Do you even know what it is?
Twitter.com is a social networking site most easily described as a type of instant messaging - but with tons of people. You can following the 'tweets' of others - and they follow you and what you write. The catch is that your posts are limited to 140 characters. But for many, that's enough to say the important things.
Twitter is set up to allow users to send tweets via mobile phone and computer. This allows Twitterers to tell others what they're doing and where - and is also good for on-the-spot news reporting that hasn't yet made the main stream media. During the first several hours of the attacks in India, there were tweets and 're-tweets' (when you copy what someone has posted and send it out yourself to all your followers) from individuals actually in India before the news made it to CNN.
Twitter also allows you to follow subjects. By using a hashtag, like #Obama or #McCain, you can follow what people are posting about those two subjects, when the Twitterer includes it in their post. Twitter has also created the need for smaller url links, with many people using TinyURL.com or others, to reduce long addresses down to about 25 characters. This makes it easy for individuals to post a link within the 140 character Twitter limit.
I was first introduced to Twitter by Eric Odom, who owns Fresh Vision Media, when he was a speaker at a conference (Samsphere) hosted by the Sam Adams Alliance. He told us that Twitter could actually replace blogs as the main new media tool for communication. Considering that I was not even on the cutting edge when it came to my blog, I was a bit intimidated by the idea that something I hadn't yet mastered might shortly be extinct. However, with encouragement, I opened a Twitter account and started following people - like Eric Odom and many of my fellow Samsphere conferees.
Many will say that Twitter entered the 'main stream' with the #dontgo movement (started by Odom and others), to tell House Speaker Nance Pelosi not to leave Congress until they'd passed a drilling bill. Several internet-savvy House members were 'tweeting' from the House floor during this issue, providing real-time updates about what was going on, including their personal thoughts about it.
As a tool for communication, especially between politicians and their constituents, Twitter has immense possibilities. It provide the opportunity for elected officials to instantly update their followers - and it provides the impetus for urging them to immediate action.
Lately, I've been following the postings of several candidates for the chairmanship of the National Republican Party. Saul Anuzis, Michigan's GOP chairman, is a regular poster on Twitter. House Minority Leader John Boehner, of Ohio, and our local Congressman, Bob Latta, also tweet. You can also follow the tweets of numerous news outlets and other groups or organizations.
You should be aware - tweets are not all political. In fact, most of what is tweeted is routine, conversational-type updates: "I'm here and this is what I'm doing." Since this is a social networking site, such everyday posts help you learn about people - their lives, their interests, their activities - as they do you. It becomes a way of getting to know people, and communicating with them. Twitter has the ability to direct your post to someone (by using the @username tag) or by sending a direct message.
Duane Lester, at All American Blogger, has a good post about Twitter and why Conservatives should make better use of it.
Michael Leahy, author and Republican strategist, just recently created his Top Conservatives on Twitter list, and I'm highly honored to be on it, despite my short time actually participating. The list also gives you a good selection of people to start following. And following those who follow you is the 'polite' thing to do on Twitter.
I want to emphasize something Odom said when he was telling us about Twitter - 95% of what you read, see will not be 'valuable' in terms of your business or your politics, but the 5% that is, well, that's pure gold. But Twitter isn't just about getting that piece of information before anyone else. It's about building a community - a wide, global network of interconnectivity - and that's a benefit no matter who you are.
My Twitter name is Maggie82 - I hope you'll join Twitter and we can follow each other.
(And no - this is not a paid post.)