitter account, all you have to do is click the “FOLLOW” button and .. you will get my twitter messages (or ‘tweets’ as we like to call ’em :D)

twitter-followme.jpg

Once you start following people you know – you can find MORE people by just randomly clicking the faces you see on any person’s twitter page. Most of the time, other twitter users WELCOME new followers!

Using Twitter

You can twitter at http://twitter.com/home (once logged in) and leave messages to other Twitter users, or “tweeters” as I like to call them! If you want to talk directly to a particular person (openly viewable by everybody of course) you do this:

@username – where, username is self-explanatory! If you type @PetLvr .. I will get your message. Even though it may seem like you are just twittering messages out into the vaccuum of space, the @ sign routes your message to my twitter page account and I will see it.

If you want to send me a private message, for my eyes only (and don’t know my email) .. you can send me a message this way:

d username – or, in my case … d PetLvr // Your message will not be public and Twitter will actually send me an email showing your private message to me. It will not show up on the public http://Twitter.com/PetLvr page either. However, if you are using an application instead of the web interface, the direct message will appear on my screen.

I Prefer to Use The TWHIRL Application

I use http://Google.com/talk as my main chat program, and recently even http://Pidgin.im that uses a bunch of IM accounts .. and I prefer to use a similar application for my Twittering. It’s much easier! Once logged in, messages come to you. With Twhirl, public messages are white; public messages but directed to me are in red; and private messages meant only for my eyes are in yellow.

I recommend that you try this application out, if you are planning to try using Twitter. Go to .. http://Twhirl.org and download the software. You also have to download and install Adobe AIR the first time, but once using it – the software lets you know when and will automatically update the software when upgrades are available.

I should remind that although twitter only allows you maximum 140 characters to type a message .. there is a built in feature to shorten URLs … Currently on the latest version 0.7.5 Twhirl, you have the choice of using:

* http://Snurl.com
* http://Is.gd
* http://Twurl.nl

You can always go manually shorten a URL at http://TinyURL.com or http://NSFW.in/ but, this really makes it easy to pass along URL’s in Twhirl.

twitter-twhirl-intro-screens.jpg

Filtering Out The White Noise

Although the concept is clear that you *CAN* follow anybody on Twitter, the fact of the matter is that if you try follow everybody – it can be quite unproductive. You have to either choose to follow people who you like to listen to, and limit the amount of users to follow .. or select what you want to listen to.

I never delete or clear messages on Twhirl, I just ignore them while I’m working. I will keep my screen similar to that below, by adding “PetLvr” as a filter (so besides the messages to me – I will know if anybody is talking about me). When I have time to talk, I will add words to the filter line, either names of people I am curious about enough to follow, or maybe topics like income tax or accounting, or blogging, or SOBCON or other terms .. and catch up on my reading .. do a little posting .. and join in on the conversations.

twitter-filter-prtscr-twhirl.jpg

Limitations Of Twittering On Twirl

Unlike using the web http://Twitter.com/PetLvr and clicking refresh all of the time, there is a sacrifice of using Twitter. You see .. Twitter allows only 70 twitter usages per hour (I believe) so there is a good likelihood that you will not be receiving all of the twitter messages. You know what? That’s okay! Unless you are there .. it’s the old saying .. “if you weren’t there – you didn’t miss much”. Chances are if there is something important and you miss a twitter conversation, the reply from another twitter might show up on your screen and you can just click on their name and go to their twitter page and kind of follow the chat in a roundabout way.

Also – for me? I am always rebooting, and I turn off my computer at night and sometimes I don’t start my twhirl application until all of my email routine is completed in the morning, or if I have meetings in the morning and they are finished, etc etc. I don’t mind missing the chatter, but I would hate to miss the direct private messages and even public messages that were meant for me. I might have chatted with people the night before, but then they turned off their computer, and come the next morning and give me a response. I want to know this. So, what I do .. is start everyday – before I open my Twhirl application – and check for replies. It’s just like checking email. Or, checking for comments on your blog. It’s part of my daily routine now.

I go to my website page .. http://Twitter.com/home/ and click the center button “REPLIES” and see all the responses to me. After I do that, I open up Twitter as above, place a filter on in and minimize it in my taskbar.

twitter-myreplies.jpg

Using Twitter For My Business

I have a lot of sites .. http://HART-Empire-Network.com/sites/ and it’s nice to get the word out on new posts that are generated from blogs in my network. I won’t lie to you, I hope that I have many followers of me, and anytime I post up a tweet about a new post in one of my blogs, I secretly hope that this interests all my twitter fans and followers into clicking the link and reading my posts .. (and maybe give it a stumble vote etc etc if worthy :D)

To do this, I have set up an account at http://twitterfeed.com. If you have a Yahoo account, it’s easier to set up an account – as, it’s based on your Yahoo Login details to access. Once you are in, you set up your RSS feed to be associated with your Twitter account, and whenever a new post is recognized by Twitterfeed, it automatically posts it in your twitter page and account. I find it quite efficient. I tried to manually post everytime there was a new post generated within the HART-Empire Network, but it became too hard to keep up.

Using Twitter To Communicate

I don’t know anybody who actually uses a cell phone to Twitter, but I know a lot of people do. Likewise, if you send a message to these people it can be a great way to keep in touch. Not everybody is glued to their computer (like me) or laptop during the day, but I think we are in the age of communication where we all carry our Cell Phones close by and can read messages.

Do you want to chat privately with someone on Google Talk or AIM or MSN Messenger or ICQ .. but they don’t seem to be online? Try sending them a quick Twitter message with a short and sweet message like “Call Me” or “Beep Me on Google Talk” and see how fast you can communicate!

Even the news agencies are using Twitter .. Here are a few interesting ones ..

* http://twitter.com/globeandmail
* http://twitter.com/wordpress
* http://twitter.com/googlenewsus
* http://twitter.com/cnn
* http://twitter.com/nyt_science
* http://twitter.com/foxnews
* http://twitter.com/cbcnews
* http://twitter.com/apod

Although, I can’t offhand recall which schools .. I do recall that some schools are using Twitter, or planning to use Twitter to be able to send mass messages to the students .. in case of emergencies, evacuations, fire in buildings, etc .. and I think that’s great.

I won’t post name of “interesting” Twitters (you can check out my twitter page of who I’m following) and I think it’s great that you can talk to popular people and not-so-popular people, but find them all equally fascinating and enjoyable to chat with! I promised myself I wouldn’t name drop so, I won’t.

Using Twitter To Socialize

I can tell you this – if all you want to do is use Twitter to automate the posting of your blog entries .. or never follow any people .. people are going to UN-Follow you and stop communicating with you. I know because I have a lot of posts coming through Twitterfeed, that sometimes it might look automated and I am quite conscious of that. I do try to chat with people if I can. I do try to listen to people asking questions or offering polls and participate or offer my 2 cents. I do just ramble on about how my day is going, or give little reviews about what TV movie I might be watching.

If you are uncomfortable doing that – or, making small talk on Twitter .. I have a few suggestions. Click the URL’s that people are posting, and comment on their blogs. Or, comment in Twitter to acknowledge you have looked at the URL. You will make a new twitter friend that way :). Also, if you are a blogger .. imagine this: You see a site or post or comic strip or YouTube video that is quite humorous, or entertaining or informative and you end up blogging about it. Well – do you remember those links that were … borderline? You liked them, but felt it wasn’t enough or worth your while to come up with a post about it so you ignored it. On Twitter, you can toss up that URL and let people know that you found a site worth looking at – albeit not that interesting enough to blog about it. And, if you do blog about it – feel free to post the link to your site that links to this interesting site that we can all look at.

I know – with Social voting .. it’s getting harder out there to solicit votes. My philosophy is – PLEASE! If you like this, vote for me. Stumble me. Reddit me. Digg me! I do the same with other sites too by the way. I don’t expect everybody to vote everytime someone reads my site, but I do secretly hope that I do not have to physically ask you to vote for me on every post! That’s not what this is about (although, sometimes it might seem that way). I do see some people outright asking people to stumble them or digg them on Twitter, and I think in the next few months there may be an uprising and people consider this to be well, socially inappropriate.

Where Can I Learn More About Twitter?

Besides the Twitter FAQ page itself http://help.twitter.com/ .. There are a lot of people discussing about Twitter on the internet. Do a search! Check out sites like http://tweetscan.com ..

I started a Blog Catalog Group about Twitter, and you are free to introduce yourself to the group and find some amazing twitters to follow, and also be followed! There are a lot of links to useful resources as well in this group that might be worth a scan, if you are interested in learning more about Twitter. The URL is …. http://www.blogcatalog.com/group/twitter/

And In Conclusion

And – as a final commentary by me .. HART .. if you aren’t using Twitter because you don’t understand it .. the only way you are going to know if Twitter is for you is .. by trying it out. I did! I’ve known about Twitter since January 2007 and even created an account in May 2007 just to let people know that I hated the thought of Twitter (this was my first post) and I didn’t even think much about it until January 2008 (this was my second post) .. but February 1, 2008 I decided to give Twitter a serious try and, I’ve been hooked on Twitter ever since. Well, maybe not hooked – but, I like it 😀

Comments

Thanks for sharing this. Indeed, Twitter can be a useful tool to get information, meet new people, and even do business promotion through it. I find it useful in promoting blog posts and reading interesting news out there. The problem though, the more I follow, the ratio of good “read/links” tend to decline.

I think I can agree somewhat about the over-promotion of posts on Twitter. I read somewhere that you get a better response of people click-thru’s if you promote your new post in the form of a question. (e.g. I could have said something like “Do you want to know how I twitter?” etc etc). And, I was posting my own posts for the first week doing just that.

But – I honestly think (or hope to believe) that me separating my posts to be posted automatically through twitterfeed lets the other Twitter users know that this is automatically generated and there is some sort of promotion going on. In the majority of posts .. I find that some duds to some may be gems to others. If I didn’t chat on Twitter, and you see something like.. e.g. automated posts from http://twitter.com/chandraxray every 3 minutes .. it would get tiresome.

meghnak says:

You have considered every aspects of using twitter and thank you for sharing such a comprehensive article.

Thanks meghnaK .. for dropping by! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

wilbau says:

Well written in depth article!

I share ‘goodies’ (web novelties, tool-hints etc.), news, ‘think-abouts’, memorials, activism-news on twitter.

Subscribe to me and I’ll return the favour.

For sharing multiple URLS I advise: http://linkbunch.com where you can combine a list of long urls to just a short one.

Thanks wilbau for that link .. I got ya on twitter 🙂

Tina says:

Finally someone telling me what to do with my Twitter account.

THANK YOU.

Great Tina! And, don’t forget to follow me 😀

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