What the Tweet? A Newbie's Guide to Twitter

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What Twitter IS and ISN'T for the new tweeter.

The majority of Americans have one or more social network presences, with Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn being the top contenders. Yet many are leery of trying Twitter because they think it's just one more social network site, or they simply don't understand how a site that posts mini-blogs of 140 characters or less can be useful.

Folks trying Twitter for the first time often try to force this new medium into old conventions, instead of focusing on how Twitter is different. It may be helpful for these marginal few to define what Twitter isn’t, rather than what it is:

  • Twitter is not Facebook - Don't post pictures for your Mom or check to see if the guy you dated in high school is still single or fat. There are no fun quizzes where you can find out how much your co-worker knows about New Kids on the Block. There are no Twitter gifts that you can send to your sister.
  • Twitter is not LinkedIn - You don't need to know that the business associate who is hitting you up for the big contract "really likes ur pix n stuff". There is an unspoken rule that “What’s Tweeted in Twitter, Stays in Twitter” and having colleagues know that you’re currently hung over and in desperate need of Tylenol is awkward for all.
  • Twitter is not eHarmony - Don't search for people in your neighborhood, then Tweet about how much you totally love the restaurant around the corner and maybe you should meet there for coffee. Sadly, there is no marital status in the Twitter profiles, so it’s embarrassing for both parties when you then post a Twitpic of you and your spouse’s 10th anniversary dinner.
  • Twitter is not Google Adwords - Don't create a profile to promote your business by stuffing relevant keywords in 140 characters or less, while ignoring relevant content. Yes, initially people will follow you, but they will bleed away as they realize that you're really just a billboard account.

So what’s left, you may ask?

Twitter is truly a “stream of consciousness” social networking site. Look for those moments during your day when you think “I should tell someone about that” and tweet them! To get the most from the site, tweet well and tweet often. Smartphones are an enormous boost to your Twitter productivity, but not required if you’re frequently online at home and at the office.

The majority of time, tweets are mundane stuff. However unlike blogs, RSS feeds and emails, your readers can ignore what they will. A word of warning; don’t tie up your sense of pride in your list of followers because they will come and go fluidly as their tastes change. Ultimately, Twitter is about one thing: tweeting to please yourself!

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