At the same time, Twitter's popularity during the past two years has spawned an intricate ecosystem of related sites, services and software that has vastly amplified its power and flexibility. There is a bit of a learning curve here because picking and mastering the right tools for your business takes time, but you'll get the hang of it.
A Few Twitter Basics
Here's how to get started with Twitter:
Create an account at twitter.com. This only takes a few minutes, but you'll want to give careful thought to the username. Depending on how you'll use Twitter, it can be your company's name, the name of your product or service, or the name of the person who will be using it the most. Regardless, you'll want to make clear that this account is associated with your firm so that it won't be confused with a personal Twitter account.
Upload a picture. Twitter's generic icon won't cut it. Find a roughly square-shaped picture that is colorful and catchy, yet clearly conveys your company identity. Keep it simple, since the image will be displayed in a small size and fine details will be lost.
Fill in your info. You want to clearly convey who you are, so spend a bit of time with your "one-line bio" and pick the best possible web address (it's good to keep it short). You will also find text fields for an email address, your location and other particulars.
Start tweeting! The only way to get the hang of Twitter is to plunge in. You are limited to 140 characters per tweet, so there's no cause for writer's block. Just tweet something! This can be seen by anyone on Twitter, and particularly by anyone who "follows" you.
Attract a following. You will soon attract Twitter followers (those who add you to their lists of favorite Twitter accounts), so make certain you don't miss new arrivals. You can configure Twitter to send you an automated email when someone starts following you.
You can follow, too. If someone follows you, you can follow right back. You'll have the ability to exchange private (or "direct") messages with those followers. Set up Twitter to email you whenever a DM comes in, and click the "direct messages" tab to see these.
Engage in conversations. Direct messages are fine, but the best exchanges take place in public view. Want to address people directly in a tweet, or respond to something they've tweeted? Type the persons' usernames preceded by "@" symbol at the beginning of your tweets, and they will soon see them in the "Replies" sections of their Twitter pages. They can respond by typing your username preceded by "@" at the beginning of their tweets.
Twitter in Plain English. This terrific video by Common Craft is required viewing for all new Twitter users. You can watch a small web-based version for free, or purchase a higher-quality version for sharing within your organization.
Tweeternet.This site is essential browsing for Twitter novices as well as experienced users, who will find Twitter introductions, how-to guides and much more.
Zappos on Twitter. Zappos, profiled in Chapter Two, is so bullish about Twitter that it wants everyone to learn about it. To that end, it has created a "Beginner's Quick Start Guide and Tutorial to Using Twitter."
Search Engine Guide. This blog has a detailed series of posts by Jennifer Laycock on how to get started with Twitter, and tap its power.
The Big Juicy Twitter Guide.How can you resist a site with that name? This multi-part primer by Caroline Middlebrook is pretty good, too.
Twitter 101. Online-community strategist Connie Bensen provides a roundup of Twitter-related resources.