That's the line I use to describe the wildy popular and addictive Web2.0/SMS/SocialNetworking phenomenon that encourages you to "Connect with your colleagues, friends and family by answering one simple question in 140 characters or less: What are you doing?"
But if you're new to Twitter, have few followers and no idea how to find folks to follow, you may not "get" the whole Twitter thing and give up on it.
A number of folks have made excellent blog posts about how to use Twitter. For example, GeekMommy's post on blocking vs. following is a keeper, and Caroline Middlebrook's Big Juicy Twitter Guide is encyclopedic.
But I'm not looking to use Twitter for marketing or as part of an internet business. It's part of my Personal Learning Network, which feeds my efforts at Viral Professional Development. So here's how I use Twitter:
I became aware of Twitter quite some time ago via several blogs I read, notably Alec Couros and Alan Levine. I'm a late adopter - I wait to try out something new until I see that folks are talking about it consistently. (Kind of a "Keep up with the Jones' - eventually" mentality.) Late last summer I finally decided that it was something I needed to get involved with. So, I looked up Alec and Alan on Twitter as soon as I set up my account and followed them.
When you follow someone, you can see all their posts, including the @username posts directed at another user. On twitter @username posts become a conversation. Quite often, the half of the conversation I see is interesting. (I follow smart people, and they follow smart people.) So I'll click on the @username link, which takes me to the tweetstream (list of posts) of that person, which includes their Twitter profile - name, link, and bio.
When someone follows me (that started happening when got to about 25 follows/followers) I get an email with a link to their tweetstream / profile page as well. I just click the link in the email and in a few seconds, I can see whether or not I want to follow that person as well.
Here's what I look for:
- Posts with @'s - that means they're having a conversation with other people.
- Posts with links - that means they're sharing resources
- Posts that are interesting to read. I like witty. I don't like snarky.
- Posts @ people I already follow
- A profile that includes a description of what they do - I pretty much automatically follow folks in my profession (educational technology)
- A profile that links to that person's blog or website
- Reasonable numbers for "following" and "followers." A few hundred is manageable. More than that, they're not likely to engage in conversation.*
- A ratio for "following" vs "followers" that's close to 1:1. Someone who's following thousands but has only a handful of followers is a broadcaster or a bot, not a person I want to be feeding data to. That gets blocked tut suite.
So, that's how I use Twitter. I hope to @you there!
*I do make a few exceptions. For example, Howard Rheingold has a gajillion followers, but he actually engages folks and his observations are of course interesting. Besides, it lets me name-drop shamelessly: "I was talking with Howard Rheingold about this last week..." :-)