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What's So Hot About...

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

The World in 140 Characters?

What's So Hot About Twitter?

Twitter is a social networking site based on the concept of having “followers.” You sign up and answer a simple question, “What’s happening?” When you answer that question and display it for all the world to see, that is called a “tweet”. This is also called, “micro-blogging” – very short bursts of information about you and your interests. But why bother… and what is it good for?

Twitter and the Social Landscape

For many, social sites like Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn and others fit into a very specific role, and sometimes those roles even blur between services. Twitter sometimes seems a bit outside this, because you are essentially broadcasting your goings on to complete strangers. While you can opt to have a private account for friends only, this contradicts what many love about Twitter, namely that it is an ever-growing network of like-minded people sharing what they find interesting.

Following and Followers

Twitter is based on following and followers. When most people sign up for Twitter, they do a search to see who they know already using the service and follow them. Then, they examine who those people are following to see if there’s anyone of interest there to add to their follow list. As you follow others, they will notice you and probably check out your profile. They may choose to follow you as well and then their followers may do the same. It’s an ongoing cycle of people seeking out others with similar interests and communicating informally in a channel that feels comfortable.

Why Use Twitter?

There are many reasons to use social networking sites like Twitter. Perhaps you want access to celebrities or to different brands. Many brands use Twitter to communicate deals, updates or even use it as a channel for customer service. For instance, you can follow Cox Communications at!/cox_comm (in Twitter terms, that’s @cox_comm, pronounced, “at cox com”). There are others still who use Twitter for professional networking, following people in similar lines of business to exchange ideas and share experiences. It’s also a great way to gauge public reaction to all kinds of events. The reasons for using Twitter are as varied as the people who use it.

What’s a Hashtag?

A hashtag is when you add the hash sign (#), or number sign, to a word in a Twitter update, or tweet. People do it to turn the hashtagged word into an automatic hyperlink that can be clicked so that you can immediately see every tweet mentioning that term. Many companies monitor their own names on Twitter to see how they are ranking with customers, and the site has become a powerful tool for consumers to connect to companies as a result. Hashtags are also very useful for tracking world events, popular movements and political issues.

Should I Bother?

Why not? Many people sign up for Twitter and find it’s a great service for them. Many others don’t and they leave. In fact, according to Nielsenwire as many as 60% of people who sign up stop using the service. It never hurts to try something new, and who knows, you might just find a whole community of people who can’t wait to find out what’s happening with you.

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