The Twitter User Manual

I spoke with a good friend the other night and she lamented on how slow Hong Kong (finally, Marketing Interactive is joining the bandwagon) are able to adopt microblogging applications such as Twitter. Well, as part of educating the masses on what Twitter is, it is good to discuss a little bit more about it. After all, if no one understands how it works or what benefit it brings, Twitter would hardly ever influence Hong Kong users intro trying them.

What is Twitter and Why Use It
Twitter is a social networking application that allows users to send and read updates (or tweets) in text-based format of 140 characters maximum, hence the term microblogging. If a conventional blog post is too long and you just want to answer the question “What are you doing?”, then Twitter is for you.

Twitter provides such avenue to share what you feel or tell people what you do. It is also possible to post links so that if you just made a blog post, you can post a link to it (preferably using URL alias service like TinyURL for shorter URL links).

Twitter is also interactive in the sense that it allow people to follow you, or you follow certain people whom you find interesting (share the same interests, college buddy, high profile blogger, etc).

Its notable usefulness was manifested during reporting of breaking news that it beat typical news provider in reporting the plane landing at Hudson River.

There are many ways to read and send tweets. You can read them through RSS feeds, or third party tools such as TwitterMobile, Tweetie, Twinkle, Twitterrific, Feedalizr and Facebook.

Twitter is a Community
As a social being, man always have the need to communicate and interact with others. Twitter serves this purpose rightfully. You share news, your ideas, and others also do the same. Building up a network means following people with getting others to follow you.

As a community, Twitter (through its members) aims to respond to questions so it is possible to get answers by simply sending in your question as a tweet.

It also helps you establish/brand yourself in the community. If you are maintaining a website about bicycle supplies and want to be an authority about it, you can create an account handle using your website identity.

Setting up Twitter
1. Sign up at Twitter and carefully choose your profile name.
2. Create an avatar that well represents you (personal photo or company logo are ideal)
3. Put a well-written description, post a link to your website or blog and enter your location.

Using Twitter
You don’t need to post tweets just for the sake of doing so. Useful information will always be appreciated so you’d prefer to tweet about the live results at Oscar’s instead of “just drank my 5th glass of water today.” Again there’s nothing wrong with the latter, but it’s much less useful to the community than the former.

You can find topics to tweet from many sources such as Google Alerts, recently answered questions at Yahoo! Answers, RSS feeds from your favorite blogs, etc.

If you happen to see someone asking a question you know the answer, you can reply using the “@” symbol preceding that person’s username. For example, if user “ph20321” asks “How many islands are there in the Philippines”, I can reply in my tweet, “@ph20321 There are 7,107 islands on a high tide”. This response automatically appears on this person’s “Replies” tab.

In case you find someone else’s tweet interesting from someone and you’d like to post it as your own, you can use “RT @[someone’s username]” or “Retweet @[someone’s username]” so others can follow this person if they want to.

Making use of keywords within tweets helps you being found by others (other than your followers) because people constantly use the search function in Twitter.

Try Twitter, it’s free and has benefits you will appreciate soon as you start using it.