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Tweets please!

Alex Christie

5 September 2008

OK — so you are wondering what this thing called Twitter is. Even those who have heard of it are not all together sure what the point is, so I am going to go through the basics of the what, the why and the how.

WHAT

Twitter is essentially a micro-blog. You connect with other (friends, family, strangers) around the world to stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: “What are you doing?”

Below is a sampling of "tweets" from some people that I am following:

  • [name withheld]  yeah… now using Google chrome. Brilliant :) 38 minutes ago from web
  • BBC Cocktail puts woman in hospital: A teenager vows never to drink again after a holiday cocktail caused her he.. http://tinyurl.com/5rr5n7 9 minutes ago from twitterfeed
  • TamarUK Tamar XD: Multiple browsers and web design http://tinyurl.com/6mr2cp 24 minutes ago from twitterfeed

In the above 3 samples, I have tweets from a friend, a news provider, and my favourite experience design team ;-)

WHY

Various reasons depending on who you are.

Some like to use Twitter to keep up with friends near and far in REAL time, others are curious and use it to make new friends, some like to utilise it for news and information for hobbies and interests and, of course, some use it for all of the above and more.

For businesses, especially those that blog, Twitter is a great opportunity to syndicate blogs as blog updates can be automatically updated to Twitter and everyone that is following your tweets will see that a new blog has been posted straight away.

Twitter really comes into it’s own with some of the applications that have been independently built to interact and/or work with it, but more about that later (HOW – part 2).

HOW (Part 1)

1. Sign up for a free account at twitter.com

2. Send your own tweets

3. Become a follower: find others you know and use the search functionality to search for your interests with keywords and see what you find.

Here‘s a video on how to use Twitter.

HOW (Part 2)

There are A LOT of applications for Twitter  that you can use online, via your phone and via your desktop to get more out of Twitter.

Reading and tweeting

My favourite app is Twhirl, based on Adobe Air, as it allows me to get tweets to my desktop rather than logging on to Twitter.

And here is a Video on using Twhirl.

Twitter via email using MessageDance. It also integrates your tweets into your MySpace, FaceBook and other social networking accounts. If you don’t need that much functionality, the more basic TwitterMail may be for you. It offers basic email interface and a post to the future feature.

Search

The search on Twitter could be better, so in the meantime there are two apps to help you:
TwitterSearch – a great way to find people by name if you don’t know their Twitter handle or have them in your email address book.

Twitterverse – not really search so much as a very addicting mashup that shows tweets from around the world.

Fun and more
Twickr – It is a mashup of Twitterand Flickr where you can send a picture to Flickr and then it automatically updates your twitter followers. Another option is  http://www.mobypicture.com

Create twitter polls.

iPhone peeps might like http://pockettweets.com/

Bloggers – If you blog and tweet, you can use Twitterfeed to automatically post blog posts to Twitter. I use it and love it. It saves so much time!

There are many, many more apps available than listed here.

For more info try:

http://twitter.com/downloads

http://twitter.pbwiki.com/Apps

http://www.twittown.com/twitter-forge

FINAL THOUGHTS

Twitter can be both fun and useful – it depends what you want to do with it. While it’s adoption is slow going in the UK, I think that this is related to the lack of integration with mobile here so far. Once people can tweet via their mobiles easily and consistently, stronger growth is more likely.

In the meantime, I still find it fun and useful for those friends and family who do use it and I find that I especially get benefit from the BBC  and other industry related tweets that I get throughout the day to my desktop. It saves a lot of time going through longer feeds and various websites.

Basically, I think you should go and sign-up and start experimenting and see what you think. As you can see from the list of apps on some of the sites referenced above, I just touched the tip of the iceberg on what can be done with Twitter.

Happy tweeting!

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