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Introducing Twitter

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Tee Morris explains the beauty of Twitter, gets you up to speed on setting up an account and viewing the Twitter homepage, and tells you what Twitter is not.
This chapter is from the book

Twitter first went online in 2006 and in the three years has become the essential tool to introduce Social Media in business. For the casual user, Twitter is also an essential tool as it bridges the gap between blogging and instant messaging. Regardless if the reason behind your interest is for personal or professional application, Twitter's popularity can be attributed back to its initial ease of use.

When you get past Twitter's initial learning curve of communication, there is more. Much more. Sure, you can learn the basics in 10 minutes (just as the title promises), but why stop there? On the surface, Twitter appears to be nothing more than a variation on Facebook's Status Update feature. The potential and power of Twitter, as well as how it is different from Facebook, comes from how you build your network and then engage your community with what you are doing at that particular moment. What might seem to be "just another day" to you is your network's sneak peek into your creative process or what you are accomplishing. Whether it is "working out a tricky plot snag between two characters" or "sitting down with the CEO on outlook for 2009," this is an inside perspective that interests your followers.

If you have never hosted a blog, Twitter is a fantastic primer in doing so. Sometimes referred to as microblogging, Twitter is the sharing of your thoughts or actions at that particular moment, much like a blog post. One difference from blogs is that your thoughts appear as a posting at http://twitter.com. A major difference between true blogs and Twitter, though, is that in Twitter your thoughts must be composed within 140 characters (including spaces) or less. This limitation makes you pare down your posting (or tweet) to the basics. When you send out a tweet, those in your network (your Followers, which are listed by their avatars in a grid on the main page of your Twitter account) see it. That is Twitter: your personal quick response network.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1 Twitter takes your thoughts in brief 140-character-sized blog posts and distributes them across your own network.

Viewing a Twitter Homepage

Even without being registered on Twitter, you can view individual Twitter streams. These are previous tweets made by whomever you review through your browser. What you need to know is the user's (or Twitter as I refer to them. You might hear others call users Tweeters, as well) name on the network.

  1. Go to http://twitter.com on your Internet browser. This takes you to the Sign In/Join Twitter homepage.

    We return to this in a later exercise. For now, focus your attention to the URL field in your browser.

  2. Just after http://twitter.com in your browser's URL field, enter in a username. Examples of a username can include



    Enter in a username of a Twitter you would like to review. After the URL looks like http://twitter.com/ITStudios, press Enter on your keyboard.

  3. Your browser is now directed to the user's Twitter homepage. You can now scroll along his or her timeline of tweets, beginning with the most recent and continuing farther back.
  4. To view more in a user's timeline, simply scroll to the bottom of the tweets and single-click the More button. This loads up more tweets into the browser window.

This is actually all there is to reviewing a user's timeline. Without an account, the communication is a one-way street with you merely on the receiving end of the Twitter feed. Go on and surf to other users' homepages. Take a look at how these people use Twitter.

When you have an idea of how people tweet between one another, consider your message and what you would like to say because we are now about to create a Twitter account.

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