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Twitter as I explained it to my mom

Blue jays tweet, too. When they aren't squawking.

After talking with my mom (@adiehl on Twitter) about Twitter, the “microblogging” website that asks you to explain “What are you doing?” in 140 characters, it prompted me to write yet another How to Twitter posts, but a less technical and more practical how to get started guide.

Twitter is not blogging. It’s not RSS. It’s not chat.

Twitter is direct: If you want to be part of someone’s life, you follow them. Once you follow a person, you get to see what they update on Twitter. You can respond directly to them. You may read what they are doing, sharing, or discussing. Unless the profile is locked, no one has to accept your request to follow. That means that you are able to become part of anyone’s social network. You have a way to directly communicate with lots of amazing people.

Getting started can be intimidating, but here’s how I got started with Twitter.

1. Follow the Followers

Starting off following the right people

Think of someone in your industry, some big shot. Think of a company you admire in your industry. Then, go to, click on Search, and look for them. Chances are, you will either find what you were looking for or people related to it. Once you click Follow, you will now get that person’s updates.

Once you find one good person to follow, you have your foot in the door. If you like a person’s updates and you want to build your network, here’s what you do: either go to the Twubble service, which automates the process I’m about to describe, or follow whoever is following the person you like. All of them or many of them. Then, check out some of the interesting-seeming users profiles, and follow those people. Follow hundreds of people and then sit.  Watch your Twitter feed, see who is saying interesting things. Let the tweets wash over you.

Unfollow the idiots and the verbose

Once you follow hundreds of people, you will probably be saying to yourself “What have I done!?” because there will be new tweets every second. It will be overwhelming, but stay strong. Next, you want to wait a little while — a day will be enough — and then read through scan the tweets of the people you followed. What you’re looking for are people who annoy you. They may be idiots, too talkative, spammers, etc. The point is: if you don’t like them, unfollow them.

Whoever is left after you’ve separated out the chaff will be your base.  Pat yourself on the back: you can relax. People who are doing the same thing you just did will no doubt follow you, too.

2. Find your Application

For many, the web doesn’t cut it.

You can check in on the Twitter website every hour and then read through some tweets and respond to people, but it’s unlikely that you will.  Instead, you can download a Twitter application.

  • If you’re on a Mac, by far the most popular app is Twitterific
  • There are some cross-platform Adobe Air based Twitter applications, including the popular TweetDeck and Twhirl stand out.
  • If you use the FireFox browser, try TwitterFox, an addon

3. Start Tweeting

Now, you just need to write updates on what you’re doing. Simple, right?

Some tips on tweets

  • Every time you do something that you find interesting, funny, important, or relevant…every time you have a pause between what you’re doing and what you’re about to do — write a new Tweet about it.
  • Respond to tweets that interest you. The writer will see your response, no matter who it is.
  • Write consistently — tweeting once a week is not becoming part of the community. Tweet daily. Respond to people. If you respond to others that don’t follow you, they may follow you in the future.
  • Build relationships. If, after using Twitter for a while, you still don’t recognize the people you follow, you are following too many. You will start to recognize users over time. You will learn their names, their temperaments. If you don’t, you’re missing the point.
  • Practice using the 140 character limit to your advantage. Learn how to say what you want in a smaller space.

Follow me on Twitter

I always want more Twitter friends, so follow me @303zachary.  I look forward to getting to know you better via tweets!

    By Zack Katz

    Zack Katz is the creator of GravityView and the President of Katz Web Services. He lives in Leverett, Massachusetts with his wife and cute beast of a cat.

    3 replies on “Twitter as I explained it to my mom”

    You didn’t mention in the article what your twitter username is 🙂

    I’m always curious about people, like the commenter above, you say they flat out won’t do something. Why not try it first?

    I didn’t really get twitter when I first used it but it has proved invaluable. I’ve gotten more freelance jobs via twitter than any other source.

    Does your Mom like twitter? I could explain it to mine repeatedly but she wouldn’t understand it nor would she use it.

    Oh – one of my cats is a menace as well. Favorite pastimes include hanging from the curtains and shredding toilet paper 🙂

    Its not that I have anything against twitter, I simply am not interested. I could try it since I have nothing to lose – unless of course I like it and then it sucks up even more time when I should be doing other things.

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