(n.b. This post was originally written in 2008 and hasn’t been updated to reflect changes in the Twitter service and new tools that have been developed and offered since that time. For a more current introduction to Twitter I would recommend Michael Hyatt’s excellent Beginner’s Guide to Twitter. Sal.)
Twitter (www.twitter.com) is a social networking Web site that is frequently described as a micro-blogging service. A large community of users and application developers are actively working on interfaces to the Twitter service.
What is Twitter good for? Well, it can be used as a feed for news sources or other information that is interesting to you, and to connect with friends or colleauges. After using it for a while you are also likely to find that Twitter helps you to express those thoughts that would typically go unnoticed.
CommonCraft.com has very simple way of describing Twitter in a video here.
A more detailed description of the Twitter service, its history, and some of its terminology can be found on the Wikipedia Twitter page. Dom Sagolla, one of the founders of Twitter, wrote an interesting inside perspective story on how Twitter was born.
There is an etiquette to using Twitter and posting information. Here’s some important things to know:
- Everyone on Twitter has a username. If you know their username you can access someone’s Twitter page with the URL http://www.twitter.com/username.
- A posting on Twitter is typically called a “tweet.”
- Following someone on Twitter means that you will see their tweets on your Twitter home page. Similarly, anyone who is following you can see your tweets on their Twitter home pages.
- Starting a tweet with @username means that you are “replying” to username. Your followers will be able to see the replies that you send to others, however, others can not see the replies sent to you.
- A “direct message” is a private tweet that is sent directly to a Twitter username.
Direct messages start with the letter “D” followed by username. For example:
D username Thanks for teaching me Twitter.
- If you view an interesting tweet it is customary to “re-tweet” the message giving credit to the original poster. To re-tweet begin the message with “RT” or “RETWEET” followed by the username with an @-sign. For example: RT @username It’s cold and sunny today in NY.
- Hash tags are arbitrary words that begin with a #-sign that are added to a tweet to make it easier to find in a Twitter search. For example: I love my new Apple notebook computer. #MacBookPro
The Help and Support section of the Twitter Web site has additional documents that describe the Twitter service. You can access several Getting Started type documents here.
Below is a growing list of resources for Twitter users.
Online Tools, Services, and Web Sites
Twitpic let’s you share photos on Twitter. Many popular Twitter applications automatically interface with Twitpic and allow you to add photos to your tweets which are converted to Twitpic URLs. When you login to the Twitpic Web site an email address is created for you to send your photos to the service as attachments. Emailing your photos to Twitpic is probably the best way to use the service since the subject of your message is used as the caption for the photo and Twitpic will automatically post a tweet for you that will include a hyperlink to the photo attached to the message. Check your Settings page on Twitpic to find the email address for your account.
If you’re an active user of social networking sites, SocialToo is a Web site that can help you manage your online interactions for Twitter and Facebook. For Twitter, SocialToo includes features such as online surveys, auto-follow/unfollow, and direct messages to welcome new followers. With SocialToo you can also setup a daily stats message to be received by email.
Twitter limits postings to 140 characters. Twitlonger is a service that accepts arbitrary text content greater that the Twitter limit and automatically breaks it down into several smaller postings acceptable to the Twitter format.
Mr. Tweet is probably best described as a Twitter service, here’s how it works. You follow MrTweet and a few minutes later he sends a direct message to you with a hyperlink that includes a customized report with suggestions of people to follow. The report includes stats such as the ratio of followers/following and average number of tweets per day to help you decide if you would like to follow MrTweet’s suggestions. The service is a very convenient way to identify new people to follow with relevant interests to yours. MrTweet also has a separate marketing Web page here.
Yammer is described as Twitter for companies; it allows the exchange of short messages between groups within an enterprise. Sign-up is through your business email address which is how Yammer identifies users working for the same company.
Twittercounter is a Web site that reports on the number of followers for Twitter users. The site also supplies application code that can be added to blogs and Web pages to automatically display a counter in widget format for a specified Twitter user.
Dan Zarrella, a “social and viral marketing scientist, runs the ReTweet Mapper on his blog. The Mapper reports on the most retweeted users by hour, day, and week. The service is currently in beta, so check Dan’s blog in case the URL moves.
Tweetree creates a tree format out of a Twitter timeline so that @reply messages can be viewed within the context of a conversation.
TwitterTrail allows you to enter a topic (such as “pair programming,” or “Twitter Favorites”) and searches the Twitter feed to display the top users on the subject. The users returned are ranked by the number of times they have tweet’ed about the topic.
Twitoria scans the people you’re following and reports on the number of days since their last tweet. You can select the timeframe in periods of several weeks or months up to one year. Twitoria can help you decide which people to unfollow based on their activity.
MyTweetSpace helps to create a custom background for your Twitter home page. You can select from many available background themes, upload a photo / badge to customize your background, and the Web site will upload the new background image to your Twitter profile (if you enter your Twitter username and password).
Browser Addins and Desktop Applications
TweetDeck is an Adobe Air desktop application that allows for configurable searches and views of Twitter timelines. If you follow a lot of people on Twitter, or if you’re looking for a way to manage a high volume of Twitter messages, TweetDeck is can be very helpful.
Twitzer is a Firefox extension which lets you post text longer than 140 characters to Twitter.com. It can also convert TinyURL.com links to actual links so that you are sure what link will open. Twitzer can be downloaded from https://shorttext.com/twitzer.aspx.
TwitterFox (previously known as TwitterNotifier) is a Firefox extension that notifies you of your friends’ tweets on Twitter.com. The extension adds a tiny icon on the status bar which notifies you when your friends update their tweets. It also provides a small text input field to update your tweets and convert URLs to TinyURL.com format. TwitterFox can be installed from https://www.naan.net/trac/wiki/TwitterFox.
Tweetie is a very feature rich application for the iPhone. It includes all the standard capabilities (tweets, replies, direct messages, etc) but also allows you to view profiles, search, follow/unfollow, and it has an inline Web browser that can email or post URLs. The inline browser also resizes pages using the iPhone’s Multi-Touch gestures. At only $2.99 for the download, Tweetie certainly delivers on the features.
TWIDROID is a Twitter client for Google’s Android mobile device platform. The TWIDROID Web page has a feature list which lists the abilities to follow/unfollow users, send replies and direct messages, photo-posting, custom alert ringtones, and several other useful capabilities.
Articles and References
Guy Kawasaki, the former Apple Fellow and Macintosh Evangelist, is also the author of the How to Change the World blog where he posted the entries How to Use Twitter as a Twool and Looking for Mr. Good Tweet: How to Pickup Followers on Twitter.
The Alltop.com Website, which is described as an online magazine rack of popular topics, has an excellent Twitter resources section located at http://twitter.alltop.com. The Alltop team keeps the information current so it’s a good place to check back for new information and updates on Twitter.
Brian Solis writes the PR 2.0 blog and has posted an entry on Twitter tools for communications and marketing professionals here. The list is extensive and would certainly be useful to people in businesses other than marketing.
The makeuseof.com Web site published a list of 15 Twitter resources and references for the 2008 holiday season. “Twittery Things,” they call it, includes references to ranking and rating Web sites, alerting and notification services, and ways to advertize on your Twitter feed. You can find the makeuseof.com article here.