Twitter 101

So you’re thinking of taking the leap to see just what it is that has everyone so fired up about Twitter. But you have just one question: What is Twitter?

Twitter is a micro-blogging service that started out by users answering one question: “What are you doing?” While people still post what they’re doing in the 140 characters that’s allotted for updates, Tweeters may find themselves building professional and personal relationships with their followers, therefore carrying on full conversations via Tweets. And yes, while everyone who is following you will see these conversations, there is a certain personalization associated with it that people find fascinating, and often times useful.

The best way to start using Twitter is to just dive in and start Tweeting. But first, you need to be schooled with a little Twitter 101.

Followers/Following

Following somebody means that you have elected to add that person to your list of updates. In turn – those you’re following may follow you. The notion that just about anybody on Twitter can follow you makes some people uneasy. To put your mind at ease there are a few things you can do:

  1. You can make your updates protected, meaning that only those following you are able to view what you post. The downside to doing this though, is that not many people at all will be seeing your updates. People will have to request to follow you, and this makes it difficult for networking purposes.
  2. If you keep your updates open to where anybody with a Twitter account can follow you, there is an option to block people. Use this selectively, and don’t go about blocking everyone following you just because you don’t know them.

Your profile

Your profile page is where you and others can go to see what you’ve been Tweeting about. If people find your Tweets interesting enough, they just might follow you. Your profile page is also where your one-line bio (in 160 characters or less), and website is displayed. This may be just me, but I am more likely to follow somebody if they have their bio filled out, and it’s interesting.

Your home page

Your Twitter home page displays a timeline of Tweets from those you are following. You are the only one who sees this page (your followers will see your profile page, not your home page). This is also the page where you can make your updates, and “@reply” to, or retweet someone. (See below for @replies and retweets.)

@replies

The easiest way to explain @replies is from Twitter’s support site itself:

“An @reply is a public message sent from one person to another, distinguished from normal updates by the @username prefix. If a message begins with @username, we collect it as a reply and post it in the replies tab. Reply publicly to any update on Twitter by using the @username format. Following is not necessary to reply to someone, and all of your replies are visible in the replies tab of your home page sidebar.”

Example of an @reply:
@Chris_Jenkins Wow. When I look at my Twitter home page all I see is your face. So glad I still get to see you even when you’re not here! :)

@reply settings

This is an important one. Again, the easiest way to explain this is from Twitter’s support:

“You follow Shelia and Ace. Sheila follows you, Ace and Dutch. You love reading and replying to Ace and Sheila’s updates but you don’t know Dutch, so you don’t want to see Sheila’s replies to him. You don’t want to stop following Sheila, nor do you want to follow Dutch. What to do?

Twitter offers @reply timeline settings to control the display of replies between people you follow on your homepage. These settings are like filters for the replies posted by your followers. There are three settings:

  1. @replies to the people I’m following: see @replies posted by people you follow to other people that you also follow. In this case, you would always see replies between Sheila and Ace because you follow both of them, but never between Sheila and Dutch, because you don’t follow Dutch. (This is the default setting.)
  2. All @replies: see all @replies posted by people you follow, whether or not you follow the person to whom the reply is directed. In this case, you would see all of Sheila’s replies to Dutch and anyone else she replied to, regardless of whether you follow them or not.
  3. No @replies: never see any @replies in your timeline, ever. In this case, you would not see a reply from anyone, regardless of follow state, including replies between Sheila and Ace, Dutch, or anyone else.”

Confused? I would recommend going with the first option, so as not to get overwhelmed with @replies by selecting all, or run the risk of not seeing any by selecting none.

Retweets

Twitter users retweet, or RT, other people’s updates for different reasons. Someone might just like what you posted, or think it’s funny enough to share with their followers. Others RT for networking purposes, or to share a good article that someone read.

In the end, having someone RT something you posted, is a great way to gain more followers, as that person’s followers will see your username in their RT. It’s important to always give credit where it’s due when retweeting an update.

Example of a RT:
RT @BillSheridan Reading “Stimulus won’t affect small businesses much” from MSNBC. http://twurl.nl/zat7o7

Direct Messages

Direct messaging through Twitter works much like an Instant Message conversation between two people. By direct messaging (DM) someone via Twitter, only that person will receive the message, and can in turn, DM you back. It’s important to realize that only those following each other can DM. If someone I am following is not following me, then we cannot DM each other.

Favorites

Beside each Tweet from those you’re following in your timeline, is the outline of a star (if you roll your mouse curser to the right of the box, it should appear). Simply click on this star to mark a Tweet as a favorite. Anybody is able to view your favorite Tweets.

Everyone

Clicking the “everyone” tab will bring up a list of current Tweets around Twitter. These Tweets include updates from followers and non-followers.

Device and e-mail updates

Know who your new followers are by signing up to receive new follower e-mail notifications. You can also opt-in to receive e-mail notifications when someone sends you a direct message.

Twitter also allows you to keep updated through various mobile phone applications. The easiest way to ease into updating Twitter by phone though is through SMS. You can set it up so you will receive text messages when selected people make updates. You can also update to Twitter via SMS by texting your update to 40404.

And just to show you how willing your “Tweeple” can be when needed: One of my followers offered up this suggestion when I called upon them for their own Twitter 101 tips:

Jaye_Valentine @kvitartas “Friends don’t let friends Twitter drunk.”

Cool people to follow on Twitter:

Twitter resources:

  • Twitter? It’s What You Make It
    The New York Times
  • Twtbase
    Twitter application database
  • Tweepler
    Organize your Tweeps
  • BigTweet
    A repository for all sorts of manglings of the English language as used on Twitter.
  • Twictionary
    A repository for all sorts of manglings of the English language as used on Twitter.
  • Twuffer
    Twuffer allows the Twitter user to compose a list of future tweets, and schedule their release.
  • TweetDeck
    TweetDeck is an Adobe Air desktop application that groups together your Twitter feeds into more manageable bite sized pieces.
  • Mrtweet
    Mr. Tweet looks through your extended network to help you build effective relationships on Twitter, by asking: “Which of my followers I should be following in return?” and “Who are the influential people I should be following?”
  • Twollow
    Auto-follow people on Twitter based on key words.
  • Twistory
    Twitter + history = Twistory. Add your Twitter feed to your favorite calendar application and browse through your personal Twitter history.
  • TweetBeep
    Keep track of conversations that mention you, your products, your company, or anything else that comes to mind.
  • Twitzu
    Create events to promote through Twitter

Did I eat a poison Apple? Revisiting the iPhone

Turns out I might be a bit of a Microsoft fan. It’s even possible that from time to time I make some rushed decisions due to my loyalty. Hey, we’re all human, and Apple hasn’t held back on the misleading marketing campaigns. The important thing is that I can listen and re-evaluate my opinion when necessary.

clip_image001So I’ll swallow my pride, give Tom Hood and the other iPhone addicts some credit, and admit that this iPhone has grown into a rather functional device. Don’t get me wrong, I still maintain my position that it didn’t live up to the marketing hype when it was released. I still think Apple is evil, and I’m not buying a MAC. I’m simply stating that the iPhone has grown up and it shows.

So what made a Microsoft fan change his tune? It’s very simple, MS Exchange connectivity, the application store, and the incredible number of social apps available. None of these are unique to the iPhone but when combined with speed and ease of use it’s a killer combo.

Microsoft Exchange connectivity is what you would expect from a non-Windows Mobile device. I’d call it incomplete, others might call it functional. In the grand scheme of things it works well enough for the average user. It pushes my e-mail, folders, and calendar and allows me to get my day to day work done. After a few days, the only feature I really missed from Windows Mobile was the ability to flag messages for follow-up.

Handango works fine as an application store for both Windows Mobile and BlackBerry, so Apple’s hype about their application store didn’t impress me much. This is one of those times when you just have to experience something to understand the difference. Apple kicked everyone’s butt with this one. Both finding and loading applications is almost effortless. This is one I have to admit I was plain wrong on, and nothing can compare to it.

We’re all aware that Social Networking is here to stay. I’m a huge fan of Twitter (some might call it an addiction) and I’ve used multiple clients on multiple devices. iPhone clients are hands down the best. Pick your poison: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or FriendFeed and you’ll find one or more clients in the Apple application store.

And to add to the pain, even the 1st generation iPhone is faster than any of my Windows Mobile devices. The battery life exceeded my expectations, I didn’t have a single lock-up all week and I didn’t have to rebuild it. While this might sound like blasphemy coming from a hard core Microsoft guy, I really like this device.

Now of course you knew I wasn’t just going to lie down with the evil Apple Empire and drink the Kool-Aid. The iPhone experience isn’t perfect. I mentioned before, I’d call the MS Exchange connectivity incomplete compared to Windows Mobile. I miss not having the presence of Office Communicator available. I still can’t get the speed I’d like from the keyboard, and I hate iTunes.

Like all mobile devices you have to take the good with the bad. In this case, the iPhone has grown well enough to get some praise, even from this stubborn MS guy.

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