What the heck is Twitter?

Twitterrific on your macintosh desktop

November 4, 2008 / Updated: September 13, 2019 / Lena Shore
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Updated September 2018

For 2019 Twitter statistics, this is a good resource.

So many people are all a-twitter about Twitter. If you haven’t been sucked into it, you are probably wondering what it is and why you should care.

Basically, twitter is micro-blogging. You have 280 characters to say what you want each entry. Rinse and repeat. Here is a great video that explains twitter.

Honestly, the best way to understand twitter is to just use it. It’s free and it doesn’t take long to understand it after you use it a bit.

  1. Go get your free twitter account from their web site.
  2. Search for people you know. You may be surprised how many people are using it. I was. If you are at a loss, do a search for “Lena Shore”.
  3. After you find people make sure to “follow” them.
  4. Search for terms you are interested in (marketing, your city, favorite hobby, etc). You may find people to follow that way.

Unless you set your profile to private, other people can find you and add you to their twitter followers. Anything you “tweet” about will show up in the public profile and people who follow you will see what you had to say.

Why would I want to use Twitter?

  1. To see what your friends are doing.
  2. To have a connection to your friends so they know what you are doing
  3. To market yourself or business
  4. To find out what people are talking about

I like twitter to see what my friends are doing. As a freelancer, I don’t have office-mates. I live in a cave and don’t always have as much communication with the outside world as I’d like. Twitter allows me to “watch the traffic go by” and the freedom to comment or not. It only takes as much time as I’d like. But, it makes me feel connected. Twitter is also great to find people interested in the same hobbies you are, so it’s a good way to meet new people.

And, because you are restricted to 280 characters per post, I think it forces you to be more meaningful about your posts.

Twitter is also good for marketing. You can share information that has to do with your business, whether it be a new product, or new website, or promotion. However, be careful. If your followers feel like you are only trying to sell them something, they will quit following you. Just temper your information with good content and try to add something to the conversation – not just make chatter. (Though that has it’s place too!)

If you are doing market research or trying to get to know your customers better, Twitter can be a great for that as well. Go to twitter.com and scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the “search” button. You can enter any keyword you’d like and get instant insight into what people are saying about that subject right now. Type a keyword related to your industry (dentist, cavity, segway, lawyer, design, web design, fishing, consulting, etc) and see what people are saying. Pretty interesting and immediate information that might just help your business.

Real life examples of twitter

  • In 2008, James Karl Buck, a graduate student arrested in Egypt while documenting local riots, sent out a one word Twitter message — “Arrested” — just before he was taken in custody by Egyptian police. As a result of the message, members of Buck’s Twitter network were able to get the word out, mobilize and then create enough outside pressure on the Egyptian government to release him.
  • Because Twitter is so instant, people in California have tweeted about earthquakes and gotten the word out before the government could notify people. It happens in China too.
  • After trying the local paper, I had a client that was looking to fill a job position post it on Twitter. She found a great person immediately.
  • I had a new software update not working out. I tweeted about it and got instant feedback.

Tweeting. Let me count the ways

There are may ways to use twitter. Here are a few.

Twitter.com: You can go to twitter’s website, click on your profile and send a tweet, and read other people’s tweets that you are following.

Mobile phone: You can go to your twitter profile and go to the “Devices” tab and enter your mobile number. Now all of your tweets will show up on your phone as a text message. This is very cool and you can send and receive messages while you are about. However, check your data plan on your phone. Tweets can add up and you want to know what to expect on your bill.

MacintoshTwitteriffic was one of my favorite form of receiving tweets for my macintosh. It’s a small program that runs on your desktop and shows you your tweets. You can send and receive from your computer without having to log into twitter with your browser. Now I just tweet from the built-in software on my Mac or pull up the browser.

iPhone: Twitteriffic also has an iphone app that works great on your iphone. Today I use twitter less than I used to and use Twitter’s own free app.

Twitterrific on your macintosh desktop

Twitterrific on your macintosh desktop


So, as you can see, twitter isn’t too complicated. It’s great for keeping in touch, or promoting yourself. You can get involved as much or as little as you want. It’s unobtrusive and might just be what you were looking for.