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Twitter: What Is It?

Updated on March 11, 2009

Kelly Ripa is doing it. So is M.C. Hammer. Even the president himself seems to be part of the action. A rogue character posing as Stephen Colbert is doing it. The news was all abuzz when politicians were doing it during the president’s televised speech.

It’s Twitter, and it seems to be taking the world by storm. If you’re not doing it yet, you’ve heard about it. If you haven’t heard about it yet- you will.

USA Today said on July 21, 2008, “Twitter took off from simple to 'tweet' success.” Good Morning America’s website announced on March 4, 2009, “’GMA’ Gets in on the Twitter Frenzy”. And Business Week said on March 4, 2009, “Twitter Has Potential Buyers Atwitter”.

Twitter is spreading faster than a virus and is rumored to overtake Facebook with it’s online following. So what, exactly, is Twitter?

Twitter Defined

Twitter is an online social networking site that allows its users to follow one another’s activity by answering the simple question, “What are you doing right now?” in 140 characters or less. You can enter these “mini-blogs” via the internet or even connect the service to your cell phone or Black Berry and update your status on the go.

As opposed to Facebook, you have two types of contacts on Twitter: followers and those you follow. You can look up friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, TV personalities, politicians, authors, and celebrities to “follow”. This simply means that you automatically receive their updates on your Twitter homepage. Then there are your followers. These are people who know you or who link with you through someone who does know you, and begin to “follow” you, thus receiving your updates on their homepage.


Why Twitter?

Twitter already has six million users, and the number is growing daily. The vast appeal may be due to the quick format: if you text, you know 140 characters doesn’t go far. It’s also less invasive than personal pages such as MySpace and Facebook in that you can connect with people you normally wouldn’t have back-and-forth communication with.

Twitter allows you to have daily contact with people who otherwise would never cross worlds with you. Ashton Kutcher, for instance. George Stephanopoulos, News Chief Washington Correspondent and Host of "This Week" on ABC. Love What Not to Wear on TLC? You can follow Clinton Kelly. It is a fun concept, a chance to brush fingertips with the rich, famous, and influential.

And then there’s the opportunities it affords for those who follow you. You can simply post updates on your daily life, “Just got out of bed. Getting ready to go to work. Where did I leave my keys???” You can express your ideas on current events, “Voice your concerns about embryonic stem cell research. Find your congressman at https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml.” Or you can use your Twitter updates to promote yourself, as many celebrities do. Let people know what current project you’re working on, and how they can be a part. (Keep in mind though, that if you’re constantly promoting yourself, your “followers” may tire of you.)

Great New Technology or the Latest Gross Invasion of Privacy

Twitter has its fans and its foes. Supporters rave about the convenient means of keeping in touch with people around the world. Politicians appreciate that it puts them in direct contact with “the people”. M.C. Hammer says, "I love anything that shortens the distance from creation to consumer. The middle men keep getting in the way."

Opponents rant that Twitter is the latest in an ever-increasing invasion in the line between public and private life. Do people really need to know what you’re doing every hour throughout the day? Is nothing personal anymore? Some assume anyone who enjoys Twitter is either extremely egocentric or insecure. Maybe both.

Which side of the fence do you land on? Is Twitter an annoying venue for people who think others want to know their every move? Or is it a great new way to network with individuals around the globe? You be the judge.

How to Use Twitter

If you want to be a part of the movement, simply go to http://twitter.com/ and click the green button at the bottom of the screen that says, “Get Started- Join”. Give yourself a Twitter handle and fill in some basic personal information and you’re ready to get started. As with all social networking sites, the more you use it, the more you understand it and are better able to take advantage of the ins and outs of the website.

Once you sign up, you can enter your first “Tweet”, to let people know what you’re doing. Then search for users you would like to “follow” and wait for others to begin “following” you.


Want to Get Started? Follow Me!

I am a new user of Twitter and am still learning. If you’re new, or would like to get started, I invite you to network with me on Twitter. Follow this link: http://twitter.com/SarahSonging and click on the large green button in the upper right corner to join Twitter and follow my updates. Let’s Twitter together!

Are you twittering?

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    • Sarah Songing profile image
      Author

      Sarah Songing 9 years ago

      Oprah is talking about Twitter now, she's opened an account, you can find her with simply "oprah".

      Are you Tweeting yet? follow SarahSonging at http://twitter.com

    • Sarah Songing profile image
      Author

      Sarah Songing 9 years ago

      LondonGirl: I had a feeling that was you! (-: Nice to see your real name.

      Anamika S: Glad I could help out. I was in the same boat until about a week ago. Hope you enjoy Twittering!

    • Anamika S profile image

      Anamika S Jain 9 years ago from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India

      Informative Hub! I have been hearing about twitter for long. But have not joined yet. I shall join now.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 9 years ago from London

      I'm englishchick

    • Sarah Songing profile image
      Author

      Sarah Songing 9 years ago

      LondonGirl: I will have to follow you back! I'm pretty sure I can tell which one is your handle. :-)

      Gwendymom: Glad I could help! I had heard about it here and there, but knew I needed to check it out when the news started doing stories on it.

      ParadihmShift: Glad to hear you're on. I'm not the best person to ask about the ins and outs of Twitter, but from what I can tell, when someone writes you a direct message, you click on their name (highlighted in red) and then on the right side of the screen, there's an option that says "message"; click on that, and you can send them a direct message back. (At least that's the best I've figured out so far!)

      Thanks for the feedback!

    • ParadigmShift... profile image

      ParadigmShift... 9 years ago from San Jose, CA

      I just joined twitter too! Still figuring it out. When people ask questions on twitter, how do you answer them??

      Anyway, great hub, was wondering when someone would write this hub.

    • gwendymom profile image

      gwendymom 9 years ago from Oklahoma

      I have been hearing alot about twitter and didn't know what it was. Glad I found this hub. Thanks.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 9 years ago from London

      I am indeed! I've followed you as well.

    • Sarah Songing profile image
      Author

      Sarah Songing 9 years ago

      Thanks, LondonGirl.

      So, are you Twittering?

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 9 years ago from London

      interesting hub!

      You say you are a new user - do you think it will replace Facebook for you?

    • Sarah Songing profile image
      Author

      Sarah Songing 9 years ago

      Wow! That's awesome, Trsmd. Thanks for the tip!

      Peronally, I'm a huge Facebook fan. Love staying connected with friends and family from all over. I'm learning about Twitter though, and do appreciate the shorter allotment of time it requires.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • Trsmd profile image

      Trsmd 9 years ago from India

      There are many tools that allow you to post your message to one spot and then have it propagated to all of these network sites automatically. That is, send one message out and all of these social networks get updated

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