twitter

I wonder if the idea for Twitter came to guys from Obvious after watching that so popular but oh, so annoying Budweiser Wassup commercial back in 2006? Twitter’s simple question “What are you doing?” clearly resembles the one The Bud fans were asking each other.

Who could know that in less than two years such a plain idea of sharing with the world what we’re doing at the moment will turn into a craze where blogging and Harry Potter fail in comparison. Looks like everyone has at least opened an account on Twitter and tried to join the world of micro-blogging. But what can be said in 140 characters or less other than “enjoying a hot cup of java with Baileys”?

Apparently a lot. Humans are very curious and clever creatures, who can create something out of nothing, or turn an unassuming personal communication tool into a powerful marketing and political machine. (Would somebody enlighten @hillaryclinton please, that she needs to at least pretend she’s following some of her followers, or follow the steps of @BarackObama, who follows everyone who follows him?)

There are many tutorials written on how to use Twitter for marketing. Copyblogger has even announced a Twitter writing contest, challenging everyone to write a story exactly 140 characters long. If Hemnigway’s shortest story ever was only six words or 35 characters long, and hundreds of others have tried to follow his steps on Wired, someone should be able to write a novella with 140 characters.

So what is it about Twitter that attracts so many people? Why should we consider opening a Twitter account? CommonCraft did an interesting and entertaining video tutorial on Twitter in Plain English. Though it only covers personal and social aspects of Twitter, it is a good introduction on how someone can start his addiction to Twitter. Oh, yes, there’s already a new term — twitterholic — along with the heated debates on whether a post to Twitter should be spelled twit or tweet.

As for myself, I’m still trying to uncover the Twitter magic that excites thousands of its fans. I couldn’t keep reminding myself to visit my online Twitter page to twit, so I’ve installed several third-party Twitter applications that I found convenient:

  1. TwitterBar

    This add-on allows you to post to Twitter from Firefox’s address bar.
    twitterbar
    Clicking on a small grey/green icon that sits at the end of the address bar will post your twit along with the displayed URI, and you can hover your mouse over the icon to see how many characters you have left.

  2. TwitterFox

    twitterfox This Firefox extension “adds a tiny icon on the status bar that notifies you when your friends update their tweets. Also it has a small text input field to update your tweets”. I like how easy it is here to click and reply to someone’s twit and also click on the tab to see all replies to my twits.

  3. MoodBlast

    moodblast This is a standalone menubar application that allows you to “blast” your mood, thoughts, activities not only to Twitter but to a number of other apps that makes it really helpful to be on top of your online social life with various social networking sites and IMs like Facebook, Jaiku, Skype, iChat, Tumblr, Prownce. MoodBlast comes with a hand full of useful features, make sure to check out the how-to Screencast on Cicrle Six Design

  4. TwitterFeed

    twitterfeed
    Even if you don’t have time to twit, adding your blog’s feed to Twitter will give your site an extra exposure, and to your followers a quick way to check your most recent post.

Hopefully, those four apps mentioned above will improve my Twitter experience and make it less time consuming and more efficient. There are many other popular Twitter apps, which one did you find helpful for your twittering needs?

One thing I’m still trying to figure out is how some people can keep up with following hundreds of other Twitter users? Do you really read everyone’s twits? How much time do you spend on Twitter then?

What are your thoughts on Twitter? What do you like or dislike about it? Do you consider yourself being a twitterholic, or do you find yourself wondering what’s with all that Twitter buzz? How do you use Twitter? What do you twit about? How do you present yourself on Twitter — are you extending your blogging personality or revealing more of who you are and what you do when you’re not “wired”?

Finally, if you like to follow me and my progress to becoming a Twitterholic, or on the contrary, giving up on Twitter, then feel free to do so. You know I always welcome new friends.

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16 Insightful Bits in response to “How Do You Twit On Twitter?”

  1. I’ve been giving Twitter a concerted blast for the past two weeks. Having been quite vocal in the past about what a waste of time I thought it was, I must confess I’ve been enjoying it and slowly converting into a fan.

    The great thing is it’s instant and you can dip into it as much or as little as you like. Unlike blogging which kind of consumes my life a bit too much for my liking sometimes, with Twitter I can use it loads or hardly at all and not feel as if its overtaking me… if that makes any sense?

    I guess it’s kind of like a soap opera – really addictive and compulsive viewing, but then you can go without watching it for a month and when you watch it again you can follow the plot without feeling like you’ve missed anything.

    PS – I don’t watch soaps ;)

  2. I joined twitter last year and just couldn’t get into it, but this time I’ve dragged a few of my friends into twittering and it’s going ok thus far.

    Most of the friends I have on there are from livejournal, and we use twitter for those one or two liners that we’d traditionally post to lj.

    I’m terrible with theming posts. Basically I twitter about little pithy moments… ahah.

  3. I use Twitter like any body else, but more than sharing stuff about my personal life, I try to provide some “value” in my tweets – like sharing interesting and useful links with my followers, etc.

    I follow around 400 people on Twitter and I tend to reply to everyone who replies to me.

    It’s of course impossible to keep track all tweets by everyone, but I just read the latest ones from the time line view when I wake up in the morning.

    I use Twhirl quite a lot, and occasionally I also make use of the website.

    The only thing I don’t like about Twitter is the downtime – it kind of sucks when they’re down.

    And, I should mention Twitter is great for asking help or opinions. If you’ve got a doubt, just post the question and you’ll get immediate answers.

    Need to check if a website is messed up in another browser? Just ask your followers on Twitter and you’ll know.

  4. I use it via Twirl, a program run on Adobe Air. I then have a plugin installed on my blog that Tweets my new blog posts and then a plugin in Facebook that gets my tweets and I get lots of traffic from that (more from facebook than Twirl).

    I think I am up to 200 followers now. Did you read about the 50 designers who twitter post?

  5. Aaron, I’m glad you’ve added that disclaimer about soaps at the end ;-) But I did like your comparison, very true.

    Natalie, that was a smart idea to get your friends on twitter. It does help when you follow and are followed by someone who knows you personally. I’ve got a few twitter contacts like those as well.

    Shankar, you’re right about using Twitter when seeking for help with various issues: browser compatibility is certainly the most helpful one ;-) Thanks for answering my questions, then I shouldn’t feel guilty if I simply can’t keep up with all the tweets. The time difference is a big thing as well. Oh, and I can absolutely relate to your frustration with Twitter’s downtimes. It’s down at this very moment as well.

    Jacob, I’ve definitely seen Twirl used more often than any other app on Twitter pages. Thanks for linking to 50 designer on Twitter article, I just left a comment there – nice resource.

  6. This was a humorous look at Twitter. Can’t say I’m into it, though John invited me last year and Kristarella asked me about it last week. I just don’t have time for yet another social media time-hog!!

    I have Facebook and SU, and I barely keep up with those. Like I told Kristarella, I think if I worked from home and could fully take advantage of Twitter (it seems like a great way to get lots of info, advice, opinions really fast) I would use it.

    I checked out Caroline Middlebrook’s Twitter user guide quite a while ago when Chris G mentioned it and it was really informative. A definitive resource for those looking for the social marketing aspect of Twitter. I think she did a similar one for SU , too.

    Do you think it would be a social media no-no to create a Twitter account for the sole purpose of using TwitterFeed? Is that like Stumbling or Digging your own posts? I would do that, but not at the expense of having a bunch of disgusted *tsk* tweets thrown my way!

  7. i was one of those “early adaptors” on twitter and have been loving it ever since. it has helped me to accelerate friendships with people with whom i had one-dimensional relationships. i think most of the people who are really into twitter share both personal happenings and provide value. it has so many uses. one of the things i love about it is that it is not cluttered like FB, and it’s so easy to personalize.

    having said all this – i firmly believe that every social media tool has a certain feel and culture, and i think in order to use it well, we must each individually feel comfortable with it. i personally am a great twitter and stumbleupon enthusiast – but that’s my style. i totally understand that others are more into, say, facebook, LinkedIn or flickr.

  8. Hi Vivien!

    I didn’t know about Twitter Feed, thanks for posting it. I will start using that.

    -k.s.

  9. Lauren, I don’t think anyone would be disgusted with you having only feed notifications on your Twitter account. At the beginning that’s all I had, for a couple of months, then I started adding some odd messages here and there, and now because I’m working from home most of the time, I can afford posting to Twitter more often, and checking my Twitter friend’s tweets regularly. So I’d say, open an account, install TwitterFeed, and tweet whenever you have time, be it once a week or once a month. I won’t guarantee a big following right away, but you won’t have time for checking out everyone’s tweets anyway.

    Isabella, you’re definitely a Queen of Twitter. You always have something interesting to say, and I see you’ve got lots of conversations going on with your followers. Keep up your twits, I’m learning from you too ;-)

    Kulpreet, I’m glad that you’ve learned something new from my little post on Twitter ;)

  10. I’m a recent convert too! I thought the whole idea of twitter was a ridiculous waste of time initially. I set up an account to give it a fair shot though, and like Lauren I just couldn’t get into it. Then about a month ago (I have no idea why) it just clicked. I installed TwitterFox, which made a huge difference in my usage, and away I went! :) I also added Alex King’s Twitter Tools plugin for showing recent tweets on my blog. So far I’ve been really enjoying twitter these days. It’s fun and easy to keep in touch with my blogging friends, and it’s a great way to post “asides” on my blog which may or may not be related to any content I publish there. And like Aaron said, you never feel like you have this huge nagging post to write, because the whole point is to keep it short. I love that.

    I have to say though, it *can* still be time-sink. It’s really hard not to click every link posted by your friends when you see new tweets in your twitter app of choice! ;)

  11. Hi there,
    I came here via your trackback on Copyblogger and I have to say, I loved your post and LOVE your blog template even more. Keep up the good work.

    I just recently got turned on to Twitter with the CB 140-character contest, and I am finding it pretty cool.

    By the way, as for the contest itself, I was getting fed up with trying to read all the entries, flicking back and forth between CB and twitter, so I put together an aggregated list where all entries can be viewed in one place. If you share the same frustration, you may want to check it out; just head over to my blog, a quick explanation and links to two different views are there.

    I have followed you on Twitter – look forward to seeing your future posts there and here.

    Cheers,

    Daniel Smith
    Smithereens Blog

  12. I still have not tried out twitter. I have gotten a few invites to it, but I have just kinda of ignored it. I think I really need to look into starting to get into twitter.

  13. I use Twitter for a wide variety of things. I’d say I spend far more time reading what other people are up to than writing myself.

    When I do post, it’s often part of a conversation using @replies. Or I could be writing a small comment, somewhat like a miniature blog post. And sometimes I write something boring, like “drinking a glass of wine”.

  14. This is the first time in a coupla weeks that I’ve had time to read the handful of blogs I follow. I’s been three weeks since I posted to my own blog. I can’t begin to imagine adding Twitter to my basket of obligations. What’s the thing of it?

  15. Charity, thanks for the link to Twitter Tools, I’ll be adding Twitter updated to my new design. I can already see how time-consuming Twitter can be. Sometimes I’m glad that it’s down so often, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do any work ;-)

    Hi Daniel. Welcome to Inspiration Bit. Well done on putting Copyblogger’s contest together.

    Hi Komodo Dragon. It doesn’t hurt to give it a try, just keep in mind that it takes time to get used to Twitter, but once you “get” it, you should try limiting yourself with the amount of time you spend on tweets: both reading and posting.

    Hi Rob. It’s nice to see you over here. With the number of your followers on Twitter, it’s not surprising that you spend lots of time on replies and catching up with their tweets. Btw, all the best to you in settling down in Palo Alto ;-)

    Stephen, I can completely relate to you. I’ve opened an account on Twitter only because of our Social Media Mega Project, and haven’t used it much since then until only recently. You may want to read Elliot Jay Stock’s “blessay on Twitter” and see if it’s something that appeals to you.

  16. Thanks for the link, Vivien. I can’t wait to read the “blessay”. I’m sure I’ll report back.

    I guess I’m suspicious about social networking disguised as something that has work value, as I have a side of my life that’s exposed me to a distinctly “slacker” side of our–for want of a better word–society. And I figure we don’t need to encourage ourselves or any other adult to get lost in non-productive playing.

    I’m curious about Twitter because there seems to be the germ of usefulness to it. I just haven’t quite figured out how: the proper measure of tweeting and living a life. It does sound to me like, say, following 50 people (of whatever stripe, in whatever line) can be time-consuming enough to render one completely unproductive–unless one knows to break off for work.

    But I’m getting old enough that I see people younger than myself and shake my head at how recreational their whole lives appear to be. And I’m still young enough that I could become obsessive about something that I could come to regard as cool. Surrounded by Wi-Fi, I can’t wait to replace my dead laptop–seems to me that’s the only way to be able to really participate in Twitter. If my enthusiasm does fade before I get the MacBook Pro I’m planning on.

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach programming, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on