Twitter for newbies

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a real-time tool in which messages (aka tweets) are sent in 140 characters at a time. You can follow other users that share your interests, geographic location or topic for which you want to get updates.

What can you do on Twitter? If you see a tweet from someone you're following, you can send out that same message yourself and attribute that person where it came from, which is called a retweet. To retweet, you can either hit the retweet button on Twitter or you can manually type RT then the Twitter user's name and then copy and paste the original tweet from that user. Or if you modify someone's original tweet and then want to retweet it you can use MT.

For example: RT @WTOC11 Get ready for Fabulous Football Friday at 11:30 p.m. #FFFWTOC

MT @WTOC11 Traffic is running smoothly again after a rush-hour crash.

How can I interact with Twitter users, people I follow and those who follow me?

You can type a message directed to a specific user by using their Twitter name in your tweet. It shows up on your stream, but that user will be able to see it. It's called an @reply or mention.

If another user is following you, you can send them a direct message by using the button or drop down list on Twitter, which only the recipient sees. Those tweets don't appear in your public stream.

How do you keep up with the constant flow of tweets?

Twitter is best used with platforms such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and Social Oomph to monitor, filter and even schedule tweets. These platforms enable you to see who has retweeted your tweets or mentioned your tweets.

You can create lists on Twitter to help organize the Twitter users you follow.

How else can I use Twitter?

Users can sent links to photos and video out on Twitter and even sync their Facebook accounts to their Twitter pages. You can also tweet information as it happens. For example, if you have severe weather in your neighborhood you can get the information out quickly and easily by sending tweets about it.

You also can choose to send out your geographic location with every tweet you send, or use it on a tweet by tweet basis.

How do I know whom to follow?

You can use Twitter's people search, which will search by username or a person's name. You can sync Twitter up with the contacts in your email account.

You can check out Twitter directories to find people by topic, profession or geographic location.

Here are some tools:
Local Tweeps - a ZIP code Twitter directory
We Follow - Twitter directory by keyword
Twellow - Twitter search directory
Twibes - Twitter groups