It’s time to jump on the #Twitter express

For those of you who are already on Twitter this is preaching to the choir.  However, for the vast majority of Americans who are not it is time to join in.  Like many of you, I too felt skeptical about this relatively recent phenomenon and hesitated to participate.  As is often the case with something new or strange, I discredited it as another fad.  Each time I heard a reporter reference a news lead from Twitter or read about a “Tweet” from someone, I thought it sounded ridiculous.  It seemed like a place for celebrities to feed their egos by spewing trivial nonsense to their fans.  Regardless of my initial perception, it seemed like Twitter started to appear everywhere I turned.  The noise continued to grow and I decided I needed to find out for myself what this little blue bird is all about.

In some respects I’m a little late to the party by just recently becoming a follower, but every day I’m asked by clients, colleagues, friends and family what is Twitter and why should they check it out.  For those who are unaware, there is apprehension and confusion.  “Is it like text messaging?” “Is it like Facebook?” “I’m not really tech savvy so it’s not for me……”  These are all questions or comments I’ve heard numerous times.  I remember thinking similar things before discovering the answers and seeing for myself the power of Twitter.

There are most likely a variety of explanations of what Twitter is and how it can be used.  It may be different things to different people.  Many refer to it as a micro-blog.  I see it as an immediate source of information.  It provides content wherever you are via your mobile device or computer.  It is the quickest access to news I’ve ever seen in any form of media outlet.  It is easily customizable to your personal preferences.  It can be useful regardless of what line of work you are in or what your interests are.  It enables you to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s important to you.  It also provides you with a communication tool to provide information, voice your opinion or connect with like minded people. 

I realize this may still seem vague and doesn’t answer the question of “how” so here are the basics so you can see for yourself.  Twitter is simply a website along with a mobile application to access it from your mobile device.  Start by going to www.twitter.com.  Simply create an account by providing your name, email, username and password.  You can do the same by downloading the Twitter app to your Smartphone many of which come pre-loaded.  Now you are in. 

The next step is to choose who you would like to follow.  Yes there are plenty of celebrities, but there are also news outlets, writers, reporters, political figures, companies and experts from every field.   Since I work in sports, I follow the different leagues, teams, sports writers, business people, ESPN, etc.  You simply find the different people or entity and click “follow”.  Their Tweets will now appear on the homepage of your Twitter account and on your mobile device (by simply clicking on the Twitter icon).  You can customize the settings in a variety of ways, but it is not intrusive at all and you are in complete control as to when and where you access it.  The Tweets are displayed in a running timeline with the most recent appearing first.  Each Tweet is limited to 140 characters so they usually consist of quick comments or headlines.  They often include links to articles, blogs or sites with more detail. 

There are some imposters out there, but Twitter provides verification in the form of a blue check next to their name so you know the person or source is authentic.  As you build your list, it is easily adjustable and customizable.  If you are a doctor, you can follow other doctors, researchers, pharmaceuticals, insurance companies, etc.  If you are in the fashion industry, you can follow designers, retailers, magazines, etc. 

If you are looking to access sports, news or politics content is readily available in a variety of places, but the speed of how information is distributed on Twitter is second to none.  Writers, reporters and media outlets are Tweeting something as soon as they get it, which is surprising in some respects.  Rather than keep the hot story for their TV show or web-site, they put it out on Twitter.  The need to be first creates this behavior and as a result the information is available on Twitter before anywhere else.  In some cases you hear the story directly from the horse’s mouth as people use Twitter to make announcements or break news. 

If you decide you want to Tweet as well, you simply write what you want (in 140 characters or less) and put it out there.  Depending on what you write, people will find and follow you.  See an article you like, Tweet it with a link.  You want to comment on something happening in your industry, go ahead.  If you see a Tweet from someone else you like and want to pass it on, hit the re-Tweet icon.  There are definite tricks to the trade and ways to build a follower base, but for now we’ll save this for another time. 

So are you ready to give it a try?  It’s free, easy and quick.  Be careful because it could also be a little addicting.  I find myself checking it more and more throughout the day.  I can think of three occasions in the past week where I found out about something relevant and important to my world on Twitter before hearing it anywhere else.  I think it is here to stay and will continue to see explosive growth.  I still don’t care about what the Kardashians are up to or what Ochocinco had for lunch, but I’m not following them so out of site out of mind.  There is something for everyone so see for yourself.  As Twitter’s tagline states, it is “The best way to discover what’s new in your world.”