People get freaked out by Twitter.  Overwhelmed by the thought of writing a Tweet.  Once it’s out there, they get cold sweats because they finally Tweeted or is it Twat (no seriously, people have asked me this question).  People ask me simple questions like “What’s a Hashtag?” (# by the way) “How do I tweet a person” (@twitter name).  Most importantly, “Why should I care about Twitter?”  Here is my simple answer:

You shouldn’t care about Twitter.  You don’t NEED to be on Twitter.  You will not be a social pariah if you decide not to join Twitter.  Personally, I love Twitter.  I joined Twitter as a way to promote my blog.  So about two years ago I started The Chick and set-up a Coastal Chick Facebook fan page and a twitter account.  At first I just used Twitter to push out my blog content.  I dipped my toe into the water, a follow here and tweet there.  The thought of tweeting to an actual person seemed like an overwhelming prospect.

Soon I realized I could follow people from my little town.  I still felt like a fish out of water and thought it might be a nice way to connect with other bloggers in the area.  Traffic jam on the interstate near us?  The folks I followed tweeted about it.  Power outage?  Guess what, Twitter works on my phone and I could follow the progress.  Breaking news?  It’s on Twitter before journalists can spread the news.  Twitter is great for connecting locally, following national news and getting updates from your favorite bloggers or websites.

Twitter can also be used to contact a company.  Last fall we had a horrible experience with the local Ford dealership.  8 days and a dead battery later we were told they never finished the work they had charged us for and needed our car back.  I asked for compensation for time and, at minimum, for the battery that was working when I dropped off the car.  I was told they would do nothing except complete the services for which we had already paid.  I tweeted the Ford Customer Service about my experience.  Three tweets, two DM’s (Direct Messages) and a phone call from corporate customer service later and our routine maintenance was covered for the next four years.  Ford did a great job correcting the situation.  Ford also did a great job controlling bad PR.

Two years and 1,500 followers later I have a nice group of Twitter AND IRL (in real life) friends.  That’s right, a group of us who met online now meet for lunch every few months.  I can honestly say one of my dearest friends I met on Twitter.  A lot of people of a certain age, my age actually, think Social Media is a waste of time. I think that view is absolutely acceptable.  There is only so much time in the day and room in our brains so Twitter might not be your thing.  I actually love Social media. It’s my job (and an awesome one if I say so myself) and a hobby.  Kind of the perfect situation if you think about it.

Many of you are Twitter deficient or phobic.  I’ll cover the basics below.

Twitter Address:

Twitter Handle:  The name you choose for yourself. My handle is @TheCoastalChick.  Remember, every letter counts so keep your twitter handle as simple as possible.  If I were to choose my handle again I would pick my name.

Tweet:  140 characters (letters and spaces) you can write as an update.

Tweet to a person:  @Persons Twitter Handle and then your message.  You can check your feed for @ messages so you can reply even if you miss the tweet when it’s posted.

DM:  Direct Message.  A private message to another Twitter follower.  You must follow the person and they must follow you in order to DM.

Hashtag:  It’s a way to tag a tweet.  It’s also a way to search for a group of tweets.  When I talk about my town I add the #Darien hashtag to the end of my tweet (and yes they count towards your 140 characters).  When I want to know what is happening in town I search for #Darien.

Tweets are put out in real-time.  You can read your stream and see what is happening at that very moment.  If you want to see what you missed click on friends’ profiles and read their stream, do a hashtag search and check your mentions and interactions.  Many people use hootsuite or tweetdeck to keep and eye on twitter and respond to their followers.  I prefer my iPad Twitter app but have used all different programs to read my feed.  It’s a personal preference.

Now for a little ugly about Twitter.  It’s the same as everything on the internet.  You will have people follow you who tweet spam.  You may receive a message from someone you follow saying “Someone is saying terrible things about you” and a link.  That is also spam.  Don’t get freaked out by these folks.  Just block, ignore or report them for Spam and move on.  I think of them as the crappy insert in the Newspaper and just throw it away.

The most important thing about Twitter is to decide how you want to use it.  For your business?  For your blog?  To make connections locally?  To meet people with the same interests as you?  Twitter is whatever you make it.  Now it’s time to decide:  To Tweet or Not To Tweet


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