Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few months, you're probably hearing more and more about Twitter. Maybe you've already a Twitter power user. If so, this article may not be worth your time. But if you're wondering what Twitter's all about, or if you've already created a Twitter account, but don't know where to go from here, consider this a quick overview of life on Twitter.
Twitter was created in 2006, but suddenly it seems as if it's all people are talking about. For the month of February 2009, for example, Twitter saw their monthly traffic grow by a reported 1382%. Ashton Kutcher's victory over CNN in the race to be the first to 1 million followers is just the latest appearance of Twitter in the news.
According to our friends over at Wikipedia, Twitter "is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read other users' updates known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length which are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other users who have subscribed to them (known as followers)." Basically, you post short updates (under 140 characters) and follow your friends' updates.
Twitter usernames always start with the @ symbol; for example, our Twitter name is @commonplaces. If you'd like to send a tweet to one user specifically, you can do so by starting the tweet with "@username". This is called an @reply. Other Twitter users will see this @reply on your profile page, however, so a truly private message should be sent as a Direct Message.
Once you've created your Twitter account (which takes about 30 seconds), make sure you fill in your bio so other like-minded individuals can find you. Twitter is a little boring if you're not following anyone, so here's a few interesting people you can follow to get you started:
@commonplaces - A no-brainer!
@copyblogger - The Twitter age is no time for poor writing, so follow Copyblogger.
@MarketingProfs - Social media, online marketing, and a host of other topics are discussed by Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs.
@lisabarone - Smart and witty Co-founder of Outspoken Media. You'll never be bored following @lisabarone.
@kevinrose - The founder of Digg.com.
@drupal - Keep up with the latest in the Drupal community.
@timoreilly - Founder of O'Reilly Media and creator of the term "Web 2.0".
@techcrunch - News stories from the Internet blog TechCrunch.