Twitter: what is it?
Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging site that allows users to post messages (called tweets) up to 140 characters, typically to answer the quesion "What are you doing?" (although not all tweets actually answer this question). These tweets can be viewed by whomever has chosen to "follow" you on Twitter. If you choose to follow others, their tweets will show up on your Twitter homepage, keeping you updated of their statuses.
Twitter: In Plain English
Ok. So...what's the point?
This has come to be the logical next question, and one some never seem to get past. That's okay...Twitter may not have any value for you as an individual, and you may be thinking, "That's just another waste of time. Why would I want to constantly be telling people what I'm doing at any given moment? And who would care enough to want to follow me?" Quite frankly, that may be partially true. But if you have a business or organization that you're wanting to promote, you should not overlook the benefits of Twitter as a marketing tool. Via Twitter, you can strategically plan your tweets to generate interest, to run promotions, to generate leads to your website (which hopefully should translate into sales or further exposure for your organization). You can search for and follow those who are potentially your target audience, giving them the opportunity to follow you (where they will then be in a position to receive tweets from you. Direct Advertising = Valuable).
Additionally, more than just an answer to "What are you doing?", Twitter has become a place for breaking news, for seeing what's going on in the world at that that moment—not just what your friends may be eating for dinner.
Ok, I'm game...how do I get started?
If you're ready to join "Twitter Nation," it's easy to get started. Just to go to Twitter's website and sign up for a new account. You can then search for people you already know that are on Twitter, and follow them, or simply search for others (by keyword, location, or interest). As you follow people their tweets will show up on your Twitter home page. You'll want to post your first tweet, and that's it!
(Oh, and make sure to follow me! @nvisiondesigns)
A Direct Message is a private message sent from one Twitter user to another. You can only DM someone who is following you.
@Reply is a tweet that is sent in response to somebody else's tweet. Reply by including the @ sign directly preceding the username of the person you're responding to (e.g. @nvisiondesigns).
The hashtag (#) added to a tweet makes it easy to categorize your tweet into a certain topic or group that is Twitter-wide. Hashtags make topics easy to find using the search feature on Twitter. The hashtag can be added before whatever word or phrase describes your topic. For example, if many people were tweeting about a MacBook Pro promotion, adding #macbookpro (or any other user-defined tag) to their tweets would make that topic (and all the tweets that use it) easily searchable.
RT is short for "Retweet" and essentially means you are reposting somebody else's tweet. You know something is retweeted when you see "RT" at the beginning of a post, usually followed by a username of the person they got the post from.
Follow Friday has become a trend (on Fridays of course) of posting people you find interesting and think others should follow. Generally you will see a #FollowFriday or #FF hashtag in tweets, followed by one or more usernames. Best practices include giving a brief description or overview of why someone else should follow these people.