During 2009 I spent a fair amount of time getting familiar with Twitter and understanding the overall value to both individuals and businesses. Squarely rooted in the “Social Networking” space,  people may have heard of Twitter but the odds are good that few know how to use it and/or the value it provides. As I am seeing interesting opportunities with Twitter, I wanted to share some of those experiences with you.

So what is Twitter?

For those not familiar with Twitter, a good analogy is to compare it to a CB Radio. With a CB Radio you establish your “handle”, you talk on a specific channel and those on the channel can:

  1. Listen to you.
  2. Ignore you.
  3. Respond to you.

Applying this analogy to Twitter, you create a username, you send out typed messages of up to 140 characters (individually known as a “tweet”) and those that are “following” you (think about being subscribed to) get your tweets. This doesn’t mean that your tweet gets read, just that they were sent.

What is the Value of Twitter?

It takes a little time and “playing” to appreciate the value of Twitter. What I learned is that once you start to follow the right people/topics etc., you have a better appreciation of the value Twitter provides. For example, some interesting, and current, “use cases” include:

  • Educational (I am using it to follow the stock market and what professional investors are doing).
  • Finding a job (more on that below).
  • Getting Coupons (yep, there are sites for that as well — http://twtqpon.com/).

So What Are the “Key” Pieces to Twitter?

First, you have to obtain a Twitter account (which is free) at www.twitter.com. Once you establish your account, it will be the location where the following information is saved:

  • Who you are following.
  • Who is following you.
  • A history of all of your tweets.

Once you establish your Twitter account, you could start creating your own “tweets”, but right now there is no one they are being sent to. I have to check — they may be aggregated and available from search.twitter.com — but that’s a different conversation.

Who should you follow?

The selection of who you follow will evolve over time and will reflect the type of information you want to obtain. You can follow the activities of Individuals, Companies and Web Sites across a wide range of topics/activities. I learned a tremendous amount about the value of using twitter by focusing on individuals and companies focused on stock trading and/or related economic news/topics.

While you are free to follow me on twitter, some sources you can leverage to find “Tweeters” include:

  1. News sites (i.e. http://twitter.com/foxnews, http://twitter.com/usatoday – then click follow).
  2. Job Sites (http://www.twitterjobsearch.com/ — Once you get a list, you can choose who to follow).

How can you receive Tweets

The next logical question is “Once I follow someone, how do I read their tweets?”. There are a number of interesting answers — some of which truly demonstrate the power and value of Twitter. In a future entry, I will cover the following:

  • Using the native Twitter environment (Browser based).
  • Installing a 3rd party program on your PC/Laptop.
  • Getting tweets on your Mobile Device.

Hope you found Part I interesting — and if you have specific Twitter questions — feel free to ask!

Check out Part 2 to learn more!